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Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. 

Welcome to this call, Richie. I’m so glad you could make it. And just to give everyone, an introduction to Richie. He’s known as the Breath Guy, and he’s one of the leading figures in breathwork and he believes, and I do too, that breathwork is the next revolution in health and fitness. And he’s a breathwork coach, he’s an author, he’s a speaker. Richie, have I missed something out?

Richie Bostock: With all of the above I’m just a student of the breath, really.

AB: Lovely. And it’s Richie’s mission to spread the life-changing possibilities of breath work to the world. And just so you know, I was lucky enough to have him come and do a session for me and my family on one of my very special birthdays. So, Richie, tell us, how does breath help people?

RB: [sighs] Well, to begin with, if you’re not breathing then, there’s a bit of a problem, you might be facing a bit of an issue.

AB: Exactly.

RB: So obviously it’s key to our survival. If you’re not breathing, then you are in trouble. Unless you are a master yogi that has mastered not needing to breathe and, you know, like they used to do in their initiations, being buried alive for days and not needing to breathe. But for most of us mere mortals, breathing is kind of important. Yet at the same time, so many of us don’t realize how much more it can actually do for us, it actually goes so much further than just delivering oxygen to our bodies. That, actually the way that we breathe affects every single system and every single function in the body. So if you learn to start to use your breath in certain ways, then you have a whole world of opportunity open to you around how to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. And the amazing thing about it is that we’re not taking any magic pills or magic potions. We’re not needing to change our diet completely or go on to an incredibly strict exercise regime. We all have this ability to be able to breathe and therefore this amazing tool that we have is there for all of us.

AB: Yeah. So tell me now, I remember the last one-on-one session I had with you, you said to me you felt like there was some sort of an emotional breakthrough. Because when I had my eyes closed, you felt that my body was shaking and moving and things that I didn’t realize had happened. Tell me, what is the biggest breakthrough that you have had with someone during a session?

RB: [blows out air] When I do one-to-one work, it’s something every time. And really, at the end of the day, so much of our healing journeys or our development journeys are all just about unfolding and letting go of the things that we have allowed to accumulate within all our various systems, whether it’s mentally, emotionally, energetically, or physically, and to be able to come back into alignment with who we are and who we come into this world as. So much of the time when we use our breath, particularly in the ways we’re talking about here, where we can use it in a very therapeutic way to be able to dive deeper into our emotional brain — into the emotional centres of our brain, to then be able to release anything that we may have allowed to accumulate that doesn’t serve us. You can go through breakthrough after breakthrough, after breakthrough. One example that I can tell you is actually it wasn’t even in a one-to-one session. And this just goes to show how powerful it can be. It was in a big group session at a festival and we had over 300 people lying on the ground and doing breathing exercises for about 30 minutes. And once we finished the session, a lady came up to me and I could see that her eyes were a bit swollen and her face a bit wet. And I go, okay. So she goes, ‘six weeks ago I had a miscarriage. And I have not been able to deal with the feelings of grief, despair, and, guilt that I’ve been experiencing since. This was the first time ever that I felt like I was able to sit with that emotion, really feel it, allow it to move, and then let it go.’ She said, ‘I feel so light, I can’t believe it. I feel like I’m finally able to move on from this.’ And we spoke a few weeks later and this was the case. Her outlook on that completely changed. So when it comes to things like trauma, this work is so powerful.

AB: Okay, now that’s my next question to you. I mean, it’s kind of related to trauma, but I wanted to ask you, and I’ve asked everyone this because, with the pandemic and lockdown, so many people are affected. People have anxiety, people have sleeplessness. I’ve never seen sleeplessness or insomnia go up the way it has. People have depression. Any kind of hidden traumas just seems to be surfacing…all the traumas. So how can breathwork help with that?

