On average, in a single day a person will take between 25 and 30 thousand breaths, however on reflection, how many of these breaths are you aware of? Breathing is an incredible phenomenon in that it occurs subconsciously, yet simultaneously we have complete and utter control over it, making it an extremely powerful gift when used properly. Conventionally, working on breathing has been limited to therapy for people suffering from a variety of mental and physical illnesses, but Richie Bostock (aka. @thebreathguy) is succeeding in his mission to bring breathing into the mainstream. Richie’s mission is to ‘make basic breathwork as common knowledge as knowing how to tie your shoelaces’ and to teach people how to use the inbuilt tool they have to improve health and happiness. Particularly in the modern world taking a moment to notice and be at one with your breath is challenging, so we sat down with Richie to learn more about breathwork and try it for ourselves (and what an experience it was)!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with breath work?
Funnily enough, I wasn’t always teaching people how to breathe! Coming out of University in Australia, I first worked in one of the international consulting firms as a Management Consultant. After deciding that I needed a change, I stepped into the world of digital entrepreneurship and built an online business. When working on your own business, you need to do just as much work on yourself, so I read countless books on psychology and personal development and even did a few coaching and therapy courses. After investing so much time in this, I decided it would make sense to share this knowledge to help others. So, I started a coaching business on the side and it was then that I realised what my true passion was: helping people in a deeply meaningful way.
Purely by accident or fate, during this time my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. Because there was no set treatment plan for MS, my mom and I started to research what lifestyle changes and alternative treatments could be useful for him. During this research, I came across a podcast by a man called Wim Hof. In a podcast, he talked about a method he developed which is fantastic for everyone’s physical and mental health, and he mentioned the method seemed to be really effective in helping people with autoimmune diseases, including MS. The method has two main elements: cold exposure activities and breathing techniques. I travelled to Poland to attend a week-long training in Wim’s method and found the effects to be so profound. On my return, I taught my dad the technique: fast forward a few years and my dad breathes and takes cold showers every morning and his MS has not progressed at all! After this, I was obsessed with finding out what else people were doing using the breath, which has led me to travel across five continents learning and witnessing the transformative effects of Breathwork.
Breathing is integral to keeping us alive, so what exactly is Breathwork?
Now that’s a great question and for most people, even just the word “Breathwork” is confusing. Why would I need to work on my breath? Doesn’t it just happen automatically? There are many definitions of Breathwork so I will just give you mine. Put simply, Breathwork is when we consciously use our breathing to change our state of being. To me, any time we use a technique involving our breath to change our physical, mental or emotional state, that’s Breathwork.
How does breathwork compare to meditation?
If the goal of meditation is to go beyond the mind and experience our essential nature, then Breathwork is very similar. In fact, I call some of the routines I teach “Meditation on Steroids” because of the profound effect it has on calming the mind quickly and getting you to that place of no-thought. I have had countless people come up to me after a class saying that they have been trying meditation for years but have never gotten so deep into a state of presence than when doing the class. I love meditation and I think that it is a very important practice. I combine the two in my personal practice, starting with Breathwork and then moving on to meditation.
What are some of the key benefits of breath work?
Breathing is the only function in our body that both happens completely automatically and is 100% under our control. Scientific studies are now supporting what ancient traditions have known for centuries and are linking correct breathing with the mitigation of some of the most insidious modern health problems. So, if you understand how to use your breath as the tool that nature has intended for you to use, you become the master of yourself. Reduced stress and anxiety, increased energy levels, improved sleep, improved creativity, increased athletic performance and cardiovascular health – these are just a few of the benefits of Breathwork.
How long does it take to feel the benefits of breath work?
Almost instantly. In my Breathwork class, you will feel the physical effects within 2 minutes and mental effects within 5 minutes. I have had clients who deal with insomnia have their first good night of sleep in over two decades after just one class. So, the benefits come rapidly, but just like going to the gym, you need to keep practising!
Is it something that can be practised at home once learnt?
Absolutely! Like learning anything new, once you know how it works, you can use it to create your own self-practice. You can breathe at home, on the bus, at work, while walking – anywhere at all!
Could you give us an example of a short exercise for beginners to try?
Rather than, an exercise I want to teach you something that should really be taught at school: HOW WE SHOULD BREATHE DAY TODAY! I have a video on Instagram (@thebreathguy) with gives you the four basics elements of proper breathing. To summarise, they are:
- Breathe low – down into the belly first, feeling your lower ribs and abdomen expand.
- Breathe slow – between 9 – 12 breaths per minute.
- Breathe through the nose – that’s what it’s there for!
- Let go of your exhale – don’t blow out your exhale, just relax and let the air escape naturally.
Now if you are exercising or using different techniques then we would, of course, breathe differently, but this should be your default day-to-day.
To find out more or Join a class with Richie, head over to www.xhalebreathwork.com