Breathwork: An Overview and How It Can Help You
Did you know that your body comes pre-packaged with a potent tool that may help you relieve stress, anxiety, and even depression in a matter of minutes? The same instrument may also assist you in snapping your brain into focusing on what you want it to concentrate on when given the order.
What exactly is this mystical tool? Your inhalation!
The age-old practice of breathwork has been rapidly gaining popularity over the last several years, which is not surprising when you consider the many positive effects it has on one’s health.
What exactly does the term “breathwork” mean, and how can it help you? Let’s dig in.
Breathwork: What Is It?
Breathwork is an umbrella phrase that refers to the practice of purposefully altering the depth of one’s breath as well as the pace at which one breathes in order to accomplish a certain goal.
You may think of breathwork as an active kind of meditation. The results of this style of meditation will vary depending on the specific breathing methods that you use.
How Does One Go About Practicing Breathwork?
Both the body and the mind are directly influenced by our breathing patterns. Altering your breathing pattern—be it the length of your breath, the pace at which you breathe, or both—can produce an almost instantaneous reaction in the body as well as the mind.
Rapid breathing triggers the body’s sympathetic nervous system, sometimes known as our “fight or flight” mechanism, which in turn may induce feelings of tension, irritability, and even anxiety in certain people. You may opt to practice this breathing method so that it might aid you in increasing your levels of energy if you wish to do so.
However, taking longer breaths has been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes known as the “rest and digest” system, which in turn produces a sense of calm throughout the body.
Exhale-emphasized breathing, in particular the type in which you breathe in through the nose, pause, take a second breath in, and then release it completely through the mouth, has a calming effect on the mind as well as the body, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman of Stanford University, who discusses this topic on his podcast, Huberman Lab.
However, breathing with an emphasis on the inhale—in which the inhale is held for a longer period of time than the exhale—might irritate the body to the point where it pays attention. This may be done whenever there is a need to “wake up” the mind and body in order to be attentive to something specific (i.e., driving or studying).
Toxins and waste products produced by metabolism are expelled from our bodies through the breath, especially during the exhalation process. This may result in an astounding number of health advantages, some of which I will go through in a little more detail.
Why Should You Opt For Breathwork?
Why should you consider utilizing breathwork when there are so many other approaches for managing stress and practicing mindfulness that are available to you?
Breathwork is effective in a short amount of time, and you may feel the effects on both your physical self and your mental state in a matter of minutes.
Alterations in the body may already be seen after just a few cycles of deep breathing have been performed. People who already feel pressed for time or stressed out by the prospect of adding extra responsibilities to their day might benefit from this.
The vast majority of breathwork can be done almost anywhere. Depending on the method, you may be able to put it into practice while riding an elevator, sitting at your desk, or watching television.
Please be aware that some types of breathwork have the potential to induce altered states of consciousness as well as sensations of vertigo.
Because of this, it is strongly recommended that drivers refrain from making use of these strategies while behind the wheel. It is also important that you practice the methods in a secure setting, particularly in the beginning, so that you may have an understanding of how your body reacts to the technique.
Do not engage in breathwork unless you have first discussed the matter with a qualified medical professional if you suffer from any of the following conditions:
- Problems with breathing
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Unhealthy levels of blood pressure
- Aneurysm history or the risk of developing one
- If you had an injury not too long ago
- If you’ve undergone surgery within the last several months
- Extreme manifestations of mental illness or diseases
- Vision issues
The Advantages Of Engaging In Breathwork
Breathwork is beneficial on many levels, including the physical, the spiritual, and the psychological. Breathwork is a practice that, depending on the method you use, may be utilized to help you:
- Reduce your overall levels of stress (this involves letting go of the stressful thoughts and sensations as well as shutting off the physical stress reaction in the body.).
- Providing oxygen to the body, which encourages the development and function of cells
- Increasing the alkalinity of your blood will reduce the likelihood of developing an illness
- Improve mental focus
- Improve mental clarity
- Allow any repressed feelings or trauma to leave your body and mind so that you can move forward
- Regulation of the nervous system by stimulation of the vagus nerve
- A feeling of profound ease and comfort (mentally and physically)
- Improve one’s resistance to illness by alleviating the negative emotions of rage, anxiety, despair, and sorrow.
