What is Breathwork?
Breathing is the only system in the body that is both completely automatic and also under our control, so learning how to breathe effectively can become an easy and fast way to regulate the body and balance the mind. Each one of us feels compelled to share a story about our lives and our breath pattern reflects these life experiences, from birth to old age.
Breathwork has become very popular but it can be confusing to know which breath modality is best suited to you and your life experience. You may have heard of functional breath, integrative, coherent, conscious connected or circular, diaphragmatic breathing, as well as ancient practice of pranayam. Whatever modality you select, it is vitally important to understand the relationship you have with your own breath. Whether you need to learn how to intentionally calm or activate your nervous system or you desire first hand experience of expanding your consciousness, the ability to remain aware of the breath as you go about your day, is truly life changing.
Breathing is a whole body-mind experience! While the diaphragm and lungs are crucial components in breathing, the brain also holds a vital role in regulating breathing patterns. For instance, if a stress reaction exists in the body and then becomes habitual, the body and your breathing pattern sends signals to the brain that the stress is still present, even if the stress event had ended. Thoughts, emotions and behaviours are stimulated as the brain becomes hyper-vigilant for potential stressors, flooding the body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to prepare itself for exertion and action. Left unchecked this state leads to a wide range of physiological and emotional imbalances.
In 2017, a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology reported participants completing 20 breathwork sessions over eight weeks, experienced relaxation and significantly reduced their levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, compared to those who did no breathing sessions.
Consider the statistics: most adults only use 33% of their total respiratory capacity and the lungs lose 12% of capacity from the age of 30 to 50 years, with women fairing far worse than men. We’re forced to breathe harder and faster, a breathing habit that has been scientifically proven to lead to chronic health problems including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and fatigue.
Benefits of breathwork:
Alleviate and resolve: sleeplessness, chronic pain, and respiratory dysfunctions including asthma.
Boost and detox: immunity, energy, circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Dissolve and integrate: fears and anxiety, stress, depression and trauma.
Expand: serenity, human and spiritual connection, creativity, mental clarity and intuition.
“Observe reality as it is. As it is. Not as you wish it to be. Perhaps your breath is deep. Perhaps it is shallow. It makes no difference…observe reality as it is”
- S.N. Goenka, 1976