What exactly is breathwork?
We breathe automatically day in and day out. But often, with the quick pace of our days, schedules and responsibilities, we are in a constant state of low-grade stress and we breathe quickly and shallowly.
Breathwork brings intentionality to breathing. It's a form of active meditation that brings focus to our breath. Deep and conscious breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our body's rest and repair center. With some regular practice, breathwork will bring focus and calm to our minds. It may even help reverse or prevent certain disease states like anxiety and depression.
How to Practice a Simple Minute Breathwork Meditation
Find a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be distracted for 10 minutes. Leave your devices behind or turn them off. Music is optional and can be helpful if you find music relaxing. Lie comfortably on your back and close your eyes. Place your fingertips on your belly. Breathe in and out normally just bringing awareness to your breath. Once your focus is on your breath, inhale into your low belly, feeling your belly expand beneath your fingertips. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth. Continue inhaling deep into your belly, feeling it expand with the breath. Exhale through your mouth and try to make the exhale last a little longer than your inhale.
This practice is about letting go. All you have to do is breathe. If you notice tightness or tension anywhere in the body, bring your awareness to that area and breathe into it, releasing it with your exhale.
Does Breathwork Really Work?
Numerous studies show that breathwork is effective in reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and improving mental clarity among other benefits. Spending more time in rest and repair mode and less time in fight or flight improves our sense of well-being, turns off cortisol (stress hormone) production and has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers in the body.
As with any new practice, breathwork may seem a little awkward at first. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find it something you look forward to and easy to incorporate in your day. Breathwork is a great practice to do with children. They can lay a favorite stuffed animal on their belly and watch it rise up with their breath and come back down as they exhale.