What is breathwork?

Have you heard the term “breathwork”? 

Maybe you’ve wondered what it is. 

Breathwork = breathing with purpose 

Our bodies do this naturally and we may not put much thought into this.  However, if we do think about it and begin to control our breath, it can affect our physiological and cognitive responses to situations.   

In other words, we can change the state of our mind and body by practicing breathwork. 

Let’s look at a few ways you might practice: 

Meditation
Finding a comfortable seat, or lying down, bring the attention to your breath.   

Notice how it feels to just breathe.

Feel the temperature of the air as you breathe in and breath out

Notice your chest rise and fall

Your belly expand and contract (like a balloon filling up and then deflating)

Observing any thoughts that arise, and then bringing the attention back to the breath

Taking notice will bring you to the present moment and shifting our thoughts away from things that may be causing stress or anxiety as well as tension that you may be holding on to in your body. 

Yoga
Yoga is a mindful movement practice where we incorporate the flow of breath synced with movement.  

For example, Sun Salutation A:

Begin in mountain pose and bring the attention to your breath
Inhale bringing the arms overhead and palms together to an upward salute
Exhale forward foldInhale to halfway lift
Exhale sending the palms to the ground and finding your version of a plank
Inhale to cobra or upward facing dog
Exhale to downward facing dog
Inhale to halfway lift
Exhale to forward fold
Inhale to rise and return to mountain pose

Breathwork while you practice yoga can help with flexibility and mobility as it encourages your joints to relax and find more, maybe unfamiliar, range of motion. 

You can also use breathwork with other forms of movement as you recover from intense exercise such as running or lifting weights by taking full inhales and exhales. 

To find calmness
Have you ever been in a situation and someone tells you “just breathe” as advice to calm down? 

When you are breathing quick and shallow, you might find that you’re more amped up.  

To find a sense of calm, do the opposite.   

Take slow and deliberate breaths.  Filling the lungs completely, and then letting it all out.  

Pausing between the breaths, or holding your breath, can also be helpful.  

Then, relax as much as your can and breathe naturally. 

Below is an image that is helpful for both adults and kids, known as the “Take 5” or “5-finger breathing”.
Image item
Lift a hand and with the opposite hand trace the outline of the fingers while breathing in and out. 

If you’re in a place where you’re uncomfortable lifting your hand, you can also just imagine that you are tracing the outside of your hand as you breathe.   

You will probably notice yourself feeling differently after this exercise. 

Box breathing is another breathing technique that is known to help calm your body and mind in stressful situations.   
With box breathing, imagine a square and
Inhale for 4 seconds
Hold for 4 seconds
Exhale for 4 seconds
Hold for 4 seconds
Repeat

Experiment
If you have an app or wearable device that tracks your heart rate, experiment with different types of breathwork to see how your body reacts.

Of course, you can do this without fancy gadgets and just relax and tune in to your body, your emotions, tension, thoughts, and sensations. 

There are many books and apps that offer various breathing exercises.  

In our classes our teachers will offer breathwork exercises such as box breathing, ujjayi breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and more, as well as cueing you to breathe throughout the practice. 

Your breath is a tool that is always with you and can be used anytime and anywhere.

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madison hanna

lifestyle + business coach