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annalynne mccord, wim hof, and the power of masculine energy

Wim Hof: “I am into mental healthcare. But we will shoot right straight in. Change the world. Cause, you know, I’m reaching about a hundred million people already [AnnaLynne: “Gasp”] but it’s going to be billions [AnnaLynne: clapping, yells YES!] and when we change billions of people from the inside in their heart. Feeling autonomy, we will change the world.”

So begins the Wim Hof podcast with AnnaLynne McCord. McCord jumps in to describe her first experience with Wim Hof breath work at a Lululemon event in which she burst into tears, ran out of the event room, found a private place, called the man who sexually abused her as a child, and forgave him.

“That fifteen-minute breath work changed my life.”

That is an amazing and inspiring story.

For at least a decade now (since the start of social media and the mass-scale curation of self? Or, checking an n-gram, was it the rise of neoliberalism?), we’ve heard ad nauseam about the power of narrative. Humans need stories! If this wasn’t clear from the billion-dollar film industry or the many other means of storytelling, the scientists have brought their stamp of approval. Even (especially) data and medicine needs a narrative.

Wim states that AnnaLynne’s trauma story, coming from “someone with all the looks of the world and the universe,” with “such vulnerability and power,” will change the world.

We have heard many of these trauma stories now. This broad-stroke talk of changing the world frankly baffles me.

The Wim Hof Method is an amazing and powerful practice. Absolutely. I write this not to dis it but because the way they market and deliver it can be off-putting to many. To whom? To quieter people? To people who analyze too much? To those who aren’t into cliché stereotypes about femininity and masculinity, women and men? I find the conversation about the feminine and masculine interesting when it is actually defined and explored. But that is rare.

And I wonder if this story of instantaneous healing after fifteen minutes of Wim’s breathing method might discourage anyone who doesn’t have such dramatic results. The method actually requires some persistence and discipline.

I also wonder what is meant by changing the world in real, concrete terms. Self-help gurus, breathers (yogis and others) and meditators have spoken of changing the world through their particular method for centuries. Is it changed? In the ways they envisioned?

Never-mind that my idea of positive change might look very different from yours, and our ability to discuss this as thoughtful adults has been increasingly and severely restrained by all sorts of social factors over the last few decades. Further, world changers tend to seek customers (seekers, whatever. I do not mean to imply they are solely mercenary), so they often veer sharply away from such discussion.

What specifically do they seek to change?

As I mentioned in the last post, the episode is titled “Power of Masculine Energy.” But as Napoleon Hill taught us in Think and Grow Rich (1937), it is not the contents of books (&c.) that people buy. It is the titles. The WHM ad blurb says they will also discuss, “how the masculine/feminine dichotomy is holding us back.”

After listening to the episode, I did not come away with a sense of either the power of masculine energy, which we tend to see on display 24/7 in American life anyway (sure, my definition of masculinity would be welcome here), or learn how the dichotomy is holding us back. There was a lot of yelling though.

You know what I love, Wim? I really really appreciate what you represent. Just when someone looks at you. Because there’s, there’s a loss of the divine masculine, of, of sacred masculinity in our world and, you know, you look like a Viking. You kind of sound like what I think the Viking would sound like [Wim: ROAR. AL: YES!] but you are you’re preaching LOVE! You’re preaching openness and sharing and curiosity and acceptance. and these are masculine traits…

Okay now, hold up.

I often show my students this image of the Sun God, Louis XIV, the most powerful man in the latter half of seventeenth-century Europe.

The hair. The legs. The heels. The illustrious gown. The fashion. The most powerful man in Europe.

Yes. These were masculine traits.

And the beautiful ancient Greek statues of gorgeous “natural” male bodies were sculpted by and for mature adult men who celebrated sex with adolescent males. These were masculine traits.

And then the Vikings. I’m not sure how we came to discuss them as the pinnacle of the “divine masculine,” but they too engaged in homosexual sex, usually in the rape of an enemy.

It is not news that traits of masculinity and femininity are defined by time and space, which are also more slippery than some would like. Yet it seems to be news to the interwebs, where there is a pervasive insistence from both guys and dolls on the “natural” Viking male and Barbie female.

AnnaLynne, whom I find endearing, is doing a few things here that work for her. First off, she’s flirting with and flattering her host. Second, she’s snuck in love, openness, sharing, curiosity and acceptance as inherently masculine traits, which is not what the internet usually serves up.

Masculinity is getting shit on right now because there’s a, there’s a little bit of our population that are toxic and that’s for real. I’ve experienced that obviously with my story.

But so many wonderful men are getting pushed down because just men are being attacked right now because we’re trying to do that thing that we always do where ​we swing the pendulum too far.

