Beginner’s Guide to Breathwork
You may have heard the term “breathwork” as its gained popularity among health and wellness advocates. But what exactly does it entail? Check out this beginner’s guide to breathwork to find out more about this practice and how to use it in our daily lives.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is any activity or exercise that calls for you to deliberately change your breathing pattern. This technique has been around for centuries. In fact, you may be using it without knowing it. Here are some examples.
- The practice of yoga uses breathing techniques (also called pranayama) as a way to connect to your body and center yourself during practice.
- Many women have found comfort and pain relief from Lamaze breathing during labor.
- If you’ve ever stepped back from a stressful situation and taken deep, calming breaths to soothe and settle, this is a form of breathwork.
If you have a hard time focusing when practicing meditation, breathwork may be a good alternative.
What are the Health Benefits of Breathwork?
Like yoga, tai chi, and meditation, breathwork can contribute to your health by reducing stress. When our bodies think we’re in danger, our nervous system kicks into overdrive and readies the body to react, aka the “flight or fight” response.
Our nervous system is a wonderful asset to have when it comes to protecting ourselves. However, our stressful lives can kick our bodies into flight or fight mode numerous times a day. This affects more than mood. Constant stress can tax every part of your body.
Deep breathing helps control stress levels, which in turn can help to:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Boost your immune system
- Help you get a good night’s rest
- Reduce inflammation
Breathwork may also be able to help with chronic pain. When you breathe deeply, your body automatically relaxes. This helps loosen tight muscles that may be causing pain. Deep breathing can also provide a welcome distraction from the ache.
When you reduce your stress and pain levels, your mental health tends to improve as well. This is why breathwork may be beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety or depression. It may also have a positive impact on individuals who suffer from PTSD or other traumas.
While breathwork may be beneficial to improving your health, you should always talk to your doctor before starting a breathwork practice. If it’s done incorrectly, it can cause you to hyperventilate. This can be risky if you have other health complications. Breathwork can also cause you to experience extreme emotions.
Types of Breathwork
As you learn more about the practice, you’ll find there are different types of breathwork you can try. If you’re a beginner and want to deepen your knowledge of the practice, a licensed breathwork facilitator or therapist is recommended. Here are some examples.
- Holotropic breathwork: This practice focuses on being whole with one’s self. This is one of the most common forms.
- Shamanic breathwork: This method uses the ancient shaman practices.
- Wim Hof Method: If you’re interested in cold therapy and the benefits that soaking in an ice bath can do for your body, this may be the right method for you.
- Soma Method: This uses pranayama practices, as well as music.
- Transformational breathwork: This method has been around since the ’70s and uses various patterns of breathing, as well as toning.
Breathwork Techniques for Beginners
Want to give breathwork a try, but aren’t quite ready to jump into a class? Try starting off small with some basic techniques.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: This is a great way to start. This helps you focus on breathing slowly from your diaphragm, helping you reduce stress.
- Alternate nostril breathing: This practice stems from pranayama and is pretty simple. You simply breathe deeply through alternate nostrils.
- Box breathing (also known as 4444 breathing): This breathing technique is used in the military to help control fight and flight response.