This journal article features an extract from the book “Exhale” by Richie Bostock published on September 10th, 2020 by Penguin Life. You can purchase a copy here and put your learnings to practice with Rise Up with Breathwork classes led by Richie on Wanderlust TV.
In Dr Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, he states that, ‘The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations – diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer – all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.’
So, how can our breathing help us get some better shut-eye? The body is excellent at developing habits. If you’re in action mode all day every day, your physical systems will be very good at staying in that mode. This means that, even once your head hits the pillow, your body isn’t going to make it easy for you to switch off, no matter how comfortable your bed. However, you can use your breathing to calm your nervous system down, teaching it to shift from a state of high arousal to a state of rest and relaxation. Focusing on your breath will also help you to come into the present moment and slow down those racing thoughts.
Here is a technique that has really helped my clients to catch more z’s. So, next time you’re tossing and turning in bed, I would suggest giving this a try.
Breathe and Release
Breathe and release is a variation of progressive muscle relaxation, a relaxation therapy in which you systematically contract and then relax each muscle group in your body. This technique combined with the breath provides a powerful formula for relaxing physical tension in the body and relaxing your mind at the same time.
- To be performed while lying in bed.
- Slowly inhale through your nose (the exact length isn’t important, as long as it’s slow).
- As you inhale, imagine you’re breathing into a specific muscle group; and, as you breathe into it, slowly tense that muscle more and more, until you’ve reached the top of your inhale.
- It may take a little bit of practice to coordinate the breath and muscle tension at the same time.
- Hold your breath and the tension for a couple of seconds.
- As slowly as you can, start to exhale through the nose; as you exhale, slowly relax the tensed muscle group until it feels like it’s jelly.
- Repeat this process for all the muscle groups in your body, starting with your forehead and working all the way down to your toes.
Richie Bostock, referred to by many as The Breath Guy, is one of the world’s leading practitioners and a pioneer in the field of Breathwork.
He discovered Breathwork when researching alternative therapies following his father’s life-altering MS diagnosis. He has travelled the world exploring the possibilities of Breathwork, learning from Breathwork masters, doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and elite athletic coaches. It is his mission to spread the life-changing possibilities of Breathwork to the world.
Richie has taught tens of thousands of people across the world in his workshops, retreats and online events. He works on employee wellbeing initiatives with government departments, companies such as Google DeepMind, Deloitte and Unilever, and with brands such as Lululemon, for which he is an ambassador.