Breathwork: What Is it and How Does it Work?

Take a deep breath and calm your mind, increase your awareness, reduce your stress and increase your focus!

Breathwork is a mind-body approach that focuses on breathing techniques and exercises. People use slow breathing techniques for different reasons. But the focus is always to improve mental and physical health – from better cellular integrity, blood pressure to immunity.

During Breathwork, people intentionally change their breathing patterns. The change in pattern positively impacts overall health, especially stress response and brain activity. All breathwork sessions have a basis in increased consciousness and a systematic approach to breath awareness. People who use these techniques report deep relaxation, sustained attention, more energy, decreased lethargy and cortisol levels, and an increased ability to deal with complex emotions.

If you are interested in Breathwork for health benefits, here are some basics you should know before you begin learning about specific techniques.

Breathwork Basics

Breathwork is an amalgamation of different breathing patterns, techniques, and exercises. The methods teach you to work on breath focus and conscious awareness of breathing. Many emphases are also on which muscles or organs you use to inhale and exhale and in which way. Among many of the breathwork approaches, the main ones include:

  • Rebirthing
  • Clarity breathwork
  • Holotropic breathwork
  • Vivation
  • Transformational breathwork

These approaches further use box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, pursed-lip breathing, diaphragmatic breathing (or abdominal breathing), and alternate nostril breaths to achieve health benefits. The distinguishing factor between all these slow breathing techniques is the belief systems, spiritual frameworks, settings, length of techniques, and pace of breathing.

Three Dimensions of Breathwork & Slow Breathing Techniques

The scientific research on how breathing exercises and techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, affect you is still in its infancy. However, the available research is promising and shows a lot of potentials. Many researchers agree that the transformational power of Breathwork is tremendous and needs to be explored further.

We know that three main aspects of health and well-being are greatly affected by Breathwork and a dynamic range of various breathing techniques.

  1. Restored Body

There is much data and research that shows the active role breathing conditions can play in our physical health. Physicians indicate that a good breathing practice can influence serious illnesses in a positive manner, from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, even to heart failure. People report how much exercise can help their heart health, brain, digestion, immunity, pain management, regulation of body PH, and sleep.

Leading researchers even have claimed that slow breathing techniques can affect how genes are expressed in the body. The expression of these genes can, in turn, affect how stress is handled in the body. Stress and high cortisol levels have been shown to cause long term physical damage in the human body. Therefore, practicing a controlled breathing pattern can be an excellent way to restore health and work towards optimal body potential.

  1. Peace of Mind & Sustained Attention

The main reason why Breathwork sessions are having a breakout moment in popular culture is the unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety due to the COVID pandemic. As a result, more people are looking for ways to improve their mental health. Breathwork or intentional breathing is one of the fastest ways to reduce stress and triggered brain activity.

Data shows that people who try these exercises have lower cortisol levels in their bodies. The raised cortisol is a tell-tell sign of the body in a high-stress situation. Continuous stress can lead to inflammation. Controlled breathing and breath focus can affect how stress affects the body and lower anxiety and depression levels.

When you breathe in a meditative manner, it can decrease the size of the amygdala. This part of the brain triggers the fight or flight response and detects fear. Those can increase the brain’s ability to engage in complex information processing and reduce stress.

  1. Personal Growth

Breathing exercises are a good way to meditate and relax. People who try Breathwork and different breathing conditions have reported better processing of complex emotions like fear, extreme sadness, loneliness, and depression. A deep catharsis of emotions and feeling connected with the energy around you with the help of conscious breathing is a great way to clean your energy field and generate positive vibes.

Breathing techniques can break internal barriers and allow you to become one with yourself. When doing these exercises, a great positive is the sense of unity with the universe and getting out of worldly obsessions. Guided Breathwork under the care of trained facilitators is a great way to reach feelings of euphoria or bliss. This way, you can significantly benefit from breathwork techniques and achieve the trinity of well-being; physical, mental, and spiritual.

However, it is essential to remember that everyone has a different experience with Breathwork depending on how their internal systems operate

Is Breathwork Dangerous?

No, it is not. Some people do suggest that Breathwork can be difficult and is not for everyone. However, the criticism is attached to the intense breathwork techniques, including rebirthing and holotropic breathing. Those breathing techniques should be initially trained, guided by a trained facilitator but once the techniques are learned and contraindications clearly laid out, breathers can practice on their own. So, if you want to try at-home techniques, there is nothing dangerous about them.

Learn to Breathe

We believe that because breathing is an automatic function, controlled by the autonomic nervous system, then we must be doing it right. But it is not true. Most people have poorly conditioned breathing mechanics. This can lead to diminished lung capacity and deteriorating health. Though it may not seem like a big thing, the accumulated stress of not breathing to your full capacity is terrible for your long-term mental, physical, and even emotional health. 

A great attraction point with Breathwork is its no-fuss nature. It is a highly empowering practice where you use your own mind-body to regulate stress response, feelings, physical health, and spiritual connection to the world around you. There are no side effects, and the experience is highly gratifying. The techniques, once learned, can stay with your life and help you navigate the world with a sense of peace, ease, and grace. 

Learn more about Breathwork here.