Breathwork: The Power of Breathing
Breathwork – or breathwork meditation – is a practice of manipulating your breath to influence your mental, emotional or physical state. Common goals of breathwork include improving physical health, trauma healing and stress relief. There are many different kinds of breathwork some of which we will get into below. What was once a niche spiritual wellness practice is now a mainstream affair, partly thanks to Wim Hoff’s famous cold exposure techniques!
Even in some guided meditations, breathwork is used as a technique to help you go deeper into meditation. So, if you currently listen to guided meditations in your wellness practice, you might have already practiced breathwork. Breathwork comes from indigenous and shamanic traditions and has been around since time immemorial. Like yoga, breathwork is something that has only recently become popular in western cultures and it is important to acknowledge the lineage from which it comes
Types of breathwork
Pranayama: Pranayama is a traditional form of yogic breathwork that involves controlling the pace of breath with the goal of increasing the flow of prana – life force energy – throughout the body.
Holotropic Breathwork: Holotropic Breathwork is used therapeutically to induce altered states of consciousness for personal exploration and healing. It uses a specific, notably intense, breathing pattern. This post will go into more detail on holotropic breathwork below.
The Wim Hof Method: The Wim Hof Method involves a specific breathing pattern that is combined with cold water immersion and meditation to increase energy, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.
Transformational Breathwork: Transformational Breathwork is another powerful therapeutic practice used to release emotional and physical blockages, improve respiratory function, and increase overall well-being.
Box Breathing: Box Breathing is a simple breathwork practice used by military personnel and athletes to increase focus, reduce stress, and improve performance. It involves inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and holding the breath for four seconds before repeating. Its simplicity makes it popular and you can even try it now before reading on! Try repeating the 4 second box breath 4 times.
Sudarshan Kriya: Sudarshan Kriya is a breathing technique used in the practice of Art of Living. Like most breathwork practices, it is aimed at reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. It involves a specific rhythmic breathing pattern with alternating slow, medium, and fast cycles.
Breath of Fire: Breath of Fire is a powerful yogic breathwork technique that involves rapid, rhythmic breathing through your nose to increase energy, clear your mind, and release emotional blockages stuck in your body. Breath of Fire is often used by yoga teachers so if you’ve been to many yoga classes you’ve likely already tried it.
Each technique has unique benefits and is suitable for different individuals and various situations.
Benefits of breathwork
Breatwork can expand your capacity for focus and concentration: By slowing down and focusing only on your breath, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in which improves your ability to concentrate.
Enhances your physical performance: Breathwork is proven to improve your athletic performance, as well as boost your endurance and stamina. Breathing intensely requires increased engagement of your inspiratory muscles – the muscles that contract to bring air into your lungs – and in turn strengthens them.
Improves your respiratory function: Research shows that breathwork helps clear accumulated stale air from your lungs, increase oxygen levels and improve the function of your diaphragm (which is to help you breathe).
Boosts your immune system: Breathwork boosts immune system function by increasing white blood cell count and reducing inflammation. White blood cells fight infection and disease. Inflammation makes it harder for our immune systems to act effectively. Breathwork reduces inflammation by cultivating a sense of inner calm – an effect of a stimulated vagus nerve.
Supports emotional regulation: Breathwork regulates your nervous system and emotions by interrupting the flow of upsetting thoughts and emotions and facilitating a reset. You’ll find intense feelings of anger, sadness, and anxiety as well as general stress, are reduced.
Experience more mindfulness and better meditation sessions: Breathwork is an effective tool to access deeper states of relaxation and consciousness. You will experience increased awareness, presence, and connection with yourself and others – making you happier in the process.
A great entry into practicing breathwork is to try one of the many free guided breathwork sessions available online such as on YouTube.
Countless breathwork trainings exist right now and there are more becoming available all the time. Some will help you go deeper into one specific breathwork practice and others will teach you different techniques at a more surface level. Also, some are tailored towards helping you teach others breathwork while others are designed to help you go deeper into your own practice. Breathwork trainings are available in various forms including:
- Online Courses: Many facilitators and teachers offer online courses for breathwork training. These courses can be accessed from anywhere and can include video tutorials, live sessions, and other resources to guide your journey.
- Workshops and Retreats: These are immersive experiences that offer intensive training in different breathwork techniques. These events are usually led by experienced practitioners and can range from a few hours to several days.
- One-on-One Sessions: These offer personalized training and guidance for learning different breathing techniques. These sessions are available both in person or online.
- Certification Programs: If you’re interested in becoming a certified breathwork practitioner or teacher yourself, there are various certification programs available that offer in-depth training and education in whatever kind of breathwork you’re interested in.
It can be overwhelming choosing a breathwork training when there are so many to choose from and especially when the investment is significant. When choosing a breathwork training program consider the teacher’s qualifications and experience, the content of the program, the level of support and guidance provided, and the overall cost. If you want to become a breathwork facilitator, I would advise asking the breathwork facilitators of your favourite breathwork sessions where they trained themselves.
Please note that contraindications for breathwork include people who’ve experienced aneurysms, heart issues, high blood pressure, pregnancy vision problems and recent physical injuries or surgeries. Please consult with a medical professional if in doubt.
- Breathwork can be a transformational tool for deep personal healing, stress relief and physical health
- Breathwork is for everybody! There is a style of breathwork for every need
- Breathwork is extremely accessible as you can learn to do it online for free
- There is also a lot of opportunity to invest in your breathwork practice – including 1:1 support and certification programmes. To go deeper into your breathwork practice and its potential to heal you, it is advised you do this with support such as in a group breathwork session or 1:1 container, such as your personal trainer.
Written By Bea: Female fitness expert at MotivatePT – Reps Level 3 Qualified / Pre & Post Natal