Breathwork is the practice of intentionally manipulating the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, to achieve different states of consciousness. It boasts results of deep relaxation, increased energy, emotional release and reduced symptoms of physical disease. Although breathwork has gained popularity in recent years, it is not a new practice; a reverence for the breath as ‘prana’ or ‘life force’ dates back thousands of years to the early Eastern practices of yoga. There are now many variations of breathwork that can be practised depending on your desired outcome. Whether you are looking to calm down your nervous system or release stored trauma in the body, there is a practice for you.

How Does Breathwork Work?

When you take time to slow down and breathe deeply, this signals to your brain that everything is okay. Exiting the state many of us live in, fight or flight, allows your body to function optimally. When you are stressed or anxious, it is normal that our breaths shorten, thus taking in intentionally longer breaths, restores balance in the body.

Breathwork in a meditative sense, also allows for a broader window of attention than a regular meditation practice. It is easier to disconnect from the mind, and reconnect into the present moment. This also has many beneficial impacts on our mental wellbeing and emotional state.

As for more intense breathwork, usually practised as a means of releasing trauma, works in a different way. Physically, breathwork taps into trauma stored in the diaphragm and psoas muscles, which are strongly connected to our ‘fight or flight’ stress response. Intentional fast paced breaths allow us to engage the diaphragm and access this trauma. Many prefer to practice this style of breathwork with a facilitator, to hold space for the emotions and memories that rise to the surface. It is important we truly feel, express and allow this energy to flow, in order for it to be released.

What Are The Different Types of Breathwork?

As this practice has evolved over thousands of years, there is many styles of breathwork to choose from. Here are just a few of our favourites.

Rebirthing

Rebirthing breathwork was developed by Leonard Orr in the United States. It considers unprocessed emotions as having a physical impact on the body, thus using a physical practice to release them. The technique utilises circular breathing. Circular breath is a type of breathing that is continuous, with no retention or space in between full breaths, usually through the mouth.

Wim Hof Method

This style of breathwork was created by Wim Hof, a Dutch athlete who is also known as “The Iceman”. He believes you can develop command over your body and mind through the use of breathing techniques and extreme temperatures. This technique is focused on deep, rhythmic breaths, described as ‘controlled hyperventilation’, which is then followed by a period of breath retention.

Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana is one of many pranayama techniques, as practised as a part of the eight limbs of yoga. In Sanskrit, ‘prana’ means life force and ‘yama’ means control. It is the practice of breath regulation, and Nadi Shodhana is one of these breathing exercises. It is also known as, alternate nostril breathing, and balances the the two (femine and masculine) channels of the body.

Start by closing down the ring and pinky finger on your left hand. Take one full breath in and out. Using your middle and pointer finger, close down the right nostril. Breathe in through the left nostril, pausing at the top. Close down the left nostril with your thumb and open up the right nostril, exhaling out. Inhale now through the right nostril, pause and exhale out the left nostril. Repeat this, finishing off with an exhalation through the left nostril.

Square Breath

Square breath is a very common, simple technique for relaxing the body and mind. This exercise also originates from the practice of yoga, and is called “Sama Vritti” in Sanskrit. Square breath is the practice of inhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts and holding for 4 counts. The counting of each breath cycle, allows the mind to disconnect from chaotic thoughts, whilst also slowing down the body and tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system.

What Are The Benefits of Breathwork?

After practising breathwork for the first time, you can expect to feel the benefits almost instantly; whether it be a relaxed mind and body, or feelings of clarity and increased energy. How you feel during and after your session, will also depend on what style of breathwork you have practised.

When the amount of oxygen entering your bloodstream increases, the brain signals to your body to enter the parasympathetic nervous system. This is also known as a state of “rest and digest”. Your central nervous system is able to recover more efficiently, as well as send healing to the rest of your organs and tissues.

There is a lot of research to show that breathwork has a positive impact on many functions in your body and mind, including:

  • boosts immunity
  • reduce stress and anxiety levels
  • process emotions and heal trauma
  • increase mind-body connection
  • support lungs and respiratory function
  • increase ability to focus
  • rejuvenates the nervous system
  • removes toxins

The Wim Hoff Method is also linked to reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease and other autoimmune diseases (Wim Hoff, 2022).

How Can You Implement Breathwork Into Your Life?

You have heard about both the physical and mental benefits of breathing exercises, and now you want to try it for yourself! There are many ways to implement the practice of breathwork into your daily or weekly routine.

If you are a regular meditator, you can begin your seated meditation practice with a few rounds of a simple pranayama technique, such as square breath or nadi shodhana. There are many yoga classes that implement these techniques too, if you are looking to ease into this practice in a group setting.

If you are wanting to try a more intense method of breathwork, that includes emotional healing such as rebirthing or the Wim Hoff method, look for local events in your area. These are best guided by a qualified facilitator who can hold space for any release that arises during the session. 

On the Gold Coast, Queensland, we are very lucky to be a part of such an incredible wellness community. Here at Freedom Float Centre, we host “The Breathworks Experience” monthly, with Melissa Melrose. You can find out when the next event is on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreedomFloatCentre/events

There is also a great community named “Cool 2Be Concious” that host meditation, breathwork and ice bath events all over Australia (they’re usually free too)! Check out their upcoming events on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cool2beconscious/

There are many great videos online, that will guide you through a breathwork practice. If apps are more your thing, you can find many timers/audio guides that connect to your phone as well. Here are just two tutorials for the techniques mentioned in this blog post.

 

The best thing about breathwork is how accessible it is for everyone. You don’t need to go anywhere or buy anything to start practising. It is as simple as, you and your breath. Remember, how powerful your body is, and that you hold the ability to heal yourself. 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/breathwork

https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/health/a35395134/what-is-breathwork/

https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-breathwork

https://www.thesoothe.co/body/holistic-health/how-breathwork-and-bodywork-unlock-trauma

https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/breathwork-does-it-work/