I am not convinced that media does not intentionally swing the pendulum too far as a way to shut down conversation. But it could also be the tendency of latent problems long ignored simply erupting when the can is opened. Regardless, McCord argues:

And we do, we need to acknowledge the plight of women and support women and what we need to realize that men are part of the solution. Men are part of the solution. The 90% of the men that are actually good men, here supporting and standing by the feminine, by women. There’s 10% going around and creating all the problems. We need our men.

We need our good men to stand up and be a voice with us and bridge that gap. And women have a responsibility, the feminine has a responsibility, to stop suppressing the positive side of masculinity and throwing the baby out with the bathwater we’ve got to look at the issue [Wim: WOW], cut out the cancer you know, bring Life Force to the cancer and enliven it or cut it out whatever has to be done to remove it so that we can unite the feminine and masculine in our world and have the proper balance.

Wait, what?

It’s a nice thought, that the world is fine and we just need to deal with 10% of the bad men and the women who suppress and “shit on” the masculine. I guess I should ask who the audience is here.

The stereotype of Wim Hoffers is that sort of Jordan Peterson, men’s rights fan who might be very into AnnaLynne’s rendition of masculine/feminine balance and her suggestion that they are good men who want to support femininity–and women should let them.

Just let them already.

Okay, okay, how is femininity defined here? Pink? Makeup? Manicures? Cooking for men? Cleaning for men? Looking good for men? Passivity? Agreement? Saying yes? All of these have their place, but as a definition or guide for femininity it is sorely lacking. And the men who want women who behave this way exclusively also tend to resent their dependency and frivolity, which is inherent in their definition of feminine. Catch-22.

I write all of this because I think that Wim’s method is extremely useful and all the yelling and drum beating in his media might turn off a large number of people he’d like to reach. I’m also not so sure that this hackneyed idea of the feminine and masculine is serving anyone but a few who actually, really, truly enjoy that sort of set up.

The problem is not that 10% of men are just bad and need to be dealt with by the good 90%. Apologies, but that is silly. If she’s saying that 90% of men aren’t rapists and child molesters, okay then–more than fair.

However, the issue is larger than physical abuse. It is systemic–our favorite word. The issue is that, for example, a large percentage of “good” men think that a general medical study that includes only white men is an “excellent study” and are annoyed by the suggestion that if we truly cared about the health of women, people of color, and non-binary people, a study that did not represent a majority of the population would simply not exist, much less be considered “excellent.” This is a particular example, but such particulars pervade daily life. And because you get places in the U.S. by keeping your mouth shut, this is not likely to change anytime soon.

Does the audience here intentionally exclude every man who does not relate to Viking masculinity and every woman who does not relate to Barbie femininity? And everyone else? Do the majority of humans (they seek billions) relate to this? How are these qualities defined? It is assumed here, and assumed to belong to gender. While the vast majority of viewers may well subscribe to this notion and share in the definitions of these qualities, fifty years ago we started to talk about what these traits meant as a society. At some point that conversation was shut down and eventually a new one came about, but only small corners of the world are actually engaged in it.

That many people do not wish to subscribe to traditional binary ideas of gender is not addressed here at all, perhaps because their overall numbers are not large enough to penetrate this audience? I do not know.

Wim Hof’s media is all very much addressed to healing the wounded masculine, defined as a big, strong, open and loving Viking, supported by a beautiful, smiling “feminine” woman. Fair enough, if this is a select community that wants to indulge in these gender ideals. But they claim to want to change the world—billions.

The conversation about what masculine and feminine qualities are is quite interesting. And, even removed from gender, we might notice that our society has a marked bias toward qualities often assigned to the masculine, and neglects, belittles, abuses, or ignores qualities often assigned to the feminine. I’ll address this next time.


Did you know that Amazon now has a meditation app? Wow. I mean, of course they do. I don’t really get into meditation apps, but if you do, try it and let me know. They have a 3-month free deal for student prime members.girlie stuffMy favorite girly-girl (different than/same as feminine woman?) products are definitely cookware. Does this come in pink?

Of course.

Wait, are yoga mats girly? Wanna get your girly-girl the best mat going (the manduka pro. Heavy but worth it)?

Is chocolate girly?

I don’t know. Trying to think about shopping for girly items makes my head want to burst. Enjoy.


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blog favorites pranayama self-help critique yoga habits

youtube is a circle jerk

Last time, I mentioned turning to youtube for inspiration for teaching breathwork on zoom last winter. First, James Nestor’s Breath: The Science of a New Lost Art popped up, which I listened to on audiobook. (I have too much research reading on my plate now for leisure reads). It’s quite interesting, though like most journalistic endeavors, has its share of historical inaccuracies (e.g. ancient westerners did, in fact, place value on breathing). I nitpick though.