- Contribute to the treatment of PTSD and c-PTSD
- Assist in the treatment of chronic pain
- It reduces the level of inflammation throughout the body
There Are Six Distinct Forms Of Breathing Exercises
Transformation and change may be brought about in the body via the practice of a wide variety of breathwork techniques. Some methods are more complex than others and must be taught to you by a trained professional, while others are straightforward to understand and can be practiced on your own in the comfort of your own home without risking injury.
The following are a few of the most commonly used strategies for breathwork:
1. Holotropic Breathwork
Practicing this kind of breathwork is most often done in a group environment and under the direction of a trained professional. The purpose of this method is to bring about a shift in all aspects of your well-being, including your mental, spiritual, and physical health. Additionally, it supplies the body with new oxygen and revitalizes the cells of the body.
You will be instructed to breathe at a quicker rate for a certain amount of time while lying down. This will enable you to enter a state of awareness that is distinct from your normal one. Following the completion of the method, you will be given instructions to create a mandala and then have the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings with the other participants.
2. Breathwork for Rebirthing
People often turn to a practice known as “conscious energy breathing” to assist them in releasing repressed feelings, energy, and even trauma from their bodies.
You will be guided by a trained practitioner to build a pattern of linked and circular breathing, and they will be there to guide you through the process. This will require you to breathe in such a manner that there is no pause between the inhale and the exhale, nor will you hold your breath in between the two.
You may feel a release of emotional tension as memories of prior traumatic experiences and pent-up feelings come to the surface as you practice this continuous circular breathing. People have a tendency, after experiencing this release, to sense an inner state of tranquility as well as even greater levels of awareness.
3. Taking a Breath Through the Box
This strategy, which is utilized by Navy SEALS to regulate their emotions in high-stress situations, may be used by oneself at any time and anywhere.
People who are experiencing high levels of stress, worry, overwhelming feelings, or other heightened states of emotion might benefit greatly by practicing box breathing. The purpose of this method is to refocus one’s attention on the here and now and to relieve any feelings of emotional strain or stress that may be present.
By inhaling for a count of four each time you do this method, imagine that you are drawing a box with your breath. After that, you should keep your breath held for four counts, then exhale for four counts, and finally, keep your breath held for four counts. To get the best possible outcome, you should repeat this method no less than four times.
4. Breathing Through the Diaphragm
Another method that may be practiced on your own, this one is most often referred to as “belly breathing.” The practice of diaphragmatic breathing is beneficial for reducing feelings of tension and stress, bringing one into the present moment, and relaxing the body. Because it induces a state of tranquility and relaxation throughout the whole body, this is an excellent method to practice in the evening, either just before getting into bed or after you have already done so.
To use this strategy, first, assume a seated or lying position and then place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Your goal should be to breathe in such a manner that when you inhale, your belly expands, and when you exhale, your belly flattens or contracts.
The goal is to have the hand that is resting on your stomach rise before the hand that is resting on your chest while you have your hands on your stomach and chest. You are free to do as many cycles of this method as you wish until you reach the level of relaxation you seek.
5. Inhaling 4-7-8 beats
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique is a method for promoting calm, concentration, and being fully present in the here and now by counting the beats of one’s breath. Using this method, you will take a breath in for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven, and then take a breath out for a count of eight.
The lengthier exhale not only helps you to refocus your attention on the here and now so that you can concentrate on your breath, but it also pushes you to completely empty your lungs of air.
6. Breathing through each nostril separately
This sort of breathwork is one of the most common breathing practices in yoga. To practice this method, you will, as the name implies, cover or shut one nostril with your thumb or fingers, and then take a great deep breath in and out through the nostril that is open. After this, you will repeat the process.
After each cycle of inhaling and exhaling, you will swap nostrils, shut one of them, and then restart the cycle. To get the most out of this strategy, you should give it 10 minutes of your time.
This method is widely used because it assists in the regulation of the nervous system by inhibiting any active stress response that may be present in the body and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system instead (our relaxation system).
A Few Parting Thoughts
To totally improve your mental, bodily, and spiritual well-being, one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal is as simple as taking a few deep breaths. Whether you decide to work with a licensed practitioner or practice methods on your own, you will be able to make use of this tool at any time and feel the wonderful positive effects on your health.
The only issue that has to be answered at this point is the type of breathwork you will begin with.
Breathe in till the coolness of the air soothes the fire of your fears and your very breath becomes a stunning defiance of the need to be limited in any way.