Breathwork in it's essence is using your breath to facilitate mental, physical and spiritual transformations. Conscious controlled breathing has been used for millenia to help people obtain altered states of being and consciousness. The three primary ancient cultures responsible for creating these practices are modern day Tibet, China and India. Pranayama practices in yoga are some of the most well understood and widely taught but other traditions like Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, Shamanism, Qigong and martial arts utilize various breathing techniques and styles to help optimize various methods of practice.
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Qigong, for example, is largely employed for energy cultivation, and comprises over 3,000 breathing methods. In India, breathwork was linked to the ancient practice of yoga, which has existed since 3000 B.C.E. In Tibet, breathing exercises were developed to cultivate spirituality, like in many other cultures, and to cope with the region’s climate. For example, one technique known as Vase Breathing raises a person’s body temperature so effectively that they could sit without clothes in the snow and be unaffected by the cold.
Unlocking Well-Being: The Comprehensive Guide to Breathwork Benefits and Techniques
The beautiful thing about breathwork is that is is ALWAYS at our disposal. We don't need to schedule it our make it a ritual (although we should) but rather, can utilize different breathing techniques which vary in depth, frequency and duration to create changes in our internal state and facilitate greater well-being. Luckily, although the benefits of breathwork have been known for millenia, modern day science has caught up and the research which supports these modalities is compelling. Here are just SOME of the positive effects that breathwork has on both our mental and physical health. Firstly, breathwork has clearly demonstrated to be effective in treating and managing both depression and anxiety. It can also help with cognitive functioning like memory and attention. It's also been shown to help stress-related medical conditions, panic disorder and PTSD. Some more benefits include better sleep, immune function, and respiratory function. Lastly, breathwork is great for releasing and healing trauma and this is my personal favorite application of the modality. There is more to learn about breathwork here and if you are interested in breathwork training or coaching, check this out.
So, now that we understand a bit about breathwork history and it's benefits, let's explore some exercises. The following three exercises vary in their effect, effort required and duration. Each will require you to make a diligent effort to perform.
Types of Breathwork: Structure and Timing
4-4-6-2 Breath (Victory Breath)
This breathwork technique is very useful for both short-term and long-term benefits. It is ideal to perform this exercise two times per day, over a two week period to notice the full benefits of this work. Here is how the cycle works:
Get into a seated or standing position with your shoulders back and chest out. You should be able to comfortably expand your chest and your diaphragm. Begin by breathing slowly in through your nose for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, and then out again through your nose for 6 seconds and then again holding at the bottom of the exhale for 2 seconds, before you begin the next cycle.
10-20-30 Breath (The Neutralizer)
This is my personal favorite breathwork technique. This can be used for when you need absolute focus or absolute calm. In those states where our stress and anxiety is high, or our mood is low, this practice quickly restores stability to our state of being. Here is how the cycle works:
Begin similar to before by standing or sitting with your shoulders back and your chest out. It is really important for this exercise to be able to take FULL breaths. To give you a sense of what each breath should feel like, take a deep and quick inhale through your mouth (yes, do that now) and then exhale fully through your mouth again. It should be felt and heard as you're taking in a lot of air then exhaling a lot. So, begin by doing this 10 times. Breathing deeply in for 10 rounds (in-out through the mouth). After the 10th out breath, take in 1 large breath through the mouth again and hold it for as long as you can. Once this threshold is reached, exhale the breath and relax for 10 seconds. Then begin the cycle again for 20 rounds (in-out through the mouth). After the 20th out breath, take in 1 large breath through the mouth again and hold it for as long as you can. Repeat again for 30 breaths. At the end of this exercise you might feel light headed, tingly, and faint but also energized, focused grounded and relaxed.
3-1 (The Relaxer)
I really enjoy teaching this technique because it has immediate and very tangible effects on our state of being. It's quite simple and activates the parasympathetic nervous which can take us out of a state of stress and hyper-vigilance. Here is how the cycle works:
Breath in through the nose for 3 seconds. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale through the mouth for 9 seconds. Repeat this process 6-12 times. You should be able to feel greater relaxation, greater peace and more joy. It's quite an effective tool.
Take Away: What is Breathwork & When Should You Use It?
Breathwork is an outstanding tool for raising your overall sense of well-being, joy and harmony in your life. The key is, like any practice to be consistent and use it both as a regular part of a morning or evening routine, in addition to using it as needed. There is far more to this practice than can be explained in one article so encourage you to read more, or send me a message to understand how we can raise your vibration with this powerful and highly effective method.