What is breathwork and why should you do it? Breath work is a way to change your breathing pattern and influence your physical and emotional wellbeing. Breathwork is from Eastern practices such as yoga and tai chi practices. In the 60’s and 70’s breathwork was really popular, but like a lot of trendy things, it didn’t stay in fashion. Years later, when people started focusing on more health conscious activities, breathwork became popular again and for good reason.
Why is breathwork an important tool, especially in today’s world? Today, many of us, including children are dealing with a ton of stress. What we don’t do well, is cope with that stress. When we are stressed, our breathing pattern changes and we breathe shorter and faster, thereby triggering our fight or flight system, the sympathetic system, getting us ready to fight danger or flee from it, and most likely it is a danger that is not even there. Triggering our fight or flight system and increasing our cortisol hormone creates different problems, including anxiety and maladaptive ways of coping with anxiety. I will explore and write more about cortisol and what happens when you have increased levels in your body.
The thing about breathwork, and what I love about it, is that it is free, can be used by anyone and anywhere, as well as it doesn’t take that much time or it can take as much time as you want. When you change your breathing, you trigger your parasympathetic system and that tells you that you are safe and you can relax and calm down.
To me, breathwork is a form of mindfulness. Just like there are many categories of mindfulness, such as yoga and meditation, and even many types within each sub group of mindfulness, there are different types of breathwork. Some of them, ok many of them, I don’t know much about. My favorite breathwork technique is 4-7-8 breathing and diaphragmatic breathing. I like these because they are easy to do and they work. You can also do square breathing or box breathing which is where you breathe in as you trace the side of a square/box, then pause on the next side, then exhale, pause on the next side to complete the square.
4-7-8 breathing are the counts you use as you inhale, pause, and exhale. Basically, you inhale to a count of 4. Once you do that, it is extremely important to pause so that you slow down your breathing. The exhale should be longer than your inhale, hopefully twice as long.
Diaphragmatic breathing is when you focus on allowing your lungs to fully expand and fully exhale. Basically, you sit in a comfortable position and put one had on your chest and one hand on your belly. As you inhale and exhale, your stomach should move, but your chest should remain still. You want to inhale slowly through tour nose, and exhale slowly through pursed lips.
It needs to be said that you should always talk to your doctor before pursuing anything like this. I am not a doctor. Breathwork is not a reason to skip work with a trained professional, but a technique that goes along with working with a physician, therapist, or psychiatrist. I love using my breath to help me calm down and relax. I use it when I’m stressed in the car, when I can’t sleep, or any other time I am stressed.
Try changing your breathing. Does it help? Do you already use your breathing to help you cope with stress?