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Breathwork in Australia: A New Trend in Holistic Health & Well-being


Facing the 'Great Burnout' in Australia? Dive into why busy professionals around the world are turning to Breathwork, your body's natural solution! The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown are still very much alive and causing residual problems. Australian workers are in poorer physical and mental health since the pandemic across all ages and stages. And prime-aged workers — those between 25 and 55 — are reporting the greatest burnout. In fact, over the past year reports show employee burnout has almost doubled! There is a lot to be said for why this is but the fact remains, Australians are not doing well when it comes to overall happiness and workplace well-being. If we take a look at some of the mental health statistics in general we see that every year about 1 in every 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. Almost half the population has experienced a mental health disorder at some time in their life. Rates of depression, anxiety, suicide and self-harm are on the rise. This is especially true of men who commit suicide at a rate 3 times more than women. The Australian healthcare system and Medicare can be inefficient, ineffective and not able to properly support the holistic well-being of those who really need it. Breathwork is a wonderfully beneficial practice for those looking to improve physical, mental and spiritual health. 


Breathwork in Australia

"Take a moment to inhale deeply, letting the soothing air extinguish the burn of fear in your lungs. Each breath is a beautiful refusal to be anything less than infinite." – D. Antoinette Foy

As a wellness coach I have absolutely fallen in love with breathwork. I have trained over

10, 000 professionals and corporate executives in various topics around leadership, wellness and performance and these days I never go to a single workshop or training without introducing breathwork. Intentional breathing exercises can help executives distress and achieve peak performance, two things which are desperately needed at the corporate level now. I wrote this article to inspire those who are looking to take action on their well-being to consider breathwork and all the myriad ways it can help them.


Breathing is essential to life, we know this all too well. However, when we consciously regulate or control our breathing within controlled timeframes, it can create outstanding positive health benefits which can be experienced immediately. In this article we will look at the science of breathwork, its ancient origins, mindful breathing, breathing techniques, and how it can be used to improve performance. I really believe there is a strong future for corporate breathwork and I’d like to make a compelling case to see more workshops. 

Let’s begin with some questions: 


  1. Are you finding yourself stressed and overwhelmed at work? 

  2. Struggling to meet deadlines and handle the pressures of delivering? 

  3. Having noticeable reductions in energy? 

  4. Do you feel burned out both inside and outside of work?


If so, it might be time to take your breath seriously.The corporate world today is fast-paced, complex and ever-changing. Throw this on top of the already “stress activating” conditions of corporate life, professionals and executives are longing for relief. There are so many tools and techniques out there like mindfulness, reiki, massage, etc. but none of them in my opinion come close to as powerful as breathwork. 


My Breathwork Story 

“The wisest one word sentence? Breathe.” 


Breathwork Origins

I am a certified breathwork instructor and somatic therapist. My background in yoga, Buddhism and alternative medicine is extensive and it all started when I had to heal myself from several very severe physical and mental health challenges. I came across breathwork about 3 years ago when I was in a low place in my life. I needed something that was really effective and transformational. I took several programs about Pranayama, breathing, breathwork, and various kinds of deep Zen meditation. The impact was very positive and very immediate. I noticed physical symptoms I’d had for years subsiding, an increase in energy, an expanded resilience, lowered stress and overall calmness. Alos, it helped with focus, executive function and emotional release. It took continued practice (which is ongoing) and further training to help really familiarize myself with the techniques, the science and the benefits. Breathwork is now an integral part of my life and my daily routine and I simply do not go a  day without it. I continue to find it remarkable how such a simple exercise can substantially improve our lives in so many ways. This has, in no small measure, greatly influenced the way I want to take my career and how I want to empower others. I encourage everyone to explore the world of intentional breathing to reap its positive effects on both physical and mental well-being. Over the past few years I have continuously evolved my understanding of breathwork, its impacts and how Western science is starting to explain (in Western terms) the ancient wisdom that was understood by the original pioneers from India and Tibet. In summary, breathwork is the switch in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS consists of two branches. The first is the “fight-or-flight” (sympathetic branch). The second is the rest & digest (parasympathetic branch). Breathwork can transition us between the two rapidly and this results in enhanced capacity to regulate stress, emotions, fear and other fluctuations. This is incredibly powerful as, in essence, it gives us control over our body and unconscious mind. 


