Whatever our individual tastes or preferences, one thing it’s safe to say is that we can’t live without breathing. In fact, breathing drives all our bodily functions– by supplying oxygen to every cell in the body, every moment we’re alive…
So, it’s no surprise that changing the way you breathe can change the way your body works. Any time you become aware of your breathing you’re practicing breathwork. And it is has a wide range of effects – physical, mental, emotional, energetic – even spiritual.
Cultures have been using breath for thousands of years, in all sorts of different ways. From the yogic sciences of breathing (pranayama) to Chinese medicinal breathing (Qi Gong) to Shamanic styles of breath, Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, and the Australian aboriginals. For as long as human beings have been conscious of their health, or interested in entering altered states of consciousness, breathing has been important. So, there is no single source, and no single practice – it’s universal.
You can break breathwork down into broad categories. There’s responsive breathwork, using breathing to manage everyday life. Let’s say you’re feeling very stressed – you might breathe for a couple of minutes to relax. Or you might breathe in a certain way to help you sleep.
Then, there are more dedicated breathwork practices – longer, more involved work like pranayama, Qi Gong, or the Wim Hof method.
There are deeper breathing practices to enter altered states of consciousness, like deep meditation. Or even integrative breathwork practices that help with emotional healing and spiritual exploration. Techniques like rebirthing, transformational breath, biodynamic breathwork, and holotropic breathwork are used therapeutically.
There has been a great deal of scientific research into the benefits of breathwork. Slower styles of breathing can help to down regulate the nervous system, create relaxation, decrease blood pressure, and increase heart rate variability.
The way we breathe affects every single system in our body. So, using breathwork, you can improve your cardiovascular health. You can improve the flexibility and responsiveness of your nervous system. You can even reduce the symptoms of chronic illnesses like asthma, autoimmune diseases, certain inflammatory disorders, digestive issues, and nervous system disorders like fibromyalgia or ME. The list is endless! For any physical problem, there’s almost certainly a way that breathwork can help it, because of the way that it affects the whole body – particularly the nervous system.
In terms of mental health, the key benefit breathwork brings is an ability to respond to the world from a place of steadiness. If you have a flexible and robust nervous system that is constantly operating from a balanced place, you can respond rather than react.
Breathing is something we all do, every day. Breathwork helps us harness that – with transformational results.
Ready to dive in? Take a deep breath…