If you are into the holistic wellness space you may have heard of the term breathwork. It is becoming increasingly popular and has recently started to make a name for itself. However, what is breathwork? How does it work and what does it do for your body?
Recently I was offered several free sessions to learn breathwork and it’s been such an incredible experience and has benefited me so much. So today I wanted to share with you the in’s and out’s of breathwork and how it can help you on your healing journey.
So what is breathwork?
Breathwork is a technique that you can use to change how you feel at that moment through using the power of the breath, and through this practice, it can help to relieve mental, physical and emotional tension. 
There are many different types of breathwork such as pranayama, rebirthing, holotropic breathwork and transformational breathwork and it uses many different techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, breath counting, breath watching and pursed lip breathing. 
In basic terms, it is utilizing the power of the breath in order to benefit your health and wellbeing.
How does it work?
In day-to-day life, we tend to breathe very shallowly high up in our chests which causes the sympathetic nervous system to activate also known as the ‘fight or flight‘ response. It increases our cortisol level known as the stress hormone and can cause feelings of increased heart rate, anxiety and an increase in blood pressure. 
However, when we breathe deeply in our diaphragm, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system and activate the response known as ‘rest and digest’, which is optimal for a healthy mind and body.
What are the benefits of breathwork?
Breathwork has a huge number of benefits including;
- Relieves stress
- Relieves anxiety
- Improves mood
- Reduces chronic pain
- Lowers blood pressure
- Induces relaxation
- Reduces migraine pain
- Relieves physical tension [1,3]
As you can see there are many benefits to breathwork and many super beneficial to headache and migraine sufferers.
How did my breathwork sessions help me?
The sessions I had were very beneficial for several reasons;
Firstly I thought that I already breathed from my diaphragm, however after my instructor analysed my breathing style it turned out that I am a mixed breather which means I am breathing with my chest and diaphragm. So the aim is to get all of my breath down below in my diaphragm so, in order to do this, my instructor gave me exercises to do for just five minutes a day which strengthens my diaphragm muscles in order to make this my natural form of breathing. I want to make this my natural state so that I am always in the parasympathetic nervous system keeping my body calm and relaxed at all times.
Additionally, I noticed that I tend to hold my stomach in which is preventing me from taking diaphragmatic breaths. This is very common nowadays my instructor advised, especially for women because we are taught by society that we have to be slim and as a result, we hold in our tummies without realizing, which prevents us from breathing naturally. Very interesting I thought.
Over the sessions my instructor taught me many different types of breathing techniques, some for when I was in pain, some to strengthen my diaphragm and some to incorporate into everyday life. And I have to say, I have found that doing just five or ten minutes of breathwork has relaxed my body and mind more than doing a whole twenty or thirty-minute meditation exercise. Who knew that the breath could be so powerful!
However, the main thing it has taught me is that what we do 24 hours of the day is more important than what we do for twenty minutes. So as much as meditation is a wonderful practice, if I am breathing poorly between this then I am fighting a losing battle. My goal is to create calm 24/7 in my mind and body through the power of the breath, which I now know can be done.
How can I get involved with breathwork?
So firstly there are many breathwork instructors out there if you want to go full in, however, there are also other ways to access breathwork and learn it such as YouTube tutorials and even breathwork classes. Have a look at your local meditation/holistic wellness centre as chances are that there will be a breathwork class near you.
Also, there are some free classes by an amazing guy Richie Birstock (aka @thebreathguy) if you download the free FIIT app in the app store. This is a great place to start to see if you want to learn more about it.
A piece of advice I would give you is to listen to your body when you try breathwork. There are some types of breathwork that require fast erratic breathing which for me upset my nervous system and gave me muscle tension. So just listen to your body and find what works uniquely for you.
Have you tried breathwork before? If so, I’d love to know your experience with it?
#Breathwork #Health #Wellness #Healing #Mindbody #Breathe