I’m 53, in good shape but have always ejaculated too soon. You talk about breathing and relaxation on this site so have you come across Wim Hof? I’ve been doing his breathing method for a few days and it’s intense. Too early to tell whether it will help with my PE, but it makes me feel energised and helps with stamina. Do you have any thoughts on this?
That’s a great question – thanks for asking. I’ve experienced the Wim Hof breathing technique and yes, intense is the word. It can feel incredibly energising too.
The ‘Iceman’ actually gets many mentions in my therapy practice, and always by male clients. I’m not a Wim Hof practitioner or affiliate, but I have followed the scientific research into his method.
Wim Hof can withstand ice baths for hours on end. He can fight infections without getting ill. He can consciously influence his nervous system, a feat of physiological control that doctors had always deemed impossible.
And through his teachings, the health gains are accessible to us all. Naturally, this is of major interest to a man who struggles with PE. His experience of coming too soon is one of feeling unable to control a physiological process in his own body. Could Wim Hof offer the solution?
I’m sceptical, of course. Remember that Wim Hof has been marketing his training through an affiliate programme for some years, so the web is inevitably awash with hype. That’s not to say that his method is a scam, but be wary of affiliate-linked claims.
There is a list of benefits on the official Wim Hof Method site. It includes improved mental health, stress relief, increased willpower and, of particular interest to men with premature ejaculation worries, improved mind-body connection.
There’s no specific mention of sexual function, so let’s explore this a little further.
The Wim Hof Method in a nutshell
The 3 core elements are breathing, mental focus and exposure to the cold. The method teaches people how to utilise the power of their minds so that they can voluntarily influence their nervous system and immune response.
Fundamentally, this entails taking 30-40 deep breaths, fully exhaling and holding for a specific time. Then taking a recovery breath and holding it for 15 seconds. With practice, the duration of the big hold can be extended.
This dramatically increases oxygen levels and decreases carbon dioxide in the blood. The theory is that this creates a calm yet energised state that is highly conducive to mental focus.
2) Mental focus
Training begins by paying attention to our thoughts and observing how they influence our feelings. Just like meditation, we develop awareness of our own thinking processes. Next, we get into the habit of letting go of toxic thoughts and directing our attention towards positive outcomes.
Concentration and focus is considered an essential part of Wim Hof’s ability to influence his autonomic nervous system. Under laboratory conditions, he was able to produce a controlled response when injected with a dose of e-coli bacteria.
This engaged his ‘fight or flight’ response, releasing more stress hormones into his body than usual. He was able to effectively fight the infection without suffering typical flu symptoms. This impressive phenomenon has also been observed when testing other people who had trained in the Wim Hof method.
3) Exposure to the cold
Students of the method are encouraged to build tolerance to cold showers and ice baths. This brings additional health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and further boosting the immune system.
In another study, Wim Hof demonstrated regular body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure during an 80 minute ice bath. Impressively, he didn’t even shiver.
So are there potential benefits for guys with PE?
Well, the first question is whether daily Wim Hof Method training can improve our sex lives. Specifically, whether it can help us to last longer.
Secondly, does it offer anything that can be incorporated directly into our sexual function. It’s important to ascertain this because incorrect adoption could potentially make matters worse.
Consider kegels, for example: regular practice can be beneficial, but kegeling during intercourse can make us come quicker. The same can be said for visualisation and breathwork techniques if we don’t do our homework.
Remember that our autonomic nervous system plays a major role in erection, orgasm and ejaculation. It’s part of the peripheral nervous system, the mesh of nerve fibres that regulate the function of internal organs.
The autonomic nervous system has two divisions: one acts as the accelerator (sympathetic nervous system), and the other is the brake (parasympathetic nervous system).
When we talk about stress, anxiety and the ‘fight or flight’ response, this is the realm of the sympathetic nervous system. It’s our accelerator response for self-protection and reproduction, prepping the body for immediate physical action.
When our parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, on the other hand, we are in the relaxed, ‘rest and digest’ state. We are better able to monitor and direct our physical responses to stimuli.
In order to get aroused and hard, we need to feel sufficiently relaxed and confident. The parasympathetic nervous system is dominant at this stage.
When we are fully stimulated and excited, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and accelerates us to ejaculation. For men who struggle with PE and the anxiety around that, it kicks in quickly. The harder they try to delay, the more agitated and accelerated they become. This is the eternal, frustrating paradox of PE.
Any method that enables us to self-regulate our nervous systems has the potential to remedy this. Deep breathing and mindfulness have long been considered helpful practises for overcoming PE.
From ancient tantric wisdom to simple 7-11 breathing to lower anxiety, utilising our breath is an effective way to engage our parasympathetic nervous system and get back in control.
So what does the Wim Hof approach bring to the party?
In theory, a considerable breakthrough; a method of wilfully overriding a bodily process that was previously thought to be impossible. And not just demonstrated by the man himself, but by other people who had followed his technique. Sign me up already.
