Part 1 was written just after I got back from the course, and was focused on what I learned. This part is going to be more about the experience and higher-level components the course. But I’m more driven by knowledge than I am driven by experiences, so I procrastinated on writing it after I’d gotten the informational aspect out of the way. It’s a personality thing. This also explains why my blog is so basic and using default WordPress hosting, since it’s the information I share here that is the goal, not providing a slick experience.
However, none of this is to say it wasn’t a good experience. It was truly awesome, all around. Not just because of the raw scientific knowledge we learned (mostly explained in Part 1), but because of the mindset and approach to life that WHM seeks to imprint on everyone and how you felt it throughout the course.. Also, the social aspect was awesome even for someone like me who’s not normally into big social groups. Part of it was due to the love and hugs (yes, there was lots of hugging), but also because WHM is such a niche thing and it is so focused on happiness and self-improvement, everyone immediately feels a bond with everyone else just for being there with that common, hippie interest.
The class was pretty diverse. It was about 50 people. I’d say about 25% women, 25% hippies, 25% nerdy types like me, 25% yoga teachers, 25% over 50, 25% from out of the country. And there was a surprising number of people who have overcome or managed some kind of mental or physical disorder through WHM. One guy in particular said that he was almost entirely paralyzed (I don’t remember from what) and through WHM is now running over a mile every day. His story was the most inspiring, but far from the only person there with an impressive story.
I would say that the course was about 70% academic & lecturing, and about 30% of it was activities: stretching, yoga, cold exposure, breathing, movement, social. As I mentioned previously, Kasper van der Muelen was a spectacular teacher, and part of that was his insistence on only lecturing 20 minutes at a time, with some kind of physical or social activities in between. Overall, there was more lecturing than I expected, but Kasper made it fun and easy to stay focused. I have a plug for his book at the end of this post.
It’s the Instructor Course
One thing that’s worth mentioning: this was the “WHM Instructor Course: Advanced Module.” There is no advanced, non-instructor course. There are “workshops” that are how people normally get exposed to WHM (in doses of 1-7 days), and then there is the instructor track which is the following sequence:
- 10-week video course and/or a workshop
- WHM Instructor Advanced Module (2 days)
- WHM Instructor Master Module (7 days)
This is interesting to me, because it seems to suggest a certain confidence/judgment by Wim and Innerfire (company) that someone can acquire the skill, knowledge and experience in a very short time to be blessed to officially represent WHM as an instructor. I wonder whether it is shorter to meet a desire for rapid, global growth of WHM. Or perhaps WHM really is simple enough and they are okay with (or expecting) people to branch out the way it is taught.
I can say for sure that after a combined 12 months over a few years of doing WHM, I am still learning stuff about myself, and getting deeper into the meditation, etc. I think that simply being more experienced or more knowledgeable about something does not make you qualified to do paid teaching. I think Innerfire is taking a risk with their brand. But I might also be underestimating how much you attain in the “Master” module.
Given that this is the only “advanced” course available, I got the feeling that some people were there just to learn more, not necessarily teach. I might have been in that category before I went, but I’m more motivated afterwards. Some people, particularly those who said they were inspired by mental or anxiety issues to do WHM, probably just wanted to immerse themselves more in it.
I also learned to do a headstand, which is the featured image for this post. I failed, however, at the other balancing poses.
Learning Brown Fat Activation
We did probably the best exercise to learn the brown fat activation technique (usually taught in week 9 of the course, but not explained very well). Basically, it’s way to consciously increase bloodflow to the shoulders, neck and upper back where brown-fat tends to develop with regular cold exposure. It is assisted by large veins in your neck which move a lot of warm blood around, even if there’s not a lot of brown fat to help warm it. It is also accelerated by adrenaline.
