What is Breathwork
Breathwork is a type of active meditation during which you intentionally change your breathing patterns to help facilitate self-healing, release energy that’s not serving you, calm your central nervous system and connect to your deep inner wisdom. Breathwork therapy is a very broad term that encompasses many types of breathing exercises or techniques. Some techniques are based in yogic traditions such as Pranayama, or the breath and movement sequences of Kundalini yoga. Others were developed explicitly to heal the mind and body, or help you withstand extreme circumstances.
How Breathwork Works
Breathwork is grounded in using your breath to bring connection to your body. It’s a widely studied practice that has been proven to help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder. The science of breathwork shows that deep, sustained, intentional breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your brain and body it doesn’t need to go into fight, flight or freeze mode—you know, the heart-racing, hands sweating, shallow-breathing, slightly panicked feeling you get from encountering a real or perceived threat. Breathwork can restore balance to that stress-response system.
The benefits of breathwork can be much deeper than making you feel calm. Breathwork practices and breathwork meditation sessions with a practitioner can have physical, emotional and psychological benefits.
- Alkalizes your blood pH
- Increases muscle tone
- Can decrease inflammation
- Can lower cortisol and blood pressure
- Can decrease chronic pain
- Can create space for an emotional release of surface and deep-seated feelings
- Increases your ability to open up to receive love and support
- Facilitates the letting go of limiting stories or beliefs
- Calms and focuses your mind
- Helps you gain clarity on your goals or life purpose
- Relief from anxiety, depression and patterns of stress
- Support of PTSD treatment
- Trauma release
- Release of anger
- Dispelling grief
How to Work With a Breathwork Practitioner
Breathwork can be done in myriad ways, from individual sessions to group breathwork. You don’t even need to find a breathwork class or breathwork near you—you can be guided through the techniques virtually, and do breathwork online.
Before, During & After Breathwork Therapy
Before Breathwork Therapy: Prepare for your breathwork class by being open to what your body wants to reveal. If you’re doing an individual session, be ready to discuss your current and past experiences with your healer—they may ask you questions about what you’d like to focus on or why you booked the session.
During Breathwork Therapy: During a breathwork session, you’ll lie on a massage table, fully clothed (so choose a comfy outfit!), and be guided through a specific breathing technique. If you’re doing your session virtually, you’ll want to find a quiet, comfortable place to engage with your practitioner. You may experience tingling, shaking, crying or other types of emotional and physical release—lean into this and give yourself fully to the practice.
After Breathwork Therapy: Because breathwork can be an intentional type of hyperventilation where your body moves oxygen less freely, you might feel a “high” after your breathwork. You might also feel depleted, depending on the energetic work you’ve completed. Be sure to eat a balanced snack and drink plenty of water after your session to replenish what you may have lost. Also, it’s a good practice to take notes on what emotions and thoughts came up for further reflection later.