This magazine article contains an excerpt from the book Exhale by Richie Bostock, published by Penguin Life on September 10, 2020. You can purchase a copy here and practice your insights with Rise Up with Breathwork classes led by Richie on Wanderlust TV.
In Dr. Matthew Walker’s book “Why We Sleep” states, “The main causes of illness and death in developed countries – diseases that cripple the health system, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes and cancer – have all identified causal links to lack of sleep.”
How can our breathing help us turn a blind eye? The body is excellent at developing habits. If you are in action mode all day every day, your physical systems can very well stay in that mode. This means that no matter how comfortable your bed is, your body won’t make it easy for you to switch off, even if your head hits the pillow. However, you can use your breathing to calm your nervous system and teach it to transition from a state of high arousal to a state of calm and relaxation. Focusing on your breath can also help you step into the present moment and slow down those racing thoughts.
Here’s a technique that really helped my clients catch more Zs. The next time you toss in bed and turn around, I would suggest giving this a try.
Breathe and let go
Breathing and Relaxing is a variation on progressive muscle relaxation, a relaxation therapy in which you systematically contract and then relax every muscle group in your body. This technique, combined with the breath, provides a powerful formula for relaxing physical tension in the body while relaxing your mind.
- Perform lying in bed.
- Inhale slowly through your nose (the exact length doesn’t matter as long as it’s slow).
- As you inhale, imagine you are breathing into a specific group of muscles. and as you inhale, slowly contract this muscle more and more until you reach the top of your inhale.
- It may take a little practice to coordinate your breath and muscle tension at the same time.
- Hold your breath and tension for a few seconds.
- Begin to exhale through your nose as slowly as possible. As you exhale, slowly relax the tense muscle group until it feels like jelly.
- Repeat this process for all muscle groups in your body, starting with your forehead and going down to your toes.
Richie Bostock, known by many as The Breath Guy, is one of the world’s foremost practitioners and a pioneer in the field of breath work.
He discovered Breathwork while searching for alternative therapies after his father’s life-changing diagnosis of MS. He has traveled the world exploring the possibilities of breath work and learning from breath work masters, doctors, psychologists, physical therapists and elite sports trainers. It is his mission to bring the life-changing opportunities of breathwork to the world.
Richie has taught tens of thousands of people around the world in his workshops, retreats, and online events. He works on employee wellbeing initiatives with government departments, companies like Google DeepMind, Deloitte and Unilever, as well as brands like Lululemon, for which he is an ambassador.