a breathing reboot
Cyclical hyperventilation is an effective controlled breathing exercise that can ‘rev up’ and ‘slow down’ the nervous system. Whilst it has been practised for many years, it has recently been popularised by ‘The Ice Man’ Wim Hof. This technique deliberately stresses the body, may cause tingling or lightheadedness, and can affect motor control. Please check with your physician for contraindications, and never practice when driving or near water. This breathing exercise aims to reduce levels of oxygen in the blood, causing the release of adrenaline and sending the nervous system into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This puts the body into a state of stress, increasing alertness and improving the ability to concentrate. As well as increasing alertness, this breathing method can raise energy output, improve sleep quality, and help support neuroplasticity.
While the brain cannot detect oxygen levels within the bloodstream, it measures carbon dioxide concentrations. As levels of carbon dioxide increase, nitric oxide is released to increase heart and breathing rates, while the body attempts to lower carbon dioxide and improve blood oxygenation. Elevated levels of carbon dioxide have been shown to hinder cognitive function; however, they can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which governs the ‘fight or flight’ response. When the body enters this mode, it impacts upon many different organs, including the heart, lungs and skin, as well as affecting the eyes, ears and blood. Whilst in this state, we gain sharper focus and consolidate memories. [1] [2] [3] [4]
how to practice cyclical hyperventilation


Step one: Lie down on your side to observe chest and belly movement, or sit on a chair with your back straight.
Step two: Take 30-40 deep breaths in and out through the mouth or nose with no pausing. These breaths should be relaxed and natural, being careful not to over-extend, inflate or go too fast. The count should be 1 second for each in-breath and 1 second for each out-breath.
Step three: After 30-40 breaths, exhale steadily and completely through the mouth to empty the lungs.
Step four: Hold your breath for 60 seconds.
Step five: Inhale steadily once to fill the lungs and hold your breath 15 seconds or for as long is comfortable. Do not force the hold.
Step six: When you feel the impulse, breathe out steadily and start the cycle again for three rounds.
Step seven: At the end of cycle three, let your breathing return to normal.
Step eight: Beginning with your fingers and toes, slowly start to move your body, little by little, before getting up.
Step nine: Overtime, try to increase the hold on empty lungs by 15 seconds, remembering to always take a breath if you feel the need to.



Disclaimer: these techniques and practices are intended for educational purposes only. You should not rely on the information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult with a physician before beginning any exercise/diet/health routine, especially if you are pregnant or have pre-existing health concerns. The use of any information provided is solely at your own risk.


1. Kox M, van Eijk LT, Zwaag J, van den Wildenberg J, Sweep FC, van der Hoeven JG, Pickkers P. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 May 20;111(20):7379-84. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1322174111.
2. Eckberg DL, Diedrich A, Cooke WH, Biaggioni I, Buckey JC Jr, Pawelczyk JA, Ertl AC, Cox JF, Kuusela TA, Tahvanainen KU, Mano T, Iwase S, Baisch FJ, Levine BD, Adams-Huet B, Robertson D, Blomqvist CG. Respiratory modulation of human autonomic function: long-term neuroplasticity in space. J Physiol. 2016 Oct 1;594(19):5629-46. doi: 10.1113/JP271656.
4. Stanford University 2022 https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05304000