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The Breath

“He lives most life whoever breathes most air.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What is Breathwork?

I’m sure you’ve heard it. It’s quite the buzzword right now and probably why you’re here. You’ve probably been told to take a deep breath at one point in your life to calm down. That’s breathwork. Breathwork is really an umbrella term for breathing in a conscious or systematic way.  So let’s break it down.

Breathwork can be functional for everyday use.  Functional breathwork is about improving your natural breathing patterns, shifting your state, and regulating your emotions.  Functional breathwork can be done anywhere and anytime, daily, and most exercises are less than 5-10 minutes in length.   Examples of functional breathing are: 4-7-8 breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and the list goes on.

Breathwork can also be transformational.  Transformational breathwork is about quieting your mind, processing and releasing any stuck energy and emotions in the body, as well as experiencing joy and mental clarity. This type of breathwork is practiced using a conscious connected breathing technique.   A session is often 60-90 minutes in length, facilitated by a certified coach, and practiced once or twice a month.  Examples of transformational breathing are: Integral breath therapy, transformational, rebirthing, holotropic, somatic, and the list goes on. 

All breathwork  affects our bodies in different ways so selecting the appropriate technique is critical.  Some people breathe for relief from stress, anxiety, or depression. For others, they breathe to heal lifelong emotional wounds. Moreover some breathe to improve physical health issues like elevated blood pressure or for pain relief.   Breathwork can be different each time you do it because you are intentionally changing the way you breathe.  When you change the way you breathe, you change your state.  When you change your state, you can change your emotions.  When you change your emotions, you can change your life!

Why is The Breath so Important?

The average person takes between 18,000 and 20,000 breaths daily and hardly thinks about any of them. But how we breathe affects our bodies in many ways. It can affect the size and function of the lungs. It can sustain the body and help it recover or exhaust it.

Author Patrick McKeown compares breathing to rowing a boat. Would you rather take a million little strokes to propel yourself or a few long controlled smooth strokes to get you there? When breathing through your mouth, the breath is shallow and rapid. The primitive survival aspect of the brain takes over, causing the mind to function reactively and defensively. The body’s fight-or-flight instinct is triggered. In contrast, breathing deeply, slowly, and consciously can calm the body and mind and shift the brain into a creative state.

What are the Benefits of Breathwork?

Breathwork can help us breathe optimally, slowly, consciously, and deeply into our lungs through the nose. When the breath is slow and deliberate, it reaches the lower lobes of the lungs and can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. When our breathing slows, heart rate and blood pressure follow, and our body enters a state of relaxation that breeds recovery.

Breathwork can be used to restore our overall health. It can influence our weight, improve digestion and reduce stress on the liver and kidneys. It can assist us in controlling our immune response, release toxins stored in the tissues of the body and support the creation of new neural pathways in the brain. It can detoxify our bodies on a cellular level and help us to live longer, healthier lives.