Can Breathwork Be Used for Stress Management? 

"When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still." – Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Breathwork for Stress Management

Breathing is so often taken for granted in our personal and professional lives that it almost seems “too easy.” That is exactly the truth. Breathing, when consciously regulated, can create substantial changes in our mental and physical well-being. In the corporate realm, stress, pressure and conflicts are constant and breathing is a wonderful way to help mitigate these challenges. Keep in mind, wherever we go, our breath follows (it has to) so why not get it right. I have always found it interesting how breathwork has not yet been a cornerstone for the well-being of every corporate team but it’s never too late to do the right thing. 


Scientific Reasons to Believe in Breathwork

"All chronic pain, suffering, and diseases are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level." – Dr. Arthur C. Guyton

The International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that practicing deep breathing exercises for just 15 minutes a day can significantly reduce stress and increase feelings of calmness in the workplace. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, including breathing exercises, enhance job performance, reduce exhaustion, and increase job satisfaction. Deep breathing exercises improve cognitive function, including attention, memory, and decision-making skills more accurately known as executive functioning. Slow, deep breathing increases heart rate variability (your ability to go between the two branches of the ANS) which contributes to improved emotional regulation, reduced stress, and better mental and physical health. 


Examples of How Breathwork Can Help Stressed Out Professionals in Australia

“There’s no single more powerful or simpler daily practice to further your health and well-being than breathwork.” - Dr.Andrew Weil

Thankfully, there is no debate about the benefits of breathwork, no matter where in the world you are, and not matter what stressful job you may have. The research is resoundingly positive and has been taught for over 2500 years which easily allows it to pass the “test of time.” The original name for breathwork is Pranayama which is a sanskrit word. Prana means “life force or energy” and yama means “control or regulate.” Today we have additional methods like Buteyko, Wim Hof, DMT, and Box breathing. Notably, many of these methods draw inspiration from pranayama, showcasing the universal relevance of intentional breathing. Breathwork is really for anyone. Doctors, lawyers, mothers, CEOs, accountants, engineers and many others. It’s not so much about who but more the HOW. Breathwork has so many different ways it can help, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Here are some breathing exercises to enhance performance:


1. Deep Belly Breathing

  • Sit or lie comfortably.

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, expanding the lower belly 

  • Hold your breath for a moment.

  • Exhale slowly through your mouth or nose, slowly releasing lower belly pressure 

  • Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes or until calm. 

Best used for: Deep relaxation, grounding, emotional regulation. 


2. Box Breathing

  • Find a quiet place to sit upright.

  • Close your eyes and breathe normally for a few moments.

  • Inhale through your nose for a count of four.

  • Hold your breath for another count of four.

  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for four counts.

  • Hold your breath again for a count of four.

  • Continue this pattern for 5-10 minutes.

Best used for: Improving focus, reducing stress, preparing for work.


3. Breathwork for Sleep and Relaxation 


  • Find a place to sit, stand or lie down 

  • Close your eyes (open is also ok) and breathe through your nose for 3 seconds 

  • Exhale through your mouth for 9 seconds 

  • Repeat this for at least 12 rounds 

Best used for: Reducing anxiety, reducing stress, improving sleep 


4. Breathwork for High Performance 

  • You can lie on your back or sit in an erect posture 

  • Begin by breathing firmly through the nose, twice in succession 

  • Exhale slowly through the mouth for 6-9 seconds 

  • Repeat this for 3-5 minutes 

Best used for: Improving focus, reducing anxiety, improving performance, clearing the mind, increasing peace and happiness, increasing creativity, improving executive function. 


5. Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.

  • Place your left hand on your knee.

  • Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and inhale slowly through the left nostril.

  • Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, release the right nostril and exhale.

