How Breathwork came to be
Breathing came into Richie’s life by accident, or by fate, depending on how you decide to look at it.
« My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few of years ago. MS isn’t curable, so the best I could do was to research and look into what he could do to manage it. This is how I came across Wim Hof. It was on a podcast where he talked about his technique and how it’s great for everybody, but specifically for people with auto-immune diseases. And it was all about breathing, cold exposure – super interesting.”
I briefly touched upon the Wim Hof method in my review of Richie’s Breath through Ice and Fire workshop. But what it boils down to is a combination of conscious breathing, exposure to cold and mastery of the mind through commitment, focus and determination. The benefits of this method have been scientifically proven: it relieves stress and anxiety, aids faster recovery, a stronger immune system, increased energy, and better sleep.
Following this new discovery, Richie simply said “Dad, there’s this crazy Dutch dude and he said if you breathe and have cold showers it will help with your MS!”
How would you react if your son ran to you with these words? You’d probably pat him on the shoulder and tell him that’s not how it works.
“Sometimes you just have a good feeling about it”
And that was enough for Richie not to give up and keep going.
“Dad, the crazy Dutch man has a retreat in Poland in the middle of winter. You spend one week learning the techniques, swimming in ice, climbing mountain in shorts, in the snow, in -19°C weather.
Dad, if I do this retreat, will you let me help?”
And of course, he couldn’t say no to that.
It was an amazing experience. Cold is cool but what Wim really taught me is the impact that breathing could have. I started obsessing over breathwork – what else can be done?”
This is how Xhale breathwork came to be.
If you’re wondering what happened to Richie’s father? I’ll let him tell you.
“My dad saw the photos of us at the retreat in the snow, in the ice. And he breathed and took cold showers everyday, focused on changing his diet. MS is incurable, but his stopped in its tracks.”
That’s reason enough to keep going.
The Old and the New
And so began two years of travelling all over the world to study breathing and what do people do with it. From breathwork masters and teachers to athletic coaches, Richie created his method by drawing from a lot of different schools and techniques; first looking at what is possible and expanding from there: Kundalini, pranyama, transformational breathing…
The natural evolution of everything is to combine things together to move upwards: take the ancient, the old and adapt it to the time and circumstances of your era to foster a change. Looking at our predecessors allows us to grow and avoid predictable outcomes in every realm possible. And besides, as The Breath Guy simply put it: “there’s a reason why these practices still exist after centuries: IT PROBABLY WORKS!”
So, what happens when we breathe? Why is it that people seem to forget to breathe?
In order to answer this question, you need to look at how we all got here in the first place. And for that, it’s back to childhood:
“Watch a child or a baby breathe: through the belly. Deep belly breaths. It doesn’t stay that way though. One day the kid becomes aware of the need to be slim and start sucking the belly in. “ By sucking the belly in, bracing – you create an unbalance in the air column and disturb the original flow of breath.
Interestingly enough, it is something Richie noticed in his clients too: “I work with body builders, models, etc. They are constantly bracing. They stop breathing and mess up the chain. You can add tight belts and tight trousers to that list: they all act as a restrictor. “ In other words, 21st century corsets.
“Vanity is stopping us breathing.”
Vanity? Yes – of the physical, emotional and intellectual kind. Because after all, your head and what lies in it are still connected to your body.
Breath as a reflection of your life
The breath is reflective of our state of mind and nervous system.
Our bodies are habit-forming machines: if we do one thing all the time, we get good at it. It becomes a habit. There are many articles such as this one presenting the benefits of conscious breathing to the body, and plenty of studies discussing at great length the neurological impact of the breath on the body; Cartesians and scientists can have a look at this 2017 study – it’s a good starting point.
“If something as simple as breathing can hinder your life, then it’s stupid”
What it boils down to, Richie sums up fairly naturally:
“Breathe in a stressful way with no specific reason – you’re gonna get stressed. If breathing a certain way pushes your brain to experience a negative emotion, know that you can do it in reverse: use the breath to remove these emotions.
The levels of emotional trauma can affect the way you breathe. In my 1 to 1 sessions, I can tell a lot about their relationship to life depending on how they breathe.”
Watch how people breathe – you’ll see how they feel
“So much of how we experience our lives is based on our state of being. It’s gonna determine your behaviour in life. If something as simple as breathing can hinder your life, then it’s stupid. If I change my breathing and improve, I can feel 100% better and it can lead to more changes – creating a cascade of positive effects.
It’s very releasing, and some people experience enlightening moments just by breathing: “holy shit my perspective on life has become a 10”; you experience something greater than you, make peace with the past. Just by breathing.
It’s almost criminal that it’s not widely known and accepted as part of life, because it’s a tool we have that’s a part of us. It should be as easy as scratching an itch, because it’s a part of us. What’s missing is having it built into our system.”
3 tips on how to improve your daily breathing
Breathe through the nose.
How should you breathe normally? The obvious place to start is by looking at the anatomy – what is the anatomical way to breathe?
– through the nose, warming and moisturising the air coming in;
– activating the diaphragm and lower inter-costal muscles: these are endurance muscles as they are the ones driving your breath at rest;
– breathing slowly.
On average, in this day and age, Richie explains that we breathe between 18/22 times per minute.
“Get that down to 9-12 times per minute. 9-6 second breaths.
Inhale Pause Exhale. PAUSE Inhale Pause Exhale
Aim for a 2-3 second pauses between your inhales/exhales. “
This is homework I wish more people around me did. My experience of breathing is completely performance-based (Lecoq, Alexander, 15 years of acting and singing…) and Richie’s advice is something my mentors and teachers built into my practice.
Why? Well, breathing is a catalyst for emotional and physical release, two essential elements of the performer’s wellbeing.
What’s next in store for Richie’s Breathwork?
Richie has classes available around London (RE:Centre Hammersmith, RE:Mind Victoria; 42 Acres Shoreditch). Other than the regular classes, there is a unique event coming up…
When? Saturday 8th December @ 10.30am until 1pm.
Where? Ministry of Sound, 103 Gaunt St, London SE1 6DP
What fresh hell is this?
Richie teamed up with DJ Tom Middleton to create a full sensory breathwork experience.
Tom Middleton combined his passion for creating music with scientific research: he has created a soundscape designed to stimulate certain areas of the brain by using binaural beats. Middleton has a few albums available on iTunes already with a similar brain-stimulus effect. These binaural beats combined with the 3D speaker system of Ministry of Sound will make for a special sonic experience.
After a breakdown of the different breathing techniques, Richie will lead a 40min breathwork exercise. After which, Mindful Sonder’s creator Mariel will lead a flow and yoga session.
To find out more about the event and book your slot, visit the Otherness booking page.
I’ll see you at 10.30 sharp on 8th December! Meanwhile, give yourself some time, check-in with your breath and practice Richie’s 3 tips every day – a little goes a long way.