What sparked your interest in breathwork?
I came to Breathwork purely by accident (or fate, whichever you prefer). Some time ago 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, I was always on the lookout for different lifestyle changes and alternative treatments that could be useful for him. Eventually 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.
Why is this technique important to you?
The vast majority of people in modern society are not aware that they are breathing incorrectly and fewer are aware about how these incorrect breathing habits are slowly destroying their health and happiness.
A person will take around 25,000 breaths per day and the effects of habitually breathing incorrectly accumulate and manifest in physical and mental dysfunctions, from fatigue, headaches, digestive issues and sleep disorders to chronic stress and anxiety.
If feeling healthier, happier and stronger is as simple as taking some breaths in certain ways, then that is a pretty easy win and it is almost criminal that people don't know they have this powerful tool within them.
What's your best advice for experiencing one of your classes for the first time?
The Breathwork classes I teach involve the students sitting or lying down as I guide them through a series of breathing flows for a specific purpose, whether it's to create states of bliss, energy, relaxation or meditative flow. It is super simple, all you need to do is follow along to the different breathing patterns and you will notice a big shift in your physical and mental states within minutes!
What is your favourite breathwork technique?
This is an impossible questions to answer! There are literally thousands of techniques and even more ways to combine them together to create cool effects. Here is a very popular one that I share with people. It is a technique that was originally developed by Japanese Zen Masters but gained popularity in the West when it was discovered that Navy SEALS were using it before they went into battle to try and calm their nerves. Not only does this breath help to relax your nervous system, but this very balanced and controlled pattern helps to make you feel like you are in control also!
It’s called Box Breathing. The breath is broken down into four equal parts, like the sides of a square. The length of each part should be whatever feels comfortable to you. A good place to start is five seconds but you could make the lengths even longer if you like.
1. Start with empty lungs and breathe into your belly through your nose for a count of 5 seconds
2. Hold your breathe for a count of five
3. Exhale for a count of five
4. Hold your breath for a count of five
5. Repeat this pattern for at least five minutes or until you have felt yourself fully calm down
How do you balance teaching and a busy schedule with your well-being?
My life is pretty crazy with lots of travel and meeting hundreds of new faces every week. If I ever get stressed or overwhelmed I have a couple of great breathing techniques that I know will have me centred again within seconds but one of the great things about having practiced Breathwork for so long is that it’s pretty rare that I get noticeably stressed.
Think about it - 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 new-found 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's your favourite BY SARAH skincare to enjoy at home?
What does the rest of 2019 have in store?
It is my mission to remind people how to breathe on purpose so this year will be lots of workshops, events and festivals (you can see my schedule at thebreathguy.co.uk)! I also have a book that is available for pre-order now and will be coming out in early 2020 which includes the essential and best parts of my learnings over the years and distils the expertise from many modern Breathwork masters, elite athletic trainers, psychologists, doctors and health practitioners into a simple step by step guide for you to start to breathe with purpose.
Enjoyed getting to know Richie? Follow him @thebreathguy. Or share this article with a friend and start breathing on purpose 🙏
Interview by: Sarah, Founder, BY SARAH
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