Unfortunately, it might not be so simple. The key detail here is the way in which the Wim Hof Method influences the nervous system. For guys who want to slow things down and last longer, it’s the wrong way around.
The hyperventilation, breath-holding and recovery breathing of the method triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response. It is a way of intentionally engaging the sympathetic nervous system. Combined with mental focus training, this has proven useful in fighting bacteria, enduring cold conditions, athletic performance and raising energy levels.
But as I mentioned above, the sympathetic nervous system is the driver to ejaculation. When we want sex to last longer, we need the opposite effect. We want to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, to diffuse our mental focus and ride the plateau of a more relaxed state.
In this key respect, the Wim Hof technique is different to other breathing and meditation practices that reduce cortisol levels and the stress response. It is primarily aimed at putting the body into an active state. It clearly has health benefits, but they don’t directly correlate to the treatment of premature ejaculation.
If I want to work on my PE, should I forget about Wim Hof?
I’ve identified quite a few ways that wellness advice and techniques can be misapplied to the problem of PE. With awareness that the Hof method activates rather than relaxes, let’s consider some of the ways in which guys with PE might still benefit. I’ll identify some potential fails too.
Letting go of inhibiting beliefs
A lot of Wim Hof advocates report that the combination of intense focus in an energised, oxygen-fuelled state enabled them to make significant mental shifts. It’s described as meditation on steroids.
For example, one guy claims that the breathwork released his toxic beliefs around PE and he can now last for as long as he wants. I would suggest that the intensity of the Hof method has a powerful placebo effect. It’s directly accessible too; try following the breathing exercise in the video above and you’ll really feel as if you are experiencing something.
The suggestion of placebo isn’t a criticism or dismissal of the method either. Placebo effect is a significant, positive factor in the effectiveness of medication, talking therapy, physical exercise and many other remedies. It makes us feel that we are doing something positive, and the body can respond in amazing ways.
Activity during a breath hold
One of the pillars of the Hof method is learning to increase physical stamina. By energising themselves through rapid and deep breathing, people become aware of their capacity for physical activity during a breath hold. For example, they will do a round of push-ups before taking a recovery inhalation.
This is an intriguing aspect of the method, and I can appreciate the benefits in terms of body awareness and confidence. But I wouldn’t recommend carrying this over to sexual activity.
I’ll come back to the benefits of deep, relaxed breathing during sex, but it’s important to flag this up. By all means experiment with activity during a breath-hold. Push-ups, burpees, running around the block. But due to muscle tension and resulting sympathetic nervous system activation, guys come even quicker if they hold their breath during sex.
Increased nitric oxide
When practising the breathing exercise, many guys will naturally inhale through the nose. Wim Hof says that it doesn’t matter whether we inhale through the mouth or the nose, but there might be an additional side-effect for grabs here.
According to breathwork experts, nasal breathing can increase levels of nitric oxide entering the lungs. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which increases blood flow to the penis. Viagra also increases the amount of nitric oxide in the body, and we know how effective that is.
Increased levels of nitric oxide also has an inhibitory effect on the ejaculation process. This is one of the known side-effects of SSRI medication, which also elevates nitric oxide and enables men to last a bit longer.
This applies to any form of breathwork, of course, but the Hof technique utilises rapid, hyperventilating breaths. This may well raise nitric oxide levels more than other methods. So there’s a takeaway here for guys who struggle with PE: during sex, breathe deep and in through the nose.
Again, I wouldn’t recommend Wim Hof Method breathing during the pauses. This is more likely to accelerate ejaculation than relax the process, and hyperventilation isn’t a good look in the sack. But I do agree with the observation that stopping, remembering to breathe and then starting over will help with relaxation and body awareness. And when it’s adopted as a regular meditation routine, I’m sure the Hof method is beneficial in this respect.
Conclusion: useful but not the solution
From the evidence I’ve seen, the Wim Hof Method has legitimate benefits for health. Drawing on long-established practises of breathwork and meditation, the technique is presented in an easy to learn, accessible way.
And of course, it resonates with men. Extreme endurance, arctic conditions, frosted beards and Wim’s ‘Iceman’ charisma – it’s very cool, literally. Yes there’s some misleading hype, but anything that assists men in building mental and physical resilience is a good thing.
It’s also clear that Wim Hof welcomes scientific scrutiny of his methods, and that’s exceptional in the wellness industry. The endotoxin experiment concluded that the method had positive implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive inflammation, especially auto-immune diseases.
Can the Wim Hof Method directly address the issue of PE? Not in itself, but adopting it as a form of meditation may well assist with the symptoms of frustration and depression that often accompany PE.
So to answer your question Stuart, yes do it. Embrace the energy and the insights of improved mind-body connection.
If you’d like to ask Jason a question or share your experience, feel free to get in touch.
Disclaimer: this site is run and moderated by Jason Dean, a qualified psychotherapist. But he is not your psychotherapist. All content and comment is an expression of opinion, not a medical diagnosis or consultation.