Richie Bostock discovered breathwork almost by accident. After his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Richie spent time researching alternative therapies and came across the Wim Hof Method—a self-healing technique involving breathing exercises and cold exposure.
Inspired by what he found, Richie (also known as ‘The Breath Guy’) traded in his corporate job and lifestyle to build a career helping others use their breath in a positive way. He’s since trained all over the world and has just released his debut book on the subject, Exhale: How to Use Breathwork to Find Calm, Supercharge Your Health and Perform at Your Best.
“The beauty of breathwork is that after you learn the techniques, it’s just breathing,” he says. “You can do it at any time and it’s free of charge.”
From boosting energy to finding a meditative state, Richie reveals more about the benefits of the practice, his own story, and how you too can get started.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork is any time that you become aware of your breathing and start to use it to create a physical, mental or emotional benefit for yourself. For example, using your breath when you’re feeling too stressed to relax or fall asleep. As a rule of thumb, slowing everything down helps you to relax, while shorter, faster breaths create energy. It’s a sweet science that can shift you in a positive way.
What are the main techniques?
There are many techniques, depending on what style you’re doing. This could be meditation or boosting endurance for athletes. The more formal styles include yogic Pranayama, the Wim Hof Method, Qigong (Chinese medical breathing) and integrative breathing exercises where you work through past traumas with a practitioner.
How can you integrate it into your daily life?
You don’t necessarily need a sit-down practice—I do it on the train, in Ubers, even when I’m working out. To begin, just take a moment during the day to become aware of your breathing. Can you relax the shoulders on the exhale? Are you breathing into the lower belly or taking shallow breaths higher up in the chest? You can also do it while walking or running—just simply breathe to the count of your footsteps: inhale for six steps, and then exhale for the same amount or maybe longer, then start to play with it.
How did you discover breathwork?
I was trying to help my dad find alternative treatment for his MS when I discovered Wim Hof (a.k.a. ‘The Iceman’, a Dutch extreme athlete known for his record-breaking abilities to withstand freezing temperatures). He talks about breathwork being especially effective for people with autoimmune diseases, so I travelled to Poland in winter for one of his retreats. This was my first foray into the practice, and I did crazy stuff like swimming in ice water, hiking barefoot in snow, and climbing Poland’s tallest mountain in shorts in -19℃.
My dad was fascinated and started his own practice by taking cold showers and changing his nutrition. The progression of his MS completely stopped in its tracks—seeing how much it helped him then kickstarted my own obsession.
What are the benefits?
Breathwork completely redefines your relationship with stress. You start to learn your own nervous system—determining whether you’re in an activated sympathetic mode or a relaxed parasympathetic mode. You can then use your breath to switch between the two at will. This means we can take back control and create new mind-body connections to become unshakeable.
What would you say to anyone that was sceptical of it—after all, everyone knows how to breathe, right?
If you try it, you’ll feel something happen in your body within the first few minutes. You’ll experience the full vitality, energy and calm that everyone deserves. Give it a go, because experiencing it is understanding it.
What’s your favourite breathing technique?
Integrative breathwork gets me most excited. It’s a guided breathing method where you work with a trained practitioner to access a deeper level of consciousness and reach the emotional parts of you. It has huge potential and enables people to use their breath to move on from past trauma and limiting beliefs; things we accumulate during our lives that no longer serve us. Being able to shed these layers just by breathing is so powerful.
How has breathwork changed your life?
It’s completely transformed me. Before, I was a control freak and would stress out about the future and about what people thought about me. Through my breathwork journey, I found comfort in the unknown. I’m now happy just to be me and trust myself.