Did you know the average person takes between 12-20 breathes a minute? Over the course of a day, that’s 17,000 – 30,000 breathes. That’s a lot.
We are constantly breathing. But how often are we actually thinking about it? How often do we give our breath the attention it deserves?
It is automatic. The first skill we ‘learn’ when we’re born. As long as we are alive, we are breathing.
When we choose to focus on it, and truly take the time to notice it, we can get so much more out of it.
When we think about it, breathing is our biggest asset.
“One deep breath can help alleviate a whole world of chaos” Michael James Wong
Even when life gets a bit messy or chaotic, our breath remains a constant. It is a bit like driving a car; put your foot on the brake and it will slow down.
If you stop and take a deep breath, everything will slow down. Then you can decide what’s best from there.
One man on a mission to make breathing the next revolution in health and performance is Richard Bostock, or better known as The Breath Guy.
“The answer is right under your nose” XHALE
Firstly, please could you tell us a bit about yourself, XHALE and your work?
Well 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, which I did for nearly six years. After deciding that I needed a change, I took a step into the world of digital entrepreneurship and built an online business.
I have always loved philosophy, psychology and personal development and when you start your own business, you really have to do just as much work on yourself as your business. I read countless books on psychology and personal development and even did a few coaching and therapy courses to continue my own development. After investing so much time in this kind of work I decided that it would make sense to share this knowledge and help others aswell. So, I started a coaching business along side my online business and it was then that I realised what my true passion was: helping people in a deeply meaningful and personal way. It was around this time that the concept of Breathwork came into my life.
So, let’s talk about that! How did you first become aware of the power of the breath?
Purely by accident (or fate, whichever you prefer). During this time my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease with no real widely accepted cure and a myriad of different and sometimes difficult drug treatments. 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, a Dutch man often referred to as “The Iceman”.
In this podcast, he talked about a method he developed through his own experiences which is fantastic for everyone’s physical and mental health. What caught my attention is that he mentioned the method seemed to be really effective in helping people with autoimmune diseases, including MS. After researching his method more I learned that it had two main elements: cold exposure activities such as cold showers and ice baths and breathing techniques.
To cut a long story short, I travelled to Poland to attend a week long training with Wim to learn the technique and found the effects to be so profound, especially the breathing aspects. On 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 from many modern breathing masters and witnessing the transformative effects of Breathwork.
So what exactly is Breathwork, and how does it differ from breathing? Are there different types?
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.
There are many types of Breathwork ranging from ancient eastern traditions, such as Pranayama, to more modern western techniques that can be used as a form of non-talking therapy. You can even teach breathing protocols to athletes to increase their athletic output and promote faster recovery. There is so much that you can do with your breath and I believe we still have only just scratched the surface!
Why is Breathwork so important? What benefits does it have?
Breathing is the only function in our body thatboth happens completely automatically and is 100% under our control. Now this is not an accident of nature, it is absolutely by design. The correlation between breathing and the state of our body and mind has been acknowledged for centuries. In the East, you can see it as breathing practices in Taoism, Yoga and in Ayurvedic medicine. In the West, you can see it in the language used. In ancient Greek, the word for soul, Psyche Pneuma, also means breath. In ancient Latin, Anima Spiritus also means soul and breath.
Now, scientific studies are supporting what ancient traditions have known for centuries: linking correct breathing with the mitigation of some of 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, induced flow states, increased athletic performance and cardiovascular health – these are just a few of the benefits that can result from Breathwork.
Breathing for most of us is just a given. Do we have to retrain ourselves to breathe properly? How can we turn it into such a powerful tool?
Most people are not aware that they are breathing poorly and even fewer are aware how poor breathing habits may be effecting their health and happiness. You only need to observe people on the tube to realise the extent to which tight belts, tight bodies, tight minds and tight schedules are literally taking their breath away.
Becoming aware of how you are breathing is the first step. Are you breathing high into the chest or low into the belly? Are you taking shallow breaths or deep breaths? Are you forgetting to breathe all together and holding your breath?
People who practice activities where you really need to focus on your breath, such as tai chi, yoga, surfing and scuba and free diving seem to have a different relationship to life’s stresses. They are able to remain calm in the midst of seeming chaos. We often refer to these people as “Zen” or “Grounded”.
Perhaps the most universal experience of my own Breathwork students is their newfound ability to handle tough situations with ease. Through Breathwork they are able to rewrite how their minds react when their body goes into stress mode in response to life’s inevitable dramas. They are building a new relationship to stress and anxiety that is conducive to their health and wellbeing and know how to use their breath as a tool when things feel overwhelming.
What would be your advice for people wanting to incorporate this into daily life?
For anyone who wants to start their Breathwork journey, firstly I want to say…CONGRATULATIONS! Breathwork has given me so much and I know it will for you too, as it has done for countless others.
The logical place to start is with something that should really be taught in our schools and that is HOW WE SHOULD BREATHE DAY TO DAY! 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 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.
This is how you should breathe day-to-day at rest. Now if you are exercising or using different techniques then we would of course breathe differently, but this should be your default.
What are your aims/goals looking forward?
My primary goal with XHALE is to reintroduce the world to their breath so that they know that they have an inbuilt tool that can drastically increase their levels of health and happiness. It’s almost criminal that so many people don’t know this because it is so simple!
“The breath is life. Respect it” Michael James Wong.