Known as ‘The Breath Guy’, Richie Bostock has made a name for himself as a leader in the field of breathwork. The practice of consciously paying attention to your breath and using breathing techniques to tap into your body’s physiological functions, scientific studies have shown its efficacy in treating anxiety and depression (1), while other proponents have credited it with everything from improving athletic performance to boosting energy levels.
That’s not it though, because it appears that breathwork can also be used to help us make clearer and more positive decisions – big or small – in our everyday lives. We spoke to Richie to find out about his own journey and hear exactly how the practice works inside our body.
I first got into breathwork after my dad fell ill.
He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; like with many autoimmune conditions, you can’t just take a pill and it’ll be gone, it’s something that many people deal with for a lifetime. So, I looked into all kind of alternative therapies and nutritional changes to try and find things that might help him. Eventually I came across Wim Hof.
Discovering the Wim Hof was a real turning point.
Known as Ice Man, he’s best known for using cold exposure methods
, but he relies a lot on breathwork too and spoke about the effectiveness of his method in autoimmune problems. I ended travelling to Poland and doing a week-long training in the Wim Hof Method where we did all sorts of crazy stuff like swimming in ice lakes, hiking in the snow in just our shorts, climbing the tallest mountain in Poland in just our shorts. It was a mind-blowing experience, but the thing that really blew me away was the breathwork; I’d never experienced anything like it before.
When I came back, I shared what I’d learned with my dad.
He started doing breathing exercises every day, taking cold showers every morning, and changed his diet. The progression of his MS completely stopped in his tracks. After that I ended up travelling all over the world for three and a half years learning all about breathwork from yogis, doctors, therapists, physios, athletic coaches and other practitioners.
Using breathwork to make decisions has changed the course of my life.
I use it to make decisions every single day, and in any situation where I feel like I’ve got to make a decision that’s important. If you asked my family, I think they’d say that it has made changed my outlook by giving me more trust that things are going to happen in my favour. This doesn’t mean sitting around and doing nothing, but it’s understanding the things I can have control over and focusing on those things, and having more trust that the things I don’t have control over can happen for me anyway; it gives me more clarity and less worry.
I think as human beings we get really good at making things complicated
and using our minds to really analyse everything, where quite often the answer is very simple. If you follow your intuition and really listen to that inner guidance that we all have access to, you can save yourself a lot of time. An example of this would be the ‘yes’ breath that I talk about in Exhale
. Try saying a statement that’s true out loud and then taking a deep breath; now try it with a statement that’s not true and do the same. You’ll notice a difference in how that breath feels – with practice, you’ll be able to detect the subtleties of how your breath changes to tell you which direction serves you best
Breathwork can help with addictive behaviour, such as smoking.
Quite often when we’re addicted to an external substance, like smoking, it’s because it makes us feel better, whether that’s unresolved emotion or to help us deal with stresses. But what’s amazing is that the greatest chemical factory that we have is inside our bodies – it’s our endocrine system that controls all the feel-good chemicals and hormones that dictate our state of being. The breath is so intimately linked with our nervous system that we can use it to influence the way that the nervous system is firing and change the chemical make-up in our blood. You don’t necessarily need an external substance to make you feel better if you just breathe in a certain way, because your breath is acting on the exact same system that these substances would do.
The nature of the modern world makes is harder to make clear decisions.
There’s a quote that really resonates which - to paraphrase – says there’s never been a time in history where we’ve been bombarded with so much information constantly, that we are analogue creatures living in a digital age and we’re just fighting to survive. Technology has raced ahead so quickly but our biology hasn’t really changed at all. The information overload that we’re subjected to peaks our ‘fight or flight’ nervous system and when that’s happening, you’re not really in a good position to start to make important decisions. That’s a big part of where breath fits in. It can help bring you out of that state and into your parasympathetic state, and to bring you into a place of presence where you can really focus.
Breathwork is meditation for people who can’t meditate.
Meditation takes a lot of practice to really start to be able to create a good routine and gain benefit from, where as breathwork is more like a formula. You do certain techniques and, so long as you follow the instructions, the effect is guaranteed to happen just because you’re changing the physiology in your body which therefore will change how you’re thinking and feeling.
If 2020 has taught me anything it’s that to be present with whatever is happening in the world.
There’s a quote from Dan Milman who wrote The Way of The Peaceful Warrior
that I’ve been meditating on during this entire time: “Life comes at us in waves that we can neither predict nor control, but we can learn to surf.” Rather than thinking too much about things, just be present with whatever is happening to you right now because at the end of the day all you need to do is ‘stay on the board’.
Away from breathwork, being in nature is huge for me.
I love being in nature in any form but personally the ocean is the most powerful for me – I need to find somewhere to live one day that has a beach and an ocean and mountains and forests all in one place!
Richie’s book Exhale will be released on 10 September 2020. Pre-order now to gain access to his 21-day breathwork challenge, or find out more on his website or Instagram.
- Babatunde Aideyan, Gina C. Martin, Eric T. Beeson; A Practitioner's Guide to Breathwork in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling 1 January 2020; 42 (1): 78–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.17744/mehc.42.1.06