It’s said that breath is the energy of the body — and if that’s true, learning how to master your breathing patterns can help you feel better, maximize your energy and vigor, and help you see your body in a new light.
If you’re not sure what breathwork is, read on. We’ll explore how breathwork works and how you can start reaping the benefits of effective breathing exercises in no time.
What Is Breathwork?
Breathwork is any breathing technique or exercises you can use to better control your breathing patterns. Depending on your preferences and experience level, you might practice different kinds of breathwork — there’s no one type of “breathwork” that’s perfect for everyone!
However, all types of breathwork involve breathing consciously, systematically, and intentionally. This stands in contrast to our normal automatic breathing; after all, most of us don’t think about each breath we take. If we did, it would be quite tiring and impractical.
People may do breathwork sessions for different reasons, which may include:
- Calming their body’s stress response
- Bolstering their creativity
- Gaining additional energy
- Overcoming addictions
- Reducing negative thoughts or anxiety
- Coping with pain
The right breathing practices can help regulate blood pressure and heart rate, supporting cardiovascular health. They can also activate your parasympathetic nervous system, leading to stress relief and increased well-being.
Above all else, breathwork can help ground your mind in the present moment. Master breathwork practitioners can even enter higher states of consciousness. These pros use their skills to reap health benefits every day.
However, if you’ve never tried breathwork before, you might wonder whether it’s really worth your time. Luckily, breathwork can have multiple positive effects on your body and mind.
What Are the Benefits of Breathwork?
Breathwork and its benefits are closely linked to and similar to the benefits of meditation and other conscious exercises.
Some potential benefits of breathwork include:
- Improving your energy levels over time.
- Reducing stress — when you slow down your breathing and consciously breathe with purpose, you can help your brain to relax and disengage from the fight or flight response.
- Gaining greater control and awareness over your thoughts.
- Potentially reducing stress-related inflammation.
- Reducing negative thoughts and increasing self-awareness and self-esteem.
- Elevating your mood as a result of the above benefits.
However, the positive effects of breathwork are different for every person. Because your body is unique, your body and mind may both respond differently to breathwork techniques and exercises. Try a few types of breathing exercises, and find one that brings you the benefits you’re looking for.
How Can You Practice Breathwork?
All breathwork techniques require concentration, focus, and commitment. Don’t expect to adopt any new breathwork exercise and immediately enjoy maximum benefits. Instead, think of your breathwork practice as a personal journey that you can choose to go on and progress whenever you please.
Not sure where to start? Here are some breathwork example exercises you can adopt and start practicing today.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is exactly what it sounds like: breathing through one nostril at a time in an alternating pattern. To practice this, put your right thumb on your right nostril to close it. Then breathe in using only your left nostril.
Hold your breath for a moment as you release your right thumb and instead push down on your left nostril. Then exhale through the right nostril. Take another pause, inhale once more, then repeat the pattern in the opposite direction — push down on your right nostril and release on your left nostril.
This type of breathing can help you focus on balance above all else, so it may help ease feelings of tension or negative thoughts.
Deep Abdominal Breathing
Deep abdominal breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, involves taking oxygen deep into your body and using the belly to improve your breathing patterns. To begin, take a long and deep breath; imagine filling up your body like you would a balloon.
If done properly, your belly should expand — just make sure your chest stays still. Fully exhale through pursed lips so that your chest falls, your ribs pull in, and your navel also pulls in.
This technique can help stimulate the vagus nerve. This sends a strong, positive signal to your mind to relax, which is why it’s one of the best breathwork exercises for relaxing.
4-7-8 breathing is a popular breathing exercise that leverages your breathing to calm your mind when it is over-excited. Basically, you’ll breathe according to these numbers to help your mind take a break.
To practice 4-7-8 breathing, simply take a breath and inhale for a count of four. Then hold your breath for seven counts. Then exhale for eight counts.
Repeat the cycle as necessary. The prolonged exhalation can help your body and nervous system let go of stress and can help you feel renewed with each inhalation.
Breath of Fire Technique
The dramatic breath of fire technique is an advanced breathwork practice that usually requires the guidance of an instructor, especially for the first time. In this exercise, you’ll use a breath pattern that uses your core muscles during exhalation.
To perform the breath of fire technique, take a breath, then exhale through the nose. Engage your abdominal muscles to expel the breath forcefully (though not too forcefully, of course!). Gently inhale through your nose, then repeat as needed.
When you practice this belly breathing exercise properly, you can feel rejuvenation throughout your body, and your mind may feel steadier than before. It can also help you expel extra carbon dioxide.
Another breathwork technique to try is holotropic breathing. As with the breath of fire technique, this may require some instructor guidance for beginners.
In a nutshell, holotropic breathing involves continuously inhaling and exhaling without any pausing between. That sounds tricky because it is! But with a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Just make sure to avoid hyperventilating, which is when your breathing is fast and shallow.
When you inhale and exhale consciously and constantly, you can give your body more oxygen than it normally has. In time, this may rejuvenate and revitalize your cells. You may feel like your body has more energy after practicing this breathwork technique.
This is similar to circular breathing, which involves expelling air through your mouth while you breathe in through your nose.
Which Breathwork Technique Should You Use?
The great thing about breathwork techniques is that you can try all of them and find which practices are most comfortable for you. You don’t have to stick to any single breathwork strategy or practice.
Instead, we recommend trying out breathwork exercises in a few different ways. Consciously being aware of your breath and combining that consciousness with awareness of your body can impact your spiritual and mental health.
You can even combine these techniques with movement. Pranayama is the practice of controlling your breath during yoga to extend your energy and relaxation. In fact, you may find that breathwork is complementary to many of your other hobbies.
The Benefits of Breathwork
Breathwork is an excellent way to take control of your body and your breathing habits. When practicing breathwork, you may find that you have more energy, more confidence, and more control over how your body takes in and expends energy throughout the day.
The right breathwork exercises can help you mentally and physically, plus they may help you relax at the beginning or end of the day.
Want to know more about how to master meditation and related techniques? 1AND1 can help. Check out our guides and resources today!
How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing | PMC
Breathing Exercises | American Lung Association
The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults – PMC | NCBI