RB: Absolutely. When this pandemic started, everyone was talking about, oh, it’s time for a pause, it’s time for everything to slow down, a chance for us to reflect. But I knew for myself going into this, I went, I’m going to be busy because [chuckles] people are going to need help and it was the case. So much so that I actually had to take six weeks off and go completely offline for a period of time just to recharge my own batteries. But you’re right, what happens, particularly as it relates to our nervous system, is if you think about the amount of, let’s call it emotional density. And that’s kind of a term that we can use for things like accumulated stress, tension, anxiety, and trauma as well. The amount of density that we can hold in our body if you think of it kind of like a bucket, is our capacity to be able to hold a certain amount of emotional density before it just spills over and we have a breakdown. Everybody generally will be sitting at a certain level all the time because it’s life, right? There are certain stresses, and certain things going on. Things have happened in our past as well, perhaps with a bit more in there. And then something like a pandemic hits, and all of a sudden this bucket just gets filled up and up, and up, and up. Because who knows what is happening in the world right now? And so that’s why you see so many symptoms coming up all the time. It’s just an overload. You know, everyone’s buckets are at the top or spilling over. And that’s where breathwork can be useful in two ways. One, it can be used as a way to be able to manage the level of emotional density that you’re holding in your body. So, you can use certain breathing techniques to be able to relax your nervous system. So, if you are just experiencing certain stress throughout the day because of the incredible environment that we’re in right now, using your breath to be able to make sure that it doesn’t go up too high and just manage it and keep it at a reasonable level, is very useful. And that can be in the form of two-minute breathing techniques, three-minute breathing techniques, nothing too crazy. And then it can also be… we can also use the breath, kind of like as we’ve been talking about before, as an incredible form of therapy where you can really release massive blocks, whether it’s energetically, emotionally, any kind of trauma you might be holding onto that really decreases your baseline of the amount of density that you’re holding. And that usually requires the deeper breath sessions, kind of similar to what we did together. You’re breathing for 30 minutes to an hour or hour and a half and really going into these brilliant states of consciousness. 

AB: So, would you say if you did a lot of those breath sessions, that bucket, could you make it almost empty? 

RB: Well, I think when you get it down to empty, that might be called enlightenment. [Laughs]. I think if you’ve gone through a process… because we also have to throw in past life work, ancestral work, all the karma that you need to, there’s always going to be something. But perhaps there are some pretty special people in the world who have done that. That’s not to say that you can’t bring it down to a very, very manageable or even blissful level where existence is still absolutely gorgeous. 

AB: Wow! Okay. And what about physical ailments? So how can breathwork… because I really believe that you can direct the breath anywhere and help release even physical issues, not just emotional issues. And a lot of physical issues do come from emotional issues, right? But tell me, how have you seen breathwork helping with physical issues and which ones are you seeing are very common? So, could you say that you can get rid of X-Y-Z [issue] fairly easily with breathwork?

RB: Well, the whole reason I got into breathwork was because of a physical issue. 

AB: Yeah, you told me.

RB: Yes, and it wasn’t even my physical issue. It was to help my dad. So, my dad was diagnosed with MS [Multiple sclerosis] a long time ago, which is an autoimmune disease. And so, I actually came across breathwork for the reason to be able to help my dad, which by the way has been absolutely incredible for him. So for autoimmune diseases, breath work is absolutely incredible.

AB: Is he better than what he was?

RB: So, what it did was it completely stopped any progression in his MS and we’re years down the track now, and most autoimmune issues are degenerative right? So over time it just gets worse and worse and worse. But [for him] it hasn’t changed at all, which is absolutely amazing. And when we initially started, when we caught it— we found his MS, it was the first time, he was only experiencing some light tingling down his right leg. So, to this day, his only symptoms are just a little bit of tingling every now and again. So, life is normal for him basically. When we start talking about things like, even in America, they have this term which is really, actually very progressive, especially for a place like America. They classify certain diseases and ailments as diseases of despair. And these are like lifestyle diseases. And that’s when they look at things like a lot of autoimmune issues, things like ME— chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia… you can look into a lot of digestive issues as well, whether it’s irritable bowel or various gastro issues. Obviously, all these issues are often related to lifestyle, very much related to emotion, I believe. In fact, I believe autoimmune issues are heavily emotional. The primary way to work through any autoimmune is through an emotional process. For digestive issues, you can do fantastic things with breathwork. Any blood pressure issues as well. You can use the breath in different ways to be able to affect your cardiovascular system. So, for example, there’s a way to even get a cardiovascular workout without needing to do any movement whatsoever. Just breathe.

AB: You need to show me that… for lazy people like me.

RB: Truly, I mean, I was going to say people who are in wheelchairs and stuff, but lazy people as well. [Richie laughs]. Yeah, you can get a six-pack by breathing. 

AB: Wow!

