THE BENEFITS OF BREATH WORK
Breathing. It is something we do, all day and every day. Every human needs to breathe to live: the process allows oxygen into the body and in turn expels carbon dioxide. Since breathing is automatic, we don’t ordinarily think much about it. So why should we focus on something as simple as our breath? I encourage you all to continue reading so that you can better understand how conscious, controlled breathing can reduce stress, increase alertness and boost our immune system.
How often have you been told “just breathe”? Frightened? “Take a deep breath.” Hurt yourself? “Breathe, breathe, breathe.” Giving birth? “Keep breathing.” When you start to think about it, the majority of natural calming rituals focus on your breath and utilizing its power.
Deep breathing decreases stress by increasing your calm. When you become stressed or anxious, your brain releases the stress hormone called cortisol and your body kicks into the sympathetic nervous system which induces flight, fight or freeze mode. By taking deep breaths with a long exhale body switches to the parasympathetic nervous system, which communicates with the brain to relax and releases your endorphins…those feel good chemical in your brain.
Similarly, deep breathing lowers blood pressure. As muscles relax, your blood vessels dilate, which improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Deep breathing also slows and regulates the heart rate, which also helps with lowering your blood pressure.
So what exactly is breathwork?
Don’t feel intimidated if you’ve never had a formal meditation or breathwork practice--many breathing techniques are simple enough to practice at home, during a work break, first thing in the morning, or before bed. Even if it seems like an “up-and-coming” wellness practice in the West, people in the Eastern part of the world have been practicing breathwork for thousands of years and it is quite simple to work you’re your daily routine.
Breathwork describes a group of exercises that teach you to manipulate your breathing rate and depth with the goal of bringing awareness to your breath. Although they may go hand in hand, breathwork and meditation are not the same thing. Meditation asks you to focus on your breathing, but rarely involves changing how you breathe. In contrast, breathwork is all about controlling the way we breathe and improves our breathing patterns and oxygen flow. Meditation involves sitting quietly and paying attention to the present moment—our thoughts and sensations, which can be intimidating and stressful to some; breathwork requires more active participation. Generally people feel more comfortable starting with breathwork because they don’t worry that they are doing it “wrong”, which is sometimes the case with meditation. Breathwork can offer a quicker means of achieving a calm and relaxed state, which can then lead more naturally into a meditation practice.
What are the different types of breathwork?
There are many types of breathwork practices, some ranging from fairly basic and easy to do at home, to others requiring a practitioner to teach you the practice. Here are some breathing exercises you can try safely and easily at home. Once you get started with a regular breathwork practice (even if it is only 2 minutes in the morning and evening) you will develop a means of calming your nervous system when you most need it.
Beginning your breathwork journey presents you with an opportunity to collect “tools” that you can have in your toolbox that are readily available to help you in times of stress. The more you practice, the more accessible the tools will be when you require them because the breath with be automatic. Start small. Develop a practice of two minutes of breathwork in the morning and the evening. Then begin to build upon the practice. I’m certain you will want to do so once you feel the benefits. Remember, you are starting something new, so don’t get discouraged. These are positive exercises, meant to decrease and not increase any anxiety or stress. So always remember that any time you need instruction or further information, I am here to assist and guide you.
Sending you all wishes of health and happiness--