Review by Gunnel Minett

It may not be a coincident that there has been a growing interest in breathing exercises and breathwork lately. The COVID-19 virus has caused severe breathing difficulties for many who have been infected. To learn to breathe properly may be the road back to a normal life for these sufferers.

But breathing exercises are good for a lot of reasons. The oldest breathing techniques have been used for thousands of years and have been known in most cultures around the world. In particular in Asia and the Middle East breathing exercises have been part of cultural traditions to promote both spirituality and health. But altered breathing patterns have also been used by shamans and medical doctors for mind altering in order to get in touch with ‘the spirit world’.

In his book Richie Bostock presents a brief overview of the respiratory system, followed by some tests to establish if you are breathing in a correct way. Once the reader has established which category of ‘breather’ they are, the author presents a list of breathing exercises, “to find calm, supercharge your health and perform at your best”, to use his own words. 

Bostock began researching alternative therapies following his father’s life-altering MS diagnosis. Bostock claims that his father’s condition has been helped by learning new breathing patterns. Since then Bostock has become a practitioner and a pioneer in his own version of Breathwork. His main teacher seems to be the Dutch breathing instructor Wim Hof who is known for his ability to put his body through extreme cold and other severe physical stresses. 

The final part of the book presents a brief overview of other breathing techniques such as; Holotropic Breathwork, Rebirthing, Biodynamic Breathwork & Trauma Release System and Transformational Breathwork. All of these aim mainly at achieving deeper psychological changes. 

The breathing exercises presented in the first part of the book may be very useful, in particular for someone who needs to get back to a full breathing pattern. However, a word of warning is in order for the deeper psychological techniques listed at the end of the book. Not all of them have a pristine reputation. And, as these types of breathing exercise can be very powerful, it is important to make sure that they are taught by someone able to give full and correct support throughout the whole breathwork journey.

EXHALE: How to Use Breathwork to Find Calm, Supercharge Your Health and Perform at Your Best by Richie Bostock

Penguin Life, 2020, 272 pp., £ 12.99 p/b – ISBN-13: 978-0241404423