RB: But a lot of things.. even things like migraines, for example, asthma, all these things can really be helped with just by learning how to breathe. And I see it day in and day out, sometimes by accident. And then you have the ones that are a little bit more strange that you can’t explain. Well, you can explain, but not traditionally through Western medicine. So, for example, I was doing a big session for a group of about 18 people, and one of the ladies afterwards, or during sharing, she puts her hand up to share and she says, ‘I have had chronic lower back pain for the last four years because I was in a really bad car accident. And ever since then, I’ve had terrible back pain. And during the breathwork session, all of a sudden I saw this golden lion appear on top of my head. And then the lion went into my head, down my spine, and as it went down to the places where I felt pain, my spine went crack, crack, crack, and felt almost like a bubbling release and all the pain’s gone.’ 

AB: Wow! it gives me goosebumps. My God!

RB: So that’s when we get into the world of energy. But traditional Western medicine would say, well, that’s bizarre and crazy and an anomaly, and that doesn’t make sense. But we look at these things from another perspective and you see that kind of thing happens all the time. So, breath, at the end of the day, as you know, it’s Prana, it’s energy. And when you are able to use the breath and even direct it in certain places, that energy can have certain effects on the physicality of your body.

AB: Fantastic. Richie, what I would love for you to do is just show people… because you’ve probably got people here from the UK, from India, from the Far East, and you have some people from the US. So, what I would love you to do is give us a few little examples of things, easy things that people could just do on their own.

RB: Absolutely. Well, let me give you a couple of principles on how to use the breath and then we can even go through some demonstration of doing it together. Let’s talk about one of the easiest ways to use the breath that is useful almost every single day, and that is this idea of creating energy and then relaxing and de-stressing. So, one is kind of activating the body, the other is down-regulating the body. Okay? So we can up-regulate and down-regulate. So, when you breathe, for example, when you’re exercising, generally what happens with your breath?

AB: It goes up. It becomes fast when you’re exercising.

RB: Yes, it becomes faster and there’s a very good reason to why it goes faster. One, because the metabolic demands of your body are higher. Because you’re using the oxygen in your body to create energy to be able to move and move faster or move for longer, whatever it is for you. So, when we are doing something active, our breath will always increase. Just a normal reaction, the body knows what to do. So, when we go into action mode, our breath goes up. Now, what is really interesting is we can also use the breath first to create the desired mode. So instead of doing something and letting our breath catch up, we can use the breath and then let the body catch up, if that makes sense. So, if we breathe a little bit faster, naturally, this is an activating breath. Now, it actually even creates a bit of what we call like a stress response in the body. You may have heard of something called fight or flight. Now, fight or flight isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good system. It’s designed for a purpose, and it works very well. The only issue is when people are in that mode all the time, that’s when we start to see a lot of the physical problems start to arise. But for short pockets of time, it’s excellent. It does exactly what it’s supposed to. And we can use that breath to activate this mildly in our system. So, if you breathe a little bit faster— I’ll give you a technique in a moment, but if you breathe a little bit faster in this technique I’m about to give you, within 90 seconds, if you took a blood test, you would actually see your adrenaline levels go up slightly. You would see your cortisol levels go up slightly, you’ll feel your heartbeat start to get faster. You’ll start to feel all the same things that happen when you are either feeling excited or when you’re ready to do something. 

Even if you feel nervous… sometimes nervousness and excitement almost feel a bit like the same thing, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because physiologically in the body, it’s basically the same thing. It’s just the mind that attaches different meanings to it. So, this breath— I call it the Energizer Bunny because it’s some fast inhaling through the nose. And generally, when people do this for the first time, they start to wiggle their noses like a little bunny rabbit, right? And it takes only about 30 to 45 seconds. You can go for longer if you like, generally within 30 seconds, or 40 seconds, you feel it. And it’s already done its work. So, it goes something like this. It’s three inhales through the nose in quick succession, followed by a relaxed exhale out through the mouth. So, it looks like this [Richie demonstrates the technique]. So, you see it’s quite fast.. in, in, in, out. So, we could even try this right now if you like. if everyone wants. But if you’re listening to this or watching this, and if you’re driving or operating any machinery or something like that, please don’t do this breath. In fact, don’t really do any of these breathing exercises. Only do these if you’re seated in a safe place, with no distractions, and then you’re good to go. Okay? So, I’ll guide you through it and we’re only going to do it for maybe 30 seconds. So, remember, three inhales through the nose, relax, out through the mouth. So, I invite you all now just to exhale and relax. And here we go. So, in, in, in, out… in, in, in, out, nose, nose, nose, mouth [repeats] in, in, in, out [repeats]. Now keep going. You have the pace, but really by the time you get to that third inhale, you should feel like your lungs are pretty full. 