  • Inhale through the right nostril, close it and exhale through the left.

  • Continue this alternating pattern for several minutes.

Best used for: Deep  relaxation, balance and comfort


6. Humming Bee Breath

  • Keep lips gently closed, and inhale through the nose.

  • Exhale, making a steady "hmmm" sound with your lips.

  • Visualize stress leaving the body as you exhale the humming breath.

  • Repeat this process for 30-60 seconds.

Best use for: Deep relaxation, grounding and focus 


Each technique is a way to regulate the state of the nervous system. As discussed in other articles it has so many benefits and ultimately provides a sense of calm, clarity and connection. The beauty of breathwork lies in its simplicity and its efficacy. You really do get the most “bang for your buck.” 


Integrating Breathing Practices into Your Daily Life

Reading about breathwork and breathwork practices is entirely different than having a stable and effective daily practice. The following tips have helped me a lot in developing this and I believe it can help you as well. 


  • Start Your Day with Breathwork: Begin each morning with 10-15 minutes of breathwork. If you are pressed for time try one of the more powerful techniques such as “Breathwork for High Performance.” 

  • Breathing Pauses: One thing we are doing all day anyways is breathing. Make it a deliberate practice to conscious practice such as before exiting you car or when you get up from your desk. 

  • Breathing Break: Deliberately take time in your day to have a breathwork session. This ensures you are prioritizing your health and giving it a chance to really benefit you.  

I have found incorporating breathing exercises into my daily routine incredibly beneficial. Regular practice has not only helped me manage acute stress but has also improved my overall sense of well-being and focus.


Nasal Breathing

“When you win your breath, nobody can steal your peace.” - Unknown 

The significance of nose breathing cannot be overstated. James Nestor's book, "Breath," explores its impact on physical and mental well-being, emphasizing its benefits:


  1. Filters the air: The nose cleans, warms, and humidifies the air, ensuring it's clean and moist before reaching the lungs.

  2. Nitric oxide production: The nasal cavity produces nitric oxide, crucial for regulating blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and improving circulation.

  3. Improved oxygen uptake: Nose breathing enhances oxygen uptake, utilizing the nasal cycle to regulate airflow and improve oxygen delivery to the lungs.

  4. Stress reduction: Nose breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

  5. Better sleep: Nose breathing improves sleep quality by minimizing snoring and sleep apnea, leading to more restful sleep.


Corporate Embrace of Breathwork


Many corporations have embraced breathwork as a tool to enhance performance and well-being:


  • Google: Offers meditation and mindfulness classes, including breathing exercises, to increase focus, creativity, and productivity.

  • Nike: Incorporates mindfulness training and breathing exercises in its corporate wellness program, resulting in stress management and improved overall well-being.

  • General Mills: Provides yoga and meditation classes, including breathwork, reducing stress and absenteeism while enhancing productivity and satisfaction.

  • Intel: Implements the "Quiet Time" program, including mindfulness and breathing exercises, to boost focus, creativity, and problem-solving skills. I was personally involved in training and Intel senior team in stress management. 

Conclusion


"For breath is life, so if you breathe well, you will live long on the earth." – Sanskrit Proverb


Breathwork, in my opinion, is indeed going to transform the future of the wellness industry for the better. It helps professionals and corporate executives get immediate relief around stress while also profoundly improving many areas of their overall well-being. People who practice breathwork regularly can expect to achieve increased focus, heightened concentration, improved energy levels, and better decision making. In addition, they will experience stress reduction, enhanced cognitive function, better immune health, improved mental health and overall quality of life. If you are an Australian who forms part of the depressing statistics mentioned in the start of the article, you  can be more assured that you don’t need to suffer unnecessarily and can take your mental health back into your hands using the power of breathwork. 


I have personally experienced the transformational impact of breathwork and I am committed to sharing my experience with as many people as I can. Through breathwork, meditation, stress management and Zen Leadership programs, I plan on making intentional breathing a part of your daily routine so you too can experience the transformative capacities and live a healthier, happier and more emotionally stable life.


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