As eye-opening as the book itself was the long line of podcast interviews James Nestor appeared on: Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, Joe Rogan, Lewis Howes, and so on. These pods brought me to Patrick McKeown and the Buteyko Method (mentioned in Nestor’s book), who’s also done the podcast circuit of which I was so blissfully unaware. While Joe Rogan I knew as a generalist talk show host, the others were new to me. They traverse that great American tradition of straight-up self-help (though not all are American).

lewis howes
the titles tend to shout at you

You will not get far in the youtube breathwork world without coming across Wim Hof. Of course I’d heard of Wim Hof, but I’d written him off as the kind of guy who appears on the sidewalk signs of Bushwick coffee houses and attracts masculinity movement followers. But again and again his name came up on the podcasts mentioned above, as well as those of Russell Brand, Andrew Huberman, Dr. Steven Gundry, Tom Bilyeu, and Jordan Peterson.

If you spend any time listening to these, you might be struck by the sheer maleness and, with the exception of Chatterjee, whiteness of the crew. While their credentials range from M.D. to comedian to former pro athlete, they again and again circle back to one another, even hosting each other on their respective pods. While some, like Rogan and Peterson, are known for their 1950s take on gender, Chatterjee, Huberman, Hof, and Brand also serve up a traditional bi-gendered framework of the world–if not offered themselves, like Brand’s announcement that “wellness is for women” (“wellness” ascended in the mid-1970s US, when corporations sought relief from the vertical spike in health care costs, and its first subjects, as with most medical experimentation, were white men), than by their guests. There is little interrogation of guests’ sometimes fantastic statements, though such questioning would make the pods infinitely more informative and interesting, not to mention “authentic” and “deep,” as generally branded.

fix yourself! change yourself! DO THIS NOW!

With the exception of Peterson, whose status as an intellectual or great thinker strikes me as depressing evidence of just how little North Americans like to think (though censoring him is even more absurd. Any honors high school student could critique his sloppy interpretations of Dostoyevsky and Jung, much less his muddled understanding of postmodernism), I actually quite enjoy these pods. I’m just shocked by how male they are. Women seem to be relegated to the candles, makeup and mommy corners of the interwebs, where playing a little dumb is highly rewarded. If that’s your thing, fantastic. If you want a, or want to be a, stay-at-home wife, that’s great. Just don’t ask me to do it.

And I suppose that’s the crux of it. Born in the early 70s, when the promise of equality for all had not quite yet met the backlash of neoliberalism, (no, not just conservatism, neoliberalism), I am always just a little bit shocked that people in the US aren’t allowed to just be, and be with, who they want. Why is that so threatening? If youtube and podcasting are the channels for startup info-tainment self-expression, why are they still dominated by white men? Are my interests–in this case, breathing–more masculine than feminine? More manly?

They are not. In fact, my research and interests tend to fall into what Americans like to deem “female” interests. My request that we sometimes be, rather than incessantly do, could be seen as a “feminine” endeavor.

When I heard about the studies done on Wim Hof’s method, I looked further. It turns out to be tummo breathing (Tibetan kundalini), cold showers or baths, and yoga, all of which I already do anyway, though my cold showers were previously isolated to sauna/banya. As I desperately miss my hot-cold bathing routine under Covid19 and I’ve long sought out others as passionate about it as I am, I got Wim’s book, The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential.

I read the book before watching him on  video, and I recommend that for those who aren’t into the we’re-so-manly, high performance, HACK YOURSELF schtick. The book, which I’ve now given to a few people, comes across as very human and very practical. I have not taken a warm shower since I read it. Of northern European stock, this is not so difficult for me. In fact, I enjoy it.

What I find most impressive about Wim Hof’s method is that he came to it through exploring himself, his body, and perhaps his trauma. He talks about the ecstasy of extreme temperatures (well, cold) that I know and adore from swimming in the winter ocean but also melting in the banya. (In fact, I was recently thinking about organizing a public banya in Brighton so that we can swim and easily warm up after in the not-summer seasons.) While he somewhat annoyingly and inaccurately waxes on about its scientific validity, it is clear that he came to this through his own personal and intense exploration and then systematized it for others. Experiencing my body and learning from it rather than applying “protocols” because science told me so is precisely what I find most valuable, and it is impressively on display in his book. I’m not sure I’ve come across anything or anyone like it.

After reading, watch him in the above videos if you like, but prepare for some yelling and repetition. His method does attract mostly men, from what I can see from the documentaries and teachers, but his method is awesome and I see no reason it’s better for men than women or non-binary people. He even has an app–that used to be free but is no longer–to help you learn the breathing or simply to hold you consistent and accountable.


If you’d like to support my work, buy stuff that you need from the links on the site. Some of them send us kickbacks at no cost to you, but a wee cost to the empire.

bamboo squatty pottyWhen traveling abroad way back in the 90s, my then-partner and I talked about how one day we’d have squat toilets in our homes because they are vastly superior to the porcelain gods. But of course, in our post-modern 21st Century, instead we buy some wood so that we can squat in our chairs. This model is bamboo and comes with a fabulous foot massager, though this one is a bit better made. They also come in white plastic, which does blend better with most decors. I have and love the foot massager model, you might guess.