Breathwork offers solutions for many of life’s difficulties, from creating feelings of openness, love, and peace to releasing trauma or mental, physical or emotional blockages. Furthermore, breathwork provides clarity, communication and connection.
Breathing is an automatic bodily function, yet you can learn to work consciously with it. Breathwork techniques can be practiced either face-to-face with a teacher, digitally via guided sessions, or alone at home.
1. Deep Breathing
“Just take a deep breath” may sound simple enough, but did you know there is actually plenty of science behind this practice? Deep breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing) involves slowing your breath to increase oxygen in your blood and decrease muscle tension while activating the parasympathetic nervous system to help lower anxiety and stress levels.
Stressed people tend to take shallow, rapid breaths without using their diaphragm, increasing adrenaline levels and prolonging anxiety-inducing feelings of worry and panic. Deep breathing helps calm the autonomic nervous system – the system responsible for involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion – easing feelings of anxiety and increasing comfort levels.
To practice deep breathing, find a quiet place to sit or lie down and focus on your breath. Begin slowly, starting with just a few minutes daily until eventually increasing it gradually. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth – then repeat!
2. Breathwork Meditation
Breathwork meditation is a mindfulness exercise that uses conscious breathing to foster an enhanced state of awareness within yourself and others. Navy SEALs, Olympic athletes and psychotherapists alike have utilized it successfully as part of their stress management strategies.
Breathwork meditation exercises can be practiced in many different ways, including sitting or lying down in a quiet environment. Wright recommends practicing sessions anywhere from 10-30 minutes at a time.
If you are new to breathwork meditation, start out by starting one session in either the morning or evening for maximum focus throughout your day or sleep. As soon as you become more adept with this practice, add longer inhales and exhales into each session so your cells receive oxygen-rich air that can relieve stress while drawing you closer to inner truths.
3. Breathwork for Anxiety
Anxiety often causes heart rates to speed up, muscles to tighten up and breathing to accelerate, making it hard to focus, concentrate or sleep well. Luckily, there are breathing techniques which can provide much-needed calming.
4.7-8 breathing is an adaptation from yoga pranayama that was popularized by integrative medicine specialists in 2015. To practice it, inhale through your nose for four counts, hold for seven counts and exhale through your mouth for eight counts before repeating this cycle again.
Studies have demonstrated that using this technique can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and bring you back toward serenity, as well as reduce stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure – this makes it especially helpful for people suffering from sleep disorders or difficulty falling asleep at night.
4. Breathwork for Depression
Breathwork is a holistic mind-body practice that involves controlling how we breathe deliberately. It can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve fitness and energy levels, support sleep cycles more soundly and promote wellness and well-being.
Recent random-effects meta-analyses on breathwork’s effect on subjective/self-reported stress found that breathing exercises were associated with lower levels of stress – evidenced by an effect size (ES) between groups (g = -0.35) that is both small and medium (indicating they can lead to reduced stress levels for active and inactive controls alike – similar results were achieved for subset analyses by health status of participants (physical or nonclinical), technique type and delivery mode (individual, group, remote self-help or in-person), outcome measures or outcome measures also showed similar effects.
As with other forms of mental-health care, breathwork’s benefits do not become evident immediately; they develop gradually over time. Therefore, daily practice of breathwork techniques could prove fruitful to achieve more long-term benefits and must always be conducted under supervision by a trained practitioner to ensure safety and effectiveness.