So, they’re nice big breaths. It’s not like you’re doing tiny little breaths. Keep it going. In and out. And just keep going. You have the pace just for a little bit longer. I don’t have my watch on me, but we must be close to about 30 seconds by now. So maybe just four or five more. In, in, in, out; nose, nose, nose, mouth; nose, nose, nose, mouth. In, in, in, out; in, in, in, out. Okay, last one. And now take a nice long inhale through the nose, big inhale, in, and with all your gusto and just really feeling like you’re releasing everything inside, out through the mouth. And just relax…… And just maybe even if you have your eyes closed now, you can pay attention to what’s happening in your body. Do you feel some buzzing, some heat? Maybe a bit light-headed and a bit spacey. That’s okay. Whatever it is that you feel, just know it just shows that this change is happening in the body and when you’re ready, you can open your eyes and come back. So how do you feel?

AB: So, I kept opening my eyes to make sure you were still there. But even then, I do feel something in my head. 

RB: Energy that’s underneath that, that maintains and keeps going, pulses up. Some people feel a bit lightheaded, a bit spacy, and tingling. This is just showing that you’ve made the change, that you’ve done something inside of you within 30 seconds. How amazing is that?

AB: So that is what you said to take the levels up. And then after that, would you recommend something to calm the body down?

RB: So, you could do that if you would like to. If it’s something that you want to do, if you just want to create energy, just doing that by itself is totally fine. And then what you could also do is just kind of like, what we did at the end, but just maybe a little bit longer. It’s just relaxing for a moment and just really paying attention to what’s happening in your body, really bringing your awareness down into your body and just feeling what’s happening in there. That by itself is a beautiful practice and awareness and really helps to bring everything back to like a very centred place. But at the same time, you can combine it with something I’m going to share with you guys now, and you can combine it with a relaxing style of breath. Okay, what this works very well for is— when you do something like Energizer Bunny and then combine it with a relaxing breath afterwards. It’s fantastic for focusing. So, whenever I feel like I need to really focus on a project or maybe answer a lot of emails, I just really want to be in the zone for it… I always will do a lot of emails… I always do something like this. So it works this way. You bring the energy up with Energizer Bunny and then you ground it back down using this next breath that I’m going to share with you. And it kind of gives you that energized presence, if that makes sense. So, if breathing faster is going to create the energy… it’s up-regulating, it’s activating, then it makes sense but if we breathe slower than that, it does the opposite. And that’s exactly it. And I think most people if they think about breathing techniques, it’s usually slow, long breathing to try and relax. Totally works. And that’s exactly what it does. So we’re going to talk about one type of technique called coherence breathing. And well, it’s a cadence of 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out. But the reason why they found 6 seconds [helpgul] is actually it was developed at a university in America and I’m just blanking on which one it is, sorry. But it was developed …they were trying to find what is the ideal cadence of breath to increase something called heart rate variability as quickly as possible. Now, without going into too much about what heart rate variability is, basically it’s a pretty good measure of how flexible and responsive your nervous system is. And if you have a flexible, responsive nervous system, it usually means that you are operating more out of your parasympathetic nervous system rather than being stuck in this fight or flight sympathetic nervous system. They found after doing this work with, I think, 500 participants or something, that 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out is a great cadence of breath in order to increase HRV. 

So, one thing about it is that 6 seconds seems like a very long time, right? It’s far slower than you would usually breathe. It’s five breaths per minute. Most of us will breathe somewhere between 14 to 20 breaths per minute…usually. So it’s really, really slowing things down, and it takes a lot of concentration and focus to make sure that you’re doing it in a way that actually is optimal. Because this is what most people will do when they first start doing breathing techniques that require slow breaths. They will do something like this. So, if I am inhaling and I’ll try and inhale as loud as possible so you can tell what I mean. [demonstrates] They inhale too quickly and because their lungs are full, they have to pause and wait for the remaining seconds. And then once they exhale too quickly, their lungs get too empty and then they have to pause and wait for the remaining seconds before they can continue again. The mindful element of rationing the breath to make sure that it lasts the full 6 seconds is really where the magic is, okay? And so it’s really important that when we’re doing 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out that you are inhaling the entire time and that when you’re exhaling, you’re exhaling the entire time.

AB: Do we inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth in this?

