It’s as simple as breathing. But what if you’re not doing it right? Breathwork is the latest wellness trend encouraging us to take things back to basics and improve our overall wellbeing by learning to breathe more mindfully. The practice of ‘conscious breathing’ promises to address issues including stress, anxiety and addiction along with a whole host of physiological health issues. But what is breathwork, and can it help you?
“Conscious, connected breathwork is now reaching the world. People are always seeking to find happiness, joy, real love and to be healthy.”
Geert De Vleminck, chair of the International Breathwork Foundation speaking to the Guardian
Breathwork: What is It?
Recent scientific research has shown that quick, shallow breathing may contribute to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and a whole host of mental and physical issues. In contrast, deep, conscious breathing can trigger a relaxation response in the brain and body, helping us to relax and heal. The practice of breathwork is simply learning to achieve this slower, restorative breathing and taking the time to do it each day.
It might sound a whole lot like meditation or other forms of wellbeing, and it is closely linked to practices including yoga and meditation, but breathwork focuses solely on the breathing, making the entire practice focus on those long, deep, restorative cycles. Slow deep breathing in this way has been proven to help alleviate or reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
How do you know if you’re breathing correctly?
Most of us are breathing in a less than optimum manner which is ironic in that we are born with the innate ability to breathe perfectly. On average we use about 25% of our respiratory systems, sometimes even less. Most of the clients that I see suffer from what they commonly described as “shallow” breathing which generally means that they are breathing into the chest only. There is general agreement (with scientific research to back it up) regarding the health benefits of learning an effective diaphragmatic breath – which works on breathing into the belly/abdomen.
What does the practice of breathwork involve?
There are many different breathing techniques. The most simple and effective, in my opinion, is the abdominal diaphragmatic breathing.
How do we do it?
- Find a quiet comfortable place to lie down, make sure you are warm enough
- Place your hand, or a heavy book, on your abdomen
- Open you mouth wide enough so that you can fit your fingers in.
- Breathe in through your mouth and into your belly, imagine you are inflating it like a balloon
- Keep your energy focused on where your breath is.
- Let go, exhaling through your mouth, allowing your belly to deflate
- Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes remaining focused on your breath.
Is breathwork the ultimate wellness trend?
Breath work is the most powerful physical, emotional and psychological healing tool I have ever come across. It is a powerful and safe way to infuse the body with oxygen and energy, recharging our own (often depleted) systems to work to their healing capacity. And it facilitates openings to higher levels of consciousness, allowing us to tap into our deeper resources and live our lives joyfully and in abundance.
With breathwork we can enjoy optimum health, mental and emotional clarity, and experience an ever-deepening relationship with ourselves. It’s the means by which we can embark upon the ultimate journey: the one where we discover who we really are. And it can facilitate the growth needed in order for us to transform into who we’re capable of becoming. For me this is ultimately what wellness is all about.
How to Give Breathwork a Go
Join a Class
There are more and more breathwork classes popping up on the wellness scene as people tap into the trend. Alan Dolan offers 1-to-1 conscious breathwork sessions at Urban Retreat Khera-Griggs Cleanse Clinic in London or you can check out the Breathwork sessions at Align New York for events or individual workshops.
Read a Book
There are numerous books out there to help you improve your breathwork techniques and explain in more detail the benefits of working on your breathing patterns. Ashley Neese’s How to Breathe: 25 Breathwork Practices for Connection, Joy, and Resilience is a really easy to digest guide.
Get an App
There are plenty of apps that can help you to regulate your breathing and take part in a daily healing breathwork practice. Try Prana Breath on Android or the Breathing Zone on IOS and log your practice while learning more about the healing powers of conscious breathing.
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