Intentional breathing is a powerful action that has been practiced for centuries in different forms and cultures, around the world in an attempt at creating balanced health.
Practicing deep, conscious, breathing exercises, has been known to help improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We now have a formal term for intentional, guided breathing and that is Breathwork.
Breathwork can be used to reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy levels, improve sleep quality, and even heal emotional wounds.
We’ve seen breathing support the pain response, digestion, emotions, and the lymph system.In this article, we will explore the life-changing benefits of breathwork and how you can incorporate it into your daily life.
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What is Breathwork and how does it work?
Breathwork is deep breathing that is guided in a session environment, that involves conscious, controlled breathing techniques to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It is based on the principle that the breath is the source of life and that by changing our breathing patterns, we can change our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This practice involves various techniques, including deep breathing, circular breathing, and breath retention.
It really refers to many different breathing techniques, and is a form of guiding deep breathing.
You can do short sessions, that are very effective, though some of the greatest benefits have been known to happen in an hour session. Yes, we do all breathe, however, the majority of people hold their breath 80% of the time. Our bodies were designed to take nice deep breaths. As stress mounts in life, we tend to become very shallow breathers. People with anxiety tend to shallow breathe.
As a result, we are robbing our bodies of that much needed oxygen!
The Benefits of Breathwork
Breathwork has numerous benefits for the mind, body, and soul. One of the most significant benefits is stress reduction and creating balanced health. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can lead to physical tension and emotional distress. By practicing an intentional, slower way of breathing, we can calm our nervous system, reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
Breathwork can also improve physical health by increasing oxygen levels in the body, improving circulation, and boosting the immune system. It may help reduce chronic pain, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep quality. Additionally, breathwork can support the release emotional blockages and trauma, allowing us to heal and move forward.
If you regularly attend yoga classes, you are probably familiar with the word Pranayama. Prana means “vital life force” and yama means “to gain control”. With this type of breathing, you are directing your own life force, your vital energy.
Experiencing tough emotions is thought to be blocked energy channels within your life force. Breathing can unblock these energy channels.
The Science Behind Breathwork
The science behind breathwork is based on the principle that the breath is directly connected to the autonomic nervous system, which regulates our body’s involuntary functions. When we breathe deeply and consciously, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress levels. If we are breathing with intention, oxygen levels in the body increase, which can improve physical and mental performance.
Deep and slow breathing techniques (DSB), which are part of many relaxation practices, have been studied in relation to pain and pain thresholds. It seems that the type of breathing that promotes relaxation is responsible for the perception of pain (1).
Research has shown that breathwork can also have a positive impact on our brain chemistry. When we breathe deeply, we stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood enhancers. Exercise, can build endorphins as well, and the commonality here, is an increase in breathing. Fatigue can be reduced with exercise, and that can be related to endogenous opioids (2).
Deep breathing can also increase the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin is made by the amino acid tryptophan. You may se either of these imbalanced on your Balancing Scan, or Full Scan report. You can boost serotonin through foods, movement and breathing.
The Wim Hof Method of breathing is said to increase your endorphins. You can read about Wim Hof here.
Different Types of Breathwork Techniques
There are many different types of breathwork techniques, each with its unique benefits and purposes. Some of the most common types of breathwork include:
Mindfulness Meditation includes intentional breathwork.
Breathwork falls into the category of Contemplative practices, according to this article (1). Practices with a specific respiration style work on toning the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve is considered part of the PNS or the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is also called the “rest and digest” system. As the name implies, this system is important to your digestion.
When the body is stressed, digestion can be impacted.
How to Practice Breathwork
To practice breathwork, find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Begin by taking a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Then, start to focus on your breath, paying attention to the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body.
You can then begin to practice various breathwork techniques, such as deep breathing, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing or breath retention. It is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your breathing as you become more comfortable with the technique.
Box breathing is a great way for beginners to get started in simple breathing techniques. This technique is also known as 4-4-4-4 breathing. You can try this today.
Breathwork for Stress and Anxiety
Breathwork can be an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety. As we have discussed, deep breathing exercises, can calm our nervous system, reduce stress levels, promote relaxation, and work towards creating balanced health. This can be particularly effective before bedtime. Another effective technique for stress and anxiety is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling slowly for 8 seconds.
Physically, there have been studies on lowered blood pressure and heart rate, all with the act of breathing in a deeper, slower manner.
Breathwork for Physical Health
Breathwork can also have numerous physical health benefits. By increasing oxygen levels in the body, we can improve circulation, boost the immune system, and reduce chronic pain. With the Wim Hof Method noted above, the rapid, rhythmic breathing, alternated with breath retention, increases oxygen levels in the body.
The movement of breath can also impact lymphatic flow. Diaphragmatic breathing moves lymph, and blood, toward the heart, improving flow of both fluids. In this study, the participants were taught guided breathing, with intentional hand placement on the abdomen, and on their heart. By placing attention on their hands, they could work on the act of belly breathing, and create a beneficial pressure variation between the thoracic spine, (upper middle back) and the abdomen (3).
Breathwork for Emotional Healing
Breathwork can also be a powerful tool for emotional healing. By releasing emotional blockages and trauma through deep, conscious breathing exercises, we can heal emotional wounds and move forward. One effective technique for emotional healing is rebirthing breathwork, which involves circular breathing to release emotional blockages and trauma.
While there can be many guided sessions free on YouTube, involving a trained professional, who is trauma informed, is in your best interest.
Want to uncover trapped emotions, but don’t know where to start? Consider our Awareness Scan, which will uncover 4 emotional blocks that may be increasing stress in your body.
Bring Breathwork into Your Daily Life
Incorporating breathwork into your daily life can be a simple and effective way to improve your overall well-being. Get started by setting aside a few minutes each day to practice deep, conscious breathing exercises.
Simply pausing and noticing how you feel, and taking a few deep breaths, is one way to bring simple breathwork into your life.
You will be reducing stress, incorporating more mindfulness in your day, and even change your stress patterns. This is key for supporting your hormones.
By practicing deep, conscious breathing exercises, you may improve physical health, heal emotional wounds, and work towards creating balanced health.
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Reproduced with permission: https://cbhenergetics.com/breathwork-the-answer-to-body-wide-stress/
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