Breathwork 101



"Breathing techniques and patterns are regularly advocated for relaxation, stress management, control of psychophysiological states and to improve organ function" (Ritz, T. and Roth, W.T. (2003). Behavioral intervention in asthma. Behavior Modification. 27 (5), 710-730).


History of Breathwork.

For centuries, people use breathing techniques for spiritual awakening, self-awareness, and self-healing. Every culture has evidence of using breathwork techniques, from far East to far West. However, most of the breathwork therapy developed traction in the 1960s and 1970s. Today we have dozens of schools and techniques of Breathwork.


Introduction to Autonomic Nervous System.

Let's start with the foundation. Some functions of our body we can control and some functions don't need any intervention from us. The Autonomic Nervous System controls these functions: including digestion, blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, electrolyte balance, breathing, and several more. Autonomic Nervous System does not require our attention to maintain. For example: when we swallow, our throat automatically closes off our airway to prevent saliva from going down the wrong tube. Each of our breaths automatically readjusts to provide the right balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood in reaction to our environment. Our breathing pattern will be different when we work out compared to when we have family dinner.


What makes breathing stand out.

Breathing is the only one of these functions, that we have partial control over (the example we can hold breath only for a particular time). The best examples of behavioral or conscious breathing control are singing, chanting, or playing wind instruments (brass or woodwind). As we know, our body has a different breathing pattern for different situations. Being aware about these changes in breathing, we can make conscious decisions to change this pattern. Our breath is one of our best defenses against daily stress, frustration, and existential angst.

Bottom line.

Breathwork refers to any breathing exercises or techniques performed to improve mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. During these exercises, we intentionally change our breathing pattern. Many people find that Breathwork promotes deep relaxation or leaves them feeling energized. Remember, the term Breathwork refers to different breathing techniques. All of these techniques and exercises focus on our conscious awareness of the inhales and exhales. These exercises use deep, focused breathing that lasts a specific amount of time.


Breathwork could benefit people experiencing a wide range of issues such as:

  • Anxiety

  • Chronic pain

  • Anger issues

  • Depression

  • Trauma and posttraumatic stress

  • Grief and loss

  • Emotional effects of physical illness


Few breathing exercises:


1. Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is one of the most natural breathing techniques. However, it is a powerful way to reduce stress at any given time. The abdominal breathing technique can be beneficial before experiencing a particularly stressful event, like taking an exam or giving a big presentation. It also takes a couple of minutes to do, making it perfect for any situation where you need to recollect yourself. Here are the steps to follow:

How to do it:

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing diaphragm (not your chest) to inflate with enough air to create a slight stretching sensation in your lungs.

  • Slowly exhale. Engage your stomach muscles to push air out at the end of the breath.

Daily practice of this breathing technique can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.


2. The 4-4-4-4 breath.

Box Breathing, also known as Square breathing, comes from Navy Seal training. This technique increases energy and performance, as well as provides stress relief and deepens concentration. It's best to use in the middle of the day if sleepy, or before a big project, meeting or test that requires focus. While using this technique, imagine drawing a square, 4 seconds per each side.

How to do it:

  • Start by inhaling through the nose for 4 seconds.

  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds.

  • Exhale out of the nose for 4 seconds.

  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds.

Repeat this cycle for about 5 minutes.

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Another common breathing technique used during meditation and yoga is the alternate nostril breathing – and yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. Doing this technique allows you to reenergize your mind, body, and spirit. It balances the connection between the left and right sides of the brain and works well during a panic attack.

How to do it:

  • Find a comfortable sitting position. Hold your dominant hand and press the tips of your ring finger and pinky finger into your palm, leaving your pointer, middle finger, and thumb extended.

  • Bring your hand up in front of your face and press your thumb on the outside of one of the nostrils. Inhale deeply through your open nostril.

  • When the inhalation complete, release your thumb, and press your pointer and middle fingers on the outside of your other nostril, and exhale.

  • Continue this pattern for 1–2 minutes before switching sides so that you inhale through the nostril that you initially used to exhale, and vice versa. Spend equal amounts of time inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils.

Disclosure

Breathwork therapy can be very beneficial; however, it is not without limitations. There are different breathing techniques, some of them very vigor and could induce hyperventilation. Potential participants may want to consult with their primary care physician and seek a certified professional before engaging in these techniques.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

With Love and Light,

Roman

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