Breathing has been used for centuries as a method to relax and stay in the present, in fact, breathing is an essential part of yoga and meditation. But lately, its value and the benefits that it can bring to our lives by adopting it exclusively as a method for our personal growth has become much more known.
Personally, I have been including breathwork as part of my daily routine for several years now, this is because when using Ho’oponopono as a tool to keep me present has also taught me that breathing is something extremely important and very simple that can bring great benefits on an emotional, mental and physical level.
Recently I took on the task of looking for more scientific evidence that allows me to give you a better vision of why breathing is extremely effective, so in this post, I am going to tell you a little about these benefits and how can it improve your health.
The importance of breathwork
The truth is that we rarely realize how are we breathing, it is something we do involuntarily and that we are used to not paying attention to. If right now you just pay a little attention to the way you breathe you might realize that maybe you are breathing quickly or that your breath is shallow, you may find that you breathe more with your mouth open instead of inhaling and exhaling with the nose.
When we begin to notice our breathing, we naturally become more aware of other things that happen in our body and mind, our thoughts, ideas or images that tend to get stuck in our mind, feelings and sensations, perceptions and emotions.
It is possible that you begin to realize that you are stressed and this stored as tension in some part of your body, and thus you will be able to notice certain habits, patterns, reactions and your inner talk.
When you begin to practice conscious breathing you find that it is easier to move towards a state of emotional freedom and inner peace in a more natural and simple way.
If you need to control yourself in any way – your mind, your body, emotions, posture or behaviors – start by taking control of your breathing.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork refers to any type of breathing exercises or techniques. People often practice them to improve their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. During these kinds of breathing practices, we intentionally change our breathing pattern.
There are many forms of breathwork that involve conscious and systematic breathing. Many people find that work of breath promotes deep relaxation or leaves them feeling energetic.
Some types of breathing techniques include:
- Holotropic breathing
- Clarity Breathwork
- Shamanic breathwork
- Clarity breathwork
- Biodynamic breathwork
- Zen Yoga Breathwork
- Transformational breathwork
- Win Hof Method
Depending on the goals you want to achieve, I recommend that you study each of the options, some will simply help you relax, but there are other techniques such as Wim Hof’s that can help you achieve more and withstand extreme physical conditions.
Before starting any type of breathing practice, I recommend you consult with your doctor and make sure it is okay for you to do it.
Deep, slow and intentional breaths, which expand and contract the belly, allow more oxygen to enter the body. When this breathing is constant, no unnecessary tension builds up in the body or mind. When there’s no tension, the body and mind have more energy and that energy can be used directly in the process of emotional psychosynthesis. Deep breathing is a tool that helps us to let go of old attachments and emotions and to extract the wisdom hidden within life experiences.
– Ron Teeguarden
10 benefits of breathwork
Breathing exercises are used in many practices, from yoga and meditation to therapy treatments, and even techniques to improve performance. Staying connected to your breath can help you stay aware, in other words, being present, relaxed, and improve your focus.
Some of the benefits of breathwork are:
1. Helps to relieve stress and anxiety
Mindful breathing can be one of the easiest and fastest ways to reduce stress. In a study published in the Journal Frontiers in Psychology, it was found that after 8 weeks the participants had significantly lowered their levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) after 8 weeks of breathwork.
How we breathe is an indication of how we feel, when we are anxious or tired, our breathing becomes shallow. But if you consciously choose to breathe long and deep this can help you feel calm.
All this is because when we are stressed, our nervous system is in a state of ” flight or fight”, by breathing deeply you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, which helps us to feel peace, thus reducing stress and anxiety.
2. Helps reduce the symptoms of depression
Breathing deeply can help calm and reduce emotional turbulence in our minds. Meditation using breathing techniques has been shown to help veterans in reducing post-traumatic stress symptoms.
A breathing practice can help in our overall well-being by inducing natural chemical substances such as endorphins and oxytocin, thus helping us alleviate the symptoms of depression. By raising alkalinity levels in the blood, we are thus increasing overall physical health.
3. Increase energy levels
Breathwork improves the oxygen capacity of the blood, which leads to higher overall energy levels and stronger endurance. This is because the amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breath influences the amount of energy that is released into our cells.
There are some practices that help you to obtain an almost immediate energy increase after the practice, Wim Hof’s brother, Marcel Hof has developed a method very similar to his brother’s, The Dopamine Activation breathing, where through rythmic breathing we increase oxygenation in the body, which creates an increase in chemicals naturally produced by the body.
4. Boost your immune system
In the same sense, by increasing the oxygen in our bloodstream, the extra energy that is produced helps to stimulate the immune system.