The exercise was to repeatedly sit down and fall backwards into the ice bath, and then get out immediately before you adapt to the shock. The falling backwards into water should trigger a natural panic and adrenaline release, which is then inspected and controlled while you do a horse stance after you get out. After you feel relatively normal again, you repeat (yes this would be torture for someone not adapted to ice water). I have to say my BFA has gotten considerably better since the course, I now generally have warm or hot shoulders within 30 seconds of getting out of an ice bath (in my awesome chest freezer!).
The Grand Experiment
If there was one prevailing theme from the weekend besides learning the physiology itself, it was the mindset of treating your body like a laboratory. Most of the physical activities we did came with an exercise to scan your body or inspect your own mental state after the stimulus. Do regular pushups, scan your body, what do you feel? Now do the 30 WHM breaths and pushups, how do you feel differently? What about when you are just about to get in the ice bath, stop. Do you feel anxious? Is your heart rate higher? What about after you dip in the ice?
A lot of it was focused on understanding and feeling your body’s normally-involuntary behaviors, and “catching them” with your mind, either to understand them, influence them or invoke them without the stimulus.
There was one thing I never noticed about doing the WHM pushups. We already know you can do a lot more pushups once you have prepared your body in advance. What I didn’t realize was that when you are done, you are not out of breath, and in fact your body is pretty relaxed. Try it yourself: do regular pushups, scan your body (heartrate, breathing, muscles). Then 20-30 minutes later do it again with the WHM breathing. It’s surprising just how calm your body is despite doing a ton more pushups than you usually do.
What We Didn’t Learn
There’s a few things that I still feel insecure about when I think of teaching a WHM course. Primarily, we learned all about the mechanics of WHM and exercises that we should practice and teach others. But it was missing some higher-level components, such as how you typically structure a course, how you should represent that brand, etc. For this reason, I feel like it’s necessary for me to go to a workshop taught by an instructor in the US to get some ideas before I even do any semi-serious, informal teaching. Again though, the master module may bridge this gap better than I expect.
We also did something called “DMT breathing,” which is something that is not widely advertised because it’s a very “potent” (and intense) technique for releasing energy and emotions. It’s believed to release an endogenous form of DMT which causes a mild psychedelic effect. DMT is an illegal drug when you buy it on the street and consume it, but obviously not illegal if your body produces it through crazy breathing techniques.
Understandably, they worry that “natural psychedelia” would become associated with WHM, and it’s really only one tool of many to have in your toolbox of “going deeper.” They also worry that people will do it places where they are not safe.
However, it was only explained once, and we only did it once. I really couldn’t teach anyone about it from this one little session. Further, I didn’t even experience it. I think I did it wrong and ended up with my hands and arms locked up like a T-rex due to… muscle spasms? … from the breathing. It subsided, and I regained full mobility in my arms in like…10 minutes! It would’ve been scary if I hadn’t heard someone mention this happened to them before. But it was remarkably uncomfortable and clearly divergent from what I was supposed to experience.
OTOH, most other people seemed to have a positive experience with it. Many people were hugging and/or crying afterwards. And everything was back to normal in a few minutes. This is actually what you see in the VICE documentary on WHM.
Talking about Kasper, he wrote a book called “Mindlift” which is a great name for it. It’s a mixture of science, personal experience, and established principles for setting the right mindset to be effective and efficient. I don’t normally go for these things, but taking his impressive two-day seminar convinced me to give him some more money:
I’m about halfway through the book, and I highly recommend it. I wouldn’t say there’s anything ground-breaking in there, but the lessons are simple, concise and frequently obvious in hindsight. One of my favorite things so far has to do with procrastinating on chores or projects: “your excuse generator runs on complexity.” He points out that it’s our overly-intelligent human minds that want to dissect the complexity of a task before actually doing it, which frequently ends up in a never-ending loop. This really connects with me, as many of my desired house/weekend projects are constantly pushed off because I can’t work out all the execution details in my head. Break it down into simple steps, and convince yourself that the act of doing it (or trying) will help your intelligent mind figure it out.