What you need to know about Breathwork
With our busy schedules and our world constantly moving at a fast pace, breathing—although completely natural—is something we might not be doing right. In fact, Emma Ferris, a physiotherapist and breathing coach, says 80 percent of the population have a breathing dysfunction and have developed poor techniques throughout the years. Therefore, developing correct breathing and practicing breathwork might just be the key in dealing with issues of anxiety and depression in our lives.
But what exactly is this practice?
Definition of Breathwork
Breathwork is a modern term that describes the act of controlled, conscious hyperventilation, in and out through the mouth, that creates more oxygen saturation through your bloodstream and releases more carbon dioxide. By practicing breathwork, you have to take-in a deep breath and let it out through the mouth, while repeating this consecutively as your breathwork teacher guides you through the practice. This practice comes in different forms that are built to regulate the flow of breath, aimed to bring benefits to your mind and body.
Where did Breathwork come from?
The connection between breath, mind, and spirit dates back through many ancient civilizations, in many cultures such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Sufism, where breathing practices were used for spiritual purposes to alter the consciousness. Breathwork, also, served as a healing modality throughout many shamanic ceremonies around the world.
Most of the modern-day breathwork practices originated from the raise of the consciousness movement of the 1960s-1970s that continued to evolve through different forms, scientific research, studies, and programs that made breathwork into what it is today.
What is the science behind Breathwork?
Breathwork practices attempt to give rise to altered states of consciousness, besides that, it has a wide effect on physical and mental well-being, that is proven by various scientific research from all over the world. Breathwork was shown to be beneficial as:
- a coping mechanism for managing stress and reducing anxiety (according to a study made by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1979)
- Lung strengthening exercise (a 2016 study of elderly smokers found that regular breathing exercises helped them to improve their lung capacity)
- Improving sleep, mood, and self-esteem (a study conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania proved that breathing practices can help manage symptoms of depression)
- Decreasing levels of hypertension (according to a review published in May 2021 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice)
- Alkalizing the blood (explained in an article made in 2021 by Parsley Health) that breathwork impacts our blood and helps to increase our muscle tone. Our sensory and motor neurons are built upon the alkalinity of our blood, doing daily breathwork can help with this process and smooth our muscle contractions, in order, to achieve more flexible movement from throughout our body.
What are the most effective breathwork practices you can do as a beginner?
There are various forms of breathwork that everyone, especially those dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety, should consider. Here are some easy breathwork exercises that you can try yourself:
Also known as Belly breathing, is an easy and slow deep breathing exercise for beginners. This exercise is typically used to help return to an ideal breathing pattern and relieve stress. It also strengthens lungs, and improves your breathing pattern.
Square breathing, a.k.a. 4-4-4-4 breathing, comes in handy when you need an energy boost. This breathwork technique slows your heart rate, while deepening concentration, and heightening efficiency and performance. You can use this technique, if you need to enhance your focus on a specific task.
An easy breathing exercise, the instructions lie within its name: inhale for 4 seconds, pause for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This breathing pattern creates a relaxing effect, helps to slow down and calm the body, while also slowing the heart rate and your nervous system, while bringing your consciousness to the present moment. You should consider using this technique, when you can’t escape feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, anger, or even when you have troubles sleeeping.
This technique is practiced using deep connected breathing. This form of breathwork is performed for self-healing, releasing trauma, emotional baggage and negative forces in a hyper-sensitive situation by changing your breathing patterns.
Breathing can be optimized with time and practice, don’t be frustrated in the beginning. While doing your breathwork try to bring your awareness to your breath, be mindful of the way your chest rises and lowers with each breath you take-in and out. Bring awareness to how your breath changes throughout the day.
When is the best time to start Breathwork?
The best way to begin any new practice or routine is just by starting slow and small! You can practice breathwork for five minutes – to one hour first thing in the morning or right before bed as a beginner. However, it is recommended best by mental health professionals and long-term practitioners to do breathwork for 20-45 minutes daily to garner some substantial benefits of the practice. You can also use breathing exercises in specific circumstances when you need to cool yourself down and relax.
REMEMBER to always make sure you’re practicing the correct breathwork technique, it is best to sign-up for a breathwork class where you will be guided by a professional breathwork practitioner or guru.
With breathwork being very popular these days, you are sure to find the correct class in your area!
Read more wellness-related content, such as the -ins and -outs of an Ayurvedic Diet, The history of Shaolin Kung Fu, the intricacies of Belly Dance and many more, directly on WAWLIFESTYLE.COM
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Written By: Sara Bahar
A content creator, copywriter, and wellness advocate.
One Breath at a Time