Interview with Dr. Trisha Smith from Wim Hof Method

Tanner: Tell our readers about your background, training and expertise.  You’re teaching Wim Hof workshops now, but I know you have an extensive background in all things wellness.

Dr. Smith: I’m a sports chiropractor and had a private practice in LA for long time.  Now I teach WHM full time doing workshops, private training with individuals and retreats/corporate events.  I also teach with WHM academy training other trainers and speaking at Wim’s events.  I’m actually speaking at a big WHM event in Vancouver next week.  

What originally get you interested in the Wim Hof Method?  What captivated you enough to drop what you were doing and become a full time instructor?  

This is actually something I talk about  at beginning of workshop I’ll be teaching on May 12th.  Over the last decade I’ve been on a journey to define what’s an optimal human and how can we become one.  During that time I’ve educated myself on movement, nutrition, bodywork, healing practices, breathwork, mindfulness and emotional wellbeing.   

During that journey I started with the question, “What is health?”  The dictionary definition says health is being free from disease, but that doesn’t really satisfy how I personally define health and what I would be happy with, nor what most people would be happy with.

I sought out experts from all different disciplines, like FRC and DNS for bodywork and mobility, Ido Portal’s movement practice, which we did together, and Wim Hof to name a few, so I could put it all together in a way to empower people with their own health.   

I first heard about Wim when Laird Hamilton was talking about training with Wim on a podcast.  Laird is in incredible shape doing incredible things so  I signed up for 10-week program next day from what I heard on podcast and never turned back.  

I discovered that WHM fits in perfectly to our human maintenance.  My experience had me hooked!  Wim’s mission is in alignment with my own and then all the research coming out supports how important and impactful Wim’s work is so everything just came together.  I was lucky to be one of the first people in North America to be certified in the WHM.  

You have an extensive experience practicing and teaching the WHM.  The WHM is based on three tenants.  Breath practice, cold exposure and commitment.  What are the main benefits someone who learns this system and commits to a consistent practice can expect to see?  What’s possible?  

If you look at the Wim Hof Method Facebook page you’ll see testimonial after testimonial from people about the amazing impact practicing the WHM has had on their health and happiness.  What may surprise you are all the testimonials about the superhuman healing abilities of those who practice.  You’ll see people posting about wounds, like serious cuts/gashes and broken bones healing quickly and even an instructor who used it to successfully treat Lyme disease.  

If you’re asking about what’s possible we could start by listing off some of Wim’s greatest accomplishments on which Vice did an amazing documentary -

  • Holds the world record for being submerged in ice for almost two hours without a change in his core body temperature!  
  • He climbed Mt. Everest in nothing but a pair of shorts.  (and short ones at that!)  
  • He ran a marathon in the desert without drinking water.  
  • He’s proven in a laboratory setting that he can withstand illnesses using the power of his mind.

The study that got my attention was when he was injected with an endotoxin and used his intention to kill the toxin without getting sick.  The implications for human health are insane!!

Yes, Wim did a study that shows we have voluntary control over our autonomic nervous system and immune system, which had never been shown before.  In the study Wim and 12 subjects that trained with Wim for only 10 days were injected with an endotoxin that would normally give you serious cold symptoms.  There was a control group that didn’t train with Wim that was also injected with the same endotoxin.  In the study Wim and all 12 of his subjects used their mental intention to kill the pathogen that had been injected.  None of them got sick!!  Most impressive is that blood work done on Wim and his 12 students showed an active immune response that killed the pathogen.  This wasn’t just a mind over matter phenomenon.  On the flip side everyone in the control group got sick.  

(Link to all scientific research done on Wim, his students and the WHM.)

Another one that’s impressive is when Wim set out to take a group of untrained and relatively unfit people up Kilimanjaro in 2 days (one student was 76 years old!).  The normal ascent is 5-8 days because you have to allow for altitude adjustment.  Scott Kearney who wrote What Doesn’t Kill Us went on the trip, which was fully documented, so he could disprove Wim as a snake oil salesman.  Well, what happened is that Wim’s group did the climb in 38 hours!  Scott was officially a convert.  (5-minute Youtube video about the Kilimanjaro climb.)

We’ve seen amazing things happen that we previously never would have thought is possible, but we’re still only scratching the surface.  Right now there are studies being conducted using the WHM to treat autoimmune diseases and longevity studies on the neuroprotective benefits.  

If we break it down a little bit we can say...

Practicing proper breathing using your diaphragm is something we cover in the workshop.  We’ll do spinal rib cage mobility and massage the diaphragm to give access to better breathing.  It’s so important to maintain the health of diaphragm because the saying is true that if you you don’t use it you lose it.  

The biggest benefits of proper breathing is a more efficient exchange of O2 and CO2 which improves athletic performance and mental clarity and focus.  Your breathing is also responsible for your internal state of harmony or stress so it also helps manage our stress levels and response to stressful situations.  

Neurologically improper breathing, especially up in the shoulders through the mouth or breathing quickly stimulates your sympathetic nervous system, which puts you in a stressful state.

What are the most valuable and profound benefit you’ve experienced or seen students experience?  Do you have any stories from personal experience or experience with students that you’d like to share?  

  • I haven’t been sick in the two years I’ve been practicing WHM.  Not a cold or flu, nothing.  Even feeling a stomach bug, I’ve used some advanced techniques to knock it out.  

  • Improved stress management - make your nervous system more adaptive.

  • Become better at managing my own energy levels.

  • I personally hated the cold being from San Diego.  I was the type to always be cold in theaters and on airplanes.  Now I feel very comfortable in cold.

  • Faster metabolism.  Now I tend to run a little hotter.

  • It changes your perspective on fear, and what is hard and was is difficult.  Changes how I show up for things and engage when I would normally be fearful.  I speak in front of groups of 500 or more people and I feel very confident now when I would have used to feel like I want to pass out.  

  • We learn that we have much more control over our internal state: physiology, neurology, immune system, etc.  We have so much control and influence over the physical and emotional structure.  

  • Implications for altitude adjustment

  • Mood altering - depression, emotional/psychological issues

What can a student who takes your workshop on May 12 hope to learn and leave with that they can put into practical application?  

My goal is to deliver practical value and a powerful experience.

They will leave with a full understanding of the WHM and all three pillars and how they can start applying it immediately, they’ll know why and they’ll have understanding of the benefits.  

I also really spend a lot of time focusing on proper breathing mechanics, not just for WHM but for life.  

Are there any big misconceptions about the WHM?  

Science is showing that Wim’s method is scientifically based.  He wants to be put under a spotlight and wants to be under scrutiny so we understand the science and all the benefits.

He crushed 26 world records so the scientific community would take notice and study him, not to show off.  Wim just wants to help people be strong, healthy and happy.