Our breath is a powerful way for us to regulate our emotions - especially if we’ve been feeling tense, agitated, or overwhelmed lately.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork is a stress-relieving practice which encompasses various deep breathing techniques, teaching you how to manipulate your breathing rate and depth with the goal of bringing awareness to your breath and to balance the body and mind. It’s an opportunity to connect deeper within yourself, to move energy throughout your body, and to introduce more calm, clarity, and alignment into your everyday life.
Despite its recent rise in popularity, breathwork isn’t exactly new. The power of breathing has long been revered in many cultures, with evidence of breathwork dating as far back to 2700 B.C.E. in China and 3000 B.C.E. in India. The practices have since been refined for modern use and nowadays, there are a number of techniques which can help you embrace more mindfulness, some ranging from fairly basic and easy to do at home, to others requiring some guidance through the practice.
How does it work?
Breathwork techniques take advantage of the connection between your breath and your autonomic nervous system. The deep breathing techniques stimulate the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm), which triggers a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system commands your fight-or-flight response - when it fires, your heart rate and breathing speed up and stress hormones start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat. The parasympathetic system, on the other hand, controls your rest, relaxation, and digest response. When the parasympathetic system is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers, and your body is guided back into a state of calm and healing.
When you take time to slow down and purposefully breathe deeply and slowly, you tell your brain that everything is OK and your brain communicates to your body that it’s safe to relax. The fight or flight response decreases, and your body can begin to function normally again.
What are the benefits of breathwork?
Breathwork has been found to offer a number of physical and mental health benefits, including:
- Easing stress
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which takes us out of fight or flight (the sympathetic nervous system). By activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, you’re creating a deep feeling of calm and reducing your overall stress and anxiety.
- Improving energy and focus
Breathwork improves oxygen capacity in the blood which leads to overall improved energy levels and stronger stamina. The amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing directly influences the amount of energy that is released into our cells. A study by Trinity College Dublin also found that the way we breathe can affect the chemistry in our brain and help improve our focus.
- Boosting the immune system
Breathing detoxifies and strengthens our immune system. Did you know that around 70% of our toxins are released from our body through our breath? The main toxin that’s being expelled through the breath is carbon dioxide. Through the practice of deep rhythmic breathing you’re expanding your diaphragm which relaxes the body and massages your lymphatic system which helps the elimination of all those toxins.
- Improving sleep quality
There are many stimulating factors which can negatively impact our sleep - social media, caffeine, stress, and so on. Thankfully, the deep breathing that is practiced in breathwork helps to calm the nervous system, which in turn reduces the effects of stimulants and calms the stress, allowing you to get a better night’s sleep. Additionally, quieting the mind, which breathwork does so well, allows you to fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
- Boosting self-love and self-awareness
When your body is vibrating during breathwork and you are fully in the experience, it is hard not to feel that deeper connection with yourself. And simply by fostering a deeper relationship with yourself, you are beginning the process of self-love.
Getting started with breathwork
There are a number of ways to incorporate breathwork into your day-to-day life, whether it’s through the guidance of a professional or through your own self-discovery using online resources, videos and apps.
Discover a variety of guided breathwork cycles in the Flourish & Fulfilled App. New breathwork practices are added monthly!
Start your free 14-day trial today and discover the power of breathwork.