Breathwork is a way of changing your breathing patterns in order to influence how you’re feeling and improve your mental and even physical health. Breathwork draws from eastern practices like Tai Chi and yoga — if you’ve done breathing exercises in a yoga class, you’re already familiar with a bit of breathwork. Each pose is centered around breathing. Breathwork originally became popular during the 1960s and ‘70s, when people wanted to tap into their consciousness more. As with a lot of fads from those days, breathwork remained on the fringes of society, more underground than mainstream.
Have you noticed when you are stressed or anxious what happens to your breathing? We start taking shorter, more frequent breaths, mimicking our mental state in the way we breathe. When you inhale, you’re sending a signal to the brain. When you’re taking quick breaths, the brain thinks something is wrong, similar to the flight-or-fight response.As a result, your brain activates the sympathetic the nervous system, which gets your body ready for physical and mental activity by cranking up stress hormones like cortisol, blood rate, anxiety, blood pressure — all the things that you might need to help you, say, run away from a bear in the woods. Wonderful for escaping wildlife, not so great for making it through a really tough day.
Breathworks is a practice to make a conscious effort to slow your breath, you’re sending a signal to your brain that all is well. Instead of the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic system kicks in, quietly scaling back on all those physical responses, while also ushering in a sense of relaxation and calmness. Breathwork helps you tap into that parasympathetic system, training your brain to relax despite clues telling it to just the opposite. It’s probably no surprise then, that in today’s ever-busy, always-connected world, breathwork is experiencing a resurgence. Not only can anyone do it — if you’re breathing, you can practice breathwork — but breathwork helps you feel Zen as one of its major benefits. Just like benefits-rich-yoga and meditation, there are different types of breathwork that are meant to tap into different emotions and experiences to help you achieve certain results.
3 Breathwork Benefits
1. Relieves stress and anxiety : When you engage in breathwork, you change the nervous system’s response to stress. That means less stress hormones like cortisol are being released. Too-high levels of cortisol can lead to issues like weight gain, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances, and more. More breathwork = less cortisol. It seems so simple, but these practices make a huge impact!
2. Improves your mood:
Following breathing patterns can provide a mood boost and, over time, even help with depression. One study found that three months of yoga and coherent breathing significantly reduced depressive symptoms in individuals who’d been diagnosed with major depressive disorders. Studies found that it’s a viable additional treatment option for people suffering from depression and anxiety. It’s likely that as more research is done on breathwork, it’ll be used as a way to help combat post-traumatic stress disorder as well.
3. Keeps your gut working smoothly:
Not only does breathwork transform the way your body responds to stress, but it also affects reactions at the gut level. What does that mean for you? The extra energy you’ve brought by way of increased oxygen can help eliminate toxins from the body, allowing your metabolism to run more effectively. And if you’ve been suffering from stomach issues stemming from stress, breathwork therapy can help with that, too.