Wim Hof’s method, “The Iceman”, which includes a breathing technique (hyperventilation) and exposure to cold temperatures, proved to be an effective tool for stimulating the immune system. When studying 12 participants who followed the Wim Hof program, when injected with an endotoxin (E. coli) they had a much lower reaction compared to people who did not follow the same training, which shows a great benefit for people with autoimmune diseases or persistent inflammation.
5. Helps to have a greater focus
At those times of the day where you feel like you want to go to sleep or feel totally drained and still have a lot to do, a moment of breathing with an energizing technique can help you feel like new.
In a study from Trinity College Dublin, it was found that breathing in a regulated manner can help balance the amount of norepinephrine, a natural chemical that affects attention and certain emotions, which helps to gain that focus that we want to obtain in our daily tasks.
You will find that practicing mindful breathing daily will help you to consciously control your energy levels and at the same time stimulate your immune system.
6. Pain management
I remember when I was pregnant with my second daughter, I used a technique called Hypnobirthing, and it is basically using a breathing technique to manage the pain of contractions, and I can assure you that the technique really works. So much so, that I almost gave birth at home, because I was feeling so good I didn’t want to go to the hospital. 😂
But hey, that’s just one example of how breathing can greatly help relieve pain. It has also been shown to help reduce chronic pain.
In general, people with chronic pain try to distance themselves from it and learn to ignore it, but this does not help the body heal in the long run.
In this case, breathing can greatly help you reconnect with your body and thus aid in the healing process. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, controlled breathing helps your body release endorphins, which reduces sensitivity to pain and increases the feeling of pleasure, which in general helps you feel better.
By breathing deeply, you have a therapeutic effect against chronic pain as the muscles of your body relax, which also helps reduce pain or at least not increase it by remaining tense.
7. Free yourself from trauma and fears that have accumulated in your body
It is well known today that there is a connection between body and mind, and obviously breathing is one of the things that can attest to it. But just as breathing can help us, past emotions and traumas can be stored in our body creating emotional blocks that lead to feeling physically bad.
Many of these traumas have been stored there since we were children and unless you have already done therapy or emotional healing work, quite possibly they are still there wreaking havoc in your current life.
Breathwork can be an extremely powerful method to help unblock and free yourself from fear, trauma, limiting beliefs, and negative emotions.
I recommend you read the book Just Breathe by Dan Brulé and learn how different breathing techniques can help you finally free yourself of those stored emotions.
8. Release toxins from your body
Deep breathing helps detoxify your body and increases the efficiency of your lungs. By having more oxygen in your blood you are helping your body absorb vitamins and nutrients more efficiently, which causes you to create more white blood cells, and this helps in the detoxification process.
Also, by practicing rhythmic breathing you are strengthening your lungs, which directly affects the release of toxins. And by breathing deeply, you can flush out toxins (carbon dioxide) more effectively. This allows the cells to absorb more oxygen-rich blood.
9. Promotes digestion
Stress in addition to generating emotions such as fear or anguish, also causes your heart to beat faster and some other physical reactions. Your body entering this “fight or flight” state causes blood to circulate further to the larger muscles, thereby weakening the immune system, interfering with digestion, and increasing inflammation.
By taking slow, deep breaths you create a relaxation response that helps calm your mind and body. This helps your digestive process by stimulating and increasing blood flow throughout the digestive tract and thus aiding intestinal activity.
In addition, as you can see in my Intuitive Eating Workshop, when you feel good emotionally, it is more likely that you choose helathier meals, that you reduce emotional eating and therefore improve the way you eat and how you feel with your body.
10. Improves sleep and rest
If you use breathwork as a daily routine, when you start your day and before going to sleep, you will most likely see an improvement in your sleep. Deep breathing helps calm the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety, and this in turn helps you get a better night’s sleep.
I find that deep breathing also helps with excessive thinking and keeps you more present and connected with your body, so it will be easier to sleep and not be ruminating at night resutlting in insomnia.
Considerations before starting any breathing technique
Most breathing techniques are generally safe, and feel comfortable when you’re practicing them, so they are generally safe for most people.
However, there are some cases in which breathing techniques are not recommended; that is, for anyone with a cardiac arrhythmia, a history of cardiac arrest, or people taking certain antipsychotic medications.
It is important to note that some types of breathwork can induce hyperventilation, which can lead to dizziness, chest pain, and pounding heartbeats.
What do you think now about breathwork? Are you willing to give it a try?
In my next post I am going to teach you two deep breathing exercises that you are going to love and with them you can begin to have all the benefits of breathwork.