Our breath is what sustains us, yet it often goes unnoticed. As a result, we go through the day shallow breathing, bringing our body and mind into a constant state of stress and anxiety. However, we are able to move out of “fight or flight” and into healthier emotional and physical spaces through breathwork, the process of rhythmic consciousness breathing.
Science is finally catching up to the ancient practice, providing evidence for the true benefits of breathwork. Studies show that a breathwork practice can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, alkalize your blood pH, increase energy, boost your immune system, improve overall mood, and promote better sleep and digestion, to name a few.
Our hope is to give you a glimpse into the science behind breathwork, the practice itself, and the magic that it has to offer.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork is an active meditation, a practice of conscious rhythmic breathing. By bringing awareness to the breath, we reconnect to self, the collective, and mother nature. As the bridge between the conscious and subconscious minds, the breath is one of the most powerful tools to tap into the body’s innate healing capacity. A means for awakening, personal growth, and transformation, breathwork improves emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It raises our energy – our frequency – allowing us to journey into healing and wholeness.
What are some benefits of breathwork?
Breathwork offers us a plethora of benefits for our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. Let me highlight the science of breathwork and some of the gifts that practice has to offer:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Breathwork can not only relieve stress and anxiety, but it can do so in the length of just one session! How? Because breathwork is an active and physical mindfulness practice, it not only allows both the body and mind to concentrate on something, the breath, but it stimulates the vagus nerve, which has been scientifically shown to reduce stress and anxiety by moving the nervous system out of “fight or flight” (the sympathetic nervous system) and into the parasympathetic nervous system. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, heart rate slows down and blood pressure lowers, creating a deep sense of calm within the body and mind.
Alkalizes your blood
You may remember that with each inhale, we take in oxygen, and with each exhale, we release CO2, an acidic molecule. When we take faster breaths, we are able to discharge more CO2 from the body, thus, getting rid of the acid in the blood and shifting to a more alkaline pH. This alteration in blood pH can be characterized as “respiratory alkalosis.”
Increases your energy levels and strengthens your immune system
The amount of energy that is released into our cells is directly influenced by the amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breath. As breathwork increases oxygen capacity in the body, it serves to increase energy levels and enhance immune system functioning. Breathwork offers you this extra energy that can assist in times of stress or fatigue, which drain energy. By consciously breathing deeply, hence, taking in more oxygen, you can begin to enhance energy levels and your immune system.
The elevated feeling that many practitioners experience during breathwork can also be attributed to respiratory alkalosis, as increased blood pH results in reduced oxygen delivery to tissues. With faster breathing, there is a constriction of brain vessels, which decreases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain. This can prompt a “high” sensation, a boosted mood.
Breathwork can help to improve sleep by stimulating and toning the vagus nerve. Through deep slow diaphragmatic breathing, we can stimulate the vagus nerve, which sends a signal to our bodies that we are safe, thus, shifting us into the parasympathetic nervous system, into a state of calm. This is called the “rest and digest” state of deep relaxation, the state where we can find sleep more easily. Toning the vagus nerve is the second way in which breathwork can aid in sleep. A well-toned vagus nerve allows us the ability to shift between sleep and waking with more ease, find deep sleep and restoration at night, and be fully awake and energized during the day.
What should you know before beginning breathwork?
Breathwork is a generally safe, therapeutic practice that can be done daily. In fact, the more that you do it, the greater the benefits and the deeper you can journey into healing; it’s cumulative. Breathwork can heal on an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual level, as it helps to release held addictions, pain, and trauma within the body and mind. However, with the potential for an intense emotional and physical release, there are a few cases in which it may not be advised to do breathwork. Namely, anyone with a history of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, retinal detachment, aneurysms, or recent surgery without speaking to your doctor, as well as anyone with seizure disorders. Additionally, it is advised that pregnant women do not partake in the Two Part Circular Breathwork.
Final thoughts on breathwork:
Breathwork is the process of conscious rhythmic breathing, the manipulation of your breathing patterns to influence your state of wellbeing.
The science behind breathwork is incredible! The benefits of the practice are limitless and can include a reduction in stress and anxiety, an alkalization of blood, an increase in energy levels and immune system functioning, a boosted mood, and an improved sleep cycle.
Although a generally safe practice, it is important to check with your doctor before beginning your breathwork journey if you have a history of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, retinal detachment, or aneurysms, as well as if you have had a recent surgery, a seizure disorder, or are pregnant.
Breathwork is a practice that bridges ancient wisdom with modern science to raise your energy, your frequency. It is said that how we breathe is how we live. Thus, to live life to its fullest, we must breathe to our fullest.