Pause for a moment.
Place your hands in your lap.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
Again, steady breath in and release slowly.
With each inhale and exhale, deepen your breath into your belly.
Begin to tune into the sensations of your body.
What do you feel?
As you continue to breathe for about another minute, just simply observe what arises….
Now slowly, come back to your natural breath
Perhaps you were able to feel some subtle sensations.
Maybe you feel slightly clearer and relaxed than before.
Did you know?
On average, a person takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, and 8,409,600 breaths a year. Our breathing is the only function in the body that is both completely automatic and also under our control. That is not an accident of nature, nor a coincidence.
The single essence of life that pervades all living creatures is the breath. We can survive days without water and even weeks without food, but without the breath, we would cease to exist. However, the breath is more than something that just keeps us alive, it is the key to your liberation, helping us to heal, expand and ultimately thrive.
When we begin to move from an unconscious state to a conscious awareness of our breath everything begins to change. When we begin to shift our focus from the external world into our internal landscapes and begin to intentionally work with our breath, we begin to awaken a new sense of vitality, peace, joy and freedom from within.
The breath is the link between body and mind, between spirit and matter, between the conscious and the unconscious mind. This timeless technology has the ability to completely transform, optimize and elevate how you think and feel within a matter of minutes.
Ancient wisdom about the vast potential and power of conscious breathing, science and research, and modern-day holistic healing experts are now aligning to irrefutably validate that the quality of each breath is the single most powerful thing we can do to cultivate physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual wellbeing.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is an ancient somatic-based healing practice and an active form of meditation that utilizes the power of conscious and rhythmic breathing patterns to bring awareness to our bodies, minds and emotions and as a result release stuck and stagnant energy, resulting in a greater sense of inner peace, clarity, balance and overall wellbeing.
There are many different types of breathwork techniques, including those derived from ancient traditions such as yoga and pranayama, as well as modern approaches developed by practitioners and researchers. Some common types of breathwork include holotropic breathwork, rebirthing, and transformational breathwork.
How does breathwork work?
On a basic level, rhythmic pranayama breathing, hyper-oxygenates the body, bringing in more oxygen and blowing out more carbon dioxide than normal, which synchronizes and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and taps into the neural networks of the brain, guiding you from a beta to theta brainwave states, while also elevating your dopamine and serotonin levels, which play a crucial role in your mood, sleep, emotions and more. We’ll be diving much deeper into the art and science of breath in Chapter 3: Breathwork and Health.
The Origins of Breathwork
Breathwork has a long history and can be traced back to various ancient cultures and spiritual traditions.
One of the earliest and most well-known examples of breathwork can be found in the ancient Indian tradition of yoga and pranayama. Pranayama is a Sanskrit term that means “life force extension,” and it refers to the practice of controlling and regulating the breath to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The ancient texts of yoga, such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, describe various pranayama techniques that are still practiced today.
In Chinese medicine, the practice of Qi Gong involves regulating the breath to promote health and balance in the body’s energy systems. Traditional Chinese medicine also uses acupuncture and acupressure to stimulate specific points on the body that affect the breath and the flow of energy.
Breathwork also has roots in shamanic traditions, where it is used to induce altered states of consciousness and facilitate healing. In some Native American cultures, for example, breathwork is used in sweat lodge ceremonies and other rituals to connect with the spirit world and promote physical and spiritual healing.
In the modern era, breathwork has been further developed and refined by practitioners and researchers from various fields, including psychology, physiology, and spirituality. Today, there are many different types of breathwork techniques and practices, each with its own unique origins and approaches.
Since the 1970’s, breathwork started to become recognized as a therapy and healing modality in the west. One of the pioneers of breathwork of this modern era is Czech-born psychiatrist, researcher, and author, Stanslov Grof who is best known for his work in the field of transpersonal psychology, a branch of psychology that explores the spiritual and mystical aspects of the human experience.
Grof’s research has focused on non-ordinary states of consciousness, particularly those induced by the use of psychedelic substances, such as LSD. After LSD and other psychedelics became illegal, he developed Holotropic Breathwork, which uses breathing techniques to induce altered states of consciousness that can be used to explore and heal psychological and spiritual issues.
Since then, many other breathwork modalities have been birthed, including, but not limited to:
- Rebirthing Breathwork – Leonard Orr
- Transformational Breathwork – Dr. Judith Kravitz
- Wim Hof Method – Wim Hof
- Clarity Breathwork – Dana Dharma Delong
- Soma Breathwork – Niraj Niak
- Sonic Breathwork – Christopher August and Johnny Buffalo
The Benefits of Breathwork
Breathwork has been used as a healing modality in various cultures and spiritual traditions for thousands of years. Today, it is also used in contemporary and alternative therapies, the corporate landscape and even now in conventional healthcare settings, including hospitals and clinics.
Some of the many benefits one can experience through breathwork include:
- Reduces stress and anxiety: Breathwork techniques have been shown to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
- Improves physical health: Breathwork can regulate your nervous system, increase your overall vitality, boost your immune system, enhance your digestion, detoxify the organs and reduce inflammation in the body.
- Enhances overall mood: Breathwork increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain, affecting the release and regulation of serotonin and dopamine which are neurotransmitters that play a key role in regulating overall mood, appetite, and sleep.
- Increased focus, clarity and creativity: Breathwork is one of the most powerful tools for bringing into a deep state of presence and awareness
- Trauma healing and emotional regulation: Breathwork can help individuals release emotional blockages and stuck energy from past wounds, leading to greater resilience and well-being.
- Promotes spiritual connection: Breathwork can be used to facilitate spiritual experiences and promote a heightened sense of intuition, meaning and purpose.
Types of Breathing
There are many variations of breathing techniques and exercises, but some of the most common include:
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: Also known as belly breathing, this technique involves breathing deeply and slowly, using the diaphragm to expand the belly with each inhale and contract it with each exhale. It can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reduce stress, and improve oxygenation.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing: This technique involves breathing through one nostril at a time, alternating between the left and right nostril. It can help to balance the flow of energy in the body, calm the mind, and reduce stress.
- Box Breathing: This technique involves inhaling for a specific count (such as 4 seconds), holding the breath for the same count, exhaling for the same count, and then holding the breath again for the same count. It can help to regulate the nervous system and reduce stress.
- Kapalabhati (Breath of Fire): This technique involves rapid, forceful exhales through the nose, followed by passive inhales. It can help to increase energy, clear the mind, and stimulate the digestive system.
- Conscious Connected Breathing: This technique involves taking deep, rhythmic breaths through the mouth without pausing between inhales and exhales. The practice is also known as “rebirthing” and is often used as a form of therapy or meditation. During conscious connected breathing, the body is able to take in more oxygen than it typically would through normal breathing. This can lead to a feeling of light-headedness or tingling sensations in the body. Some people also experience emotional release or a feeling of euphoria.
- Two Part Breathing: This is a breathing technique that involves intentionally breathing into the lower part of the belly and upper parts of the lungs. Two-part breathing is believed to help relax the body and reduce stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and rest. It can also help to improve overall lung capacity and oxygenation of the body.
- 4-7-8 Breathing: This technique involves inhaling for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 7, and exhaling for a count of 8. It can help to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
These are just a few examples of the many different types of breathing techniques that are available. Each technique offers a unique approach and benefits, and individuals may find that certain techniques are more effective for them than others. It is important to work with a qualified practitioner or healthcare professional to determine which techniques are appropriate for one’s individual needs and goals.
To take your practice deeper, be sure to download our free 15-minute breathwork journey here.