Breathwork has gained a lot of media coverage in the past year. Some people use breathwork to improve their overall well-being. Others use it to deal with specific issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, grief, and PTSD.
The life-changing results shared by people only contribute to making this practice more and more popular. But although the success of the technique is recent, the technique itself is not. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors knew the power of our breath and the miracles that can happen if we work with it.
If you’ve heard of breathwork but are not familiar with the method, you’re just in the right place. What is Breathwork? How does it work? Let’s jump right in.
What is Breathwork?
There are different types of breathing exercises depending on the time of the day or the state you’re trying to work on. Some techniques are meant to relax you and help ease anxiety, others activate you like a strong shot of expresso, and some are a healing modality that take you to the subconscious realms of your brain.
Transformational breathwork is based on hyperventilation breathing. Through controlled breathing, this technique allows you to enter a modified state of consciousness, a kind of meditative trance that frees you from emotional blockages. You get to explore deeply buried emotions and traumas, learn from them, and come out as a stronger human being. Check out Breathwork Facilitator Training today!
How Does Breathwork Work?
Controlling your breath equals controlling your autonomic nervous system (ANS). The role of the ANS is to regulate our automatic functions, those of which we are not consciously controlling. For example, we’re not consciously pumping our blood and making all our organs function. But what we can do with breathwork is to speed up or slow down our heart rate at will. How? By working on the ANS’s 2 branches, the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the increase in cardiac and respiratory rhythms, energy intake, and muscle tension. That’s the one we call upon during stress and emotional states, and want to activate when we feel sluggish. It can easily replace coffee for those looking to limit or cease their caffeine intake.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system’s role is the opposite. It’s taking care of the body’s restorative functions: slowing down the heart and respiratory rhythm, lowering blood pressure, slowing down sweating, and having a calming effect. That’s the one we want to activate when we’re emotionally stressed out or have spent too much time in the sympathetic nervous system and need to calm our body and mind.
How to Do Breathwork?
Some breathing exercises will activate the sympathetic nervous system, while others will activate the parasympathetic one. As such, they will require a different approach. Let’s explore a few of them to give you a better idea.
You might have heard of belly breathing or abdominal breathing. These are all the same things, and target the diaphragm which is the main muscle of the respiratory system.
When we breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and allows the rib cage and belly to expand, drawing air into the lungs. This fresh air brings oxygen to create energy in our bodies. When we exhale, the diaphragm slowly relaxes and allows our belly and ribcage to return to their original size.
What’s so special about this? The fact that in these modern times, the majority of adults can’t breathe properly, meaning from their abdomen. We can only see this naturally occurring in kids.
So the diaphragmatic breathing exercise actually teaches us how to breathe properly. It involves controlling your inhalation and exhalation to slow down their rate. People with anxiety tend to breathe into the top of the lungs (upper chest) and swallow the air in quick puffs instead of taking it deep into the lungs (lower chest).
Box breathing is a technique of slow, deep breathing. It can increase performance and
concentration while also being very effective in relieving stress.
As for most breathing exercises, make sure you are sitting upright on a cushion or in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Try to find a quiet place with no distractions. Keep your hands relaxed on your thighs and focus on your posture. This will help you take deep breaths.
Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 counts. Feel the air rush into your lungs until it feels your whole abdomen. Pause here for 4 counts. Exhale through your mouth on 4 counts, slowly pushing air out of your lungs and abdomen. Pause here for another 4 counts, and repeat the whole process!
With nearly 40,000 neurons and a complex and dense network of neurotransmitters, the heart communicates directly with the brain. By acting on our heart rate through breathing exercises, we have the opportunity to send positive messages to the brain.
Coherent breathing focuses on controlling your breath in order to regulate your stress and anxiety. This simple technique also reduces depression and blood pressure. Try cardiac resonance using the 365 rule: 3 times a day, 6 breaths per minute, and for 5 minutes.
Holotropic breathwork is about self-exploration and deep healing. In hours-long journeys, you breathe in 3 steps:
- Inhalation in the belly
- Inhalation in the chest
- Effortless exhalation
You are consciously going to give yourself more oxygen during a determined period of time, often supervised by a trained breathwork practitioner. The oxygen-carbon dioxide ratio will then change, stimulating the vagus nerve and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, end eventually causing a relaxation of the body and mind in the integration phase.
Breath Masters’s transformational breathwork journeys
Brian Kelly is a renowned breathwork guide and teacher, famous for his signature breathwork journeys that are revolutionizing the breathwork scene. He’s the co-founder of Yogi Lab and founder of Breath Masters where he changes the lives of thousands of people by guiding them through unique transformational breathwork journeys that no other breastwork school offers to this day.
Brian is on a mission to spread his medicine to the world. Check out his work and offerings with an open mind and heart, and your life might just turn 360.