RB: So, for this one, you can actually always inhale through the nose. You can exhale through the nose or the mouth because some people find it quite hard to exhale slowly through the nose. And well, to be honest with you, a lot of people will struggle either way to inhale or exhale. Some people would prefer to [demonstrates actions] because they can create a small hole and it makes it much easier. Okay? But in yoga, we have this great thing called “Ujjayi” breath, the ocean breath. And that extra constriction helps to slow down the breath, So if you would like to add that sound at the same time, of course, you can. But if you can make it slow by itself, it works just as well too. So maybe just for the sake of time, we’ll practice it together. But maybe only do 1 minute instead, usually three minutes is the time, but I’ll say 1 minute is the minimum amount to get that real good effect.

AB: So, this is a lot more than the other one. For the other one, you said to do it for 30 to 40 seconds. So, this is a lot more.

RB: Absolutely. If you do it for 30 seconds or 1 minute, it will help. But when they actually did the tests in that university in America, they found that I guess the optimal amount was about three minutes. 

AB: Wow, okay. Yeah.

RB: So, they would always say at least three minutes. But at the end of the day, whatever you can manage throughout your day is better than nothing, isn’t it? So let’s try this together. We’ll just do a few just so that you can practice what it feels like to really manage your breath, really ration that breath. So I invite you now to exhale out and if you want to, you can close your eyes and I’ll count it for you. So through the nose, here we go. In, 2…3…4…5…6, out; 2…3…4…5…6, in, 2..3…4…5…6, out; 2..3..4..5..6, in, 2..3..4..5..6, out; 2..3..4..5..6 and continue yourself. Finish the next breath you’re on and just keep your eyes closed for a moment and just notice what it feels like. Any sensation in the body, any change in your head. [sighs] When you’re ready, you can open your eyes. [pauses] So that was, I think, a minute or so and you can really feel a change quite quickly.

AB: Yes, you definitely can.

RB: And that’s the beautiful thing about this work, right? It’s just breathing at the end of the day. It’s you that’s empowering yourself. It’s like, breathwork for me, it represents sovereignty over yourself.

AB: Yeah. So you’re saying that this one combined with the one we did before, would really— if you’re about to do something where you need energy and you need to focus, these two would work really well?

RB: So think about it this way. Energizer Bunny. Great for energy. The coherence breathing, six in, six out just great for general relaxation. Put the two together. Really good for focus. There we go.

AB: And Richie, you mentioned things like migraine. And also when people are having that migraine, which is terrible and unbearable, could you teach them techniques to breathe that would help get rid of it?

RB:  Absolutely. For migraines, my absolute favorite technique is something called butterfly breath or butterfly breathing. And it goes a little something like this. You breathe in and out through the nose. So, in and out through the nose, and you create what we call a circular breath, where you don’t stop between inhales and exhales. So it’s like inhale turns into the exhale, exhale turns straight into the inhale. So there’s no pausing. But it’s very soft and it’s very small. It’s very delicate. So it’s just like …[pauses] it’s literally that fast [demonstrates]. You’re not taking deep breaths. It’s just quite soft and quite small. It’s delicate. And when you do start to do this breathing, the circular nature creates this spiral feeling, if that makes sense. Okay. And then what I tell people to do is to put this kind of spiral feeling and encapsulate wherever they’re feeling the pain because everyone feels migraines in different places. Put that pain spot in that spiral, and put the breath like it’s swirling around it and around and around it and around it. And then with every exhale, feel like you’re pulling a little bit of that pain out…out…out. So it’s like it’s in the middle of a tornado or vortex that’s bringing the pain in. Every exhale, it’s coming out a little bit more and out a little bit more. It’s incredible. Truly. A lot of people will lie down and do that breath for ten to 15 minutes, and then the migraine’s gone. 

AB: Wow! okay. I’m gonna tell people to try that. 

RB: And what can also happen, by the way, just FYI, is that there can be some emotional release with that as well. Quite often in this case, there’ll be some sort of emotional release, because usually migraines have an emotional aspect to it. 

AB: Right, okay, lovely. Thank you so much, Richie, it was such a pleasure having you here. Thank you, everyone. I know the session has gone on for 20 minutes longer than I’d anticipated, but I didn’t have the heart to stop it. [Richie laughs] Thank you. It was just such an amazing session. 

RB: Thank you so much. Bye. 

AB: Take care. Lots of love everyone. 

RB: Lots of love, bye.

AB: Thanks for joining us. Hope you enjoyed the Wellness Curated podcast. Please subscribe and tell your friends and family about it. And here’s to you leading your best life.