A Beginner's Guide to Breathwork
Breathwork is a form of meditation that—as its name suggests—uses breath to calm the mind. In a lot of ways, the common phrase of telling someone to breathe through something difficult is actually rooted in science. And, when done properly, this practice can have a bounty of benefits. Keep reading to discover how to work this grounding practice into your daily routine.
The Benefits of Breathwork
Did you know that breathing mindfully can affect a handful of internal health mechanisms? According to Kundalini breathwork and meditation teacher Erika Polsinelli, by tuning into your breath, you tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body at rest. "When we do this, we calm every system," she explains. In the presence of more oxygen, lung capacity also expands, notes Polsinelli—and there's a mental health element to consider, too. "By practicing breathwork, we can help bring in emotional healing and release stored emotions and traumas from the past," she adds. "We can also activate and enhance our intuition. This happens due to the activation of the glandular system."
Like meditation, different types of breathwork deliver a variety of benefits. Depending on the exercise you perform, Breathwrk CEO and co-founder Max Gomez notes that this practice can help with everything from lowering blood pressure and pulse to alleviating stress and improving oxygen efficiency. While many breathwork exercises are rooted in calming the mind and body, he says that some can stimulate your body like a cup of coffee to help increase focus and energy and elevate mood.
Looking to give it a try? Luckily, Gomez and Polsinelli were able to share some of their favorite techniques. First, decompress with some long, deep breathing. "Sit up with a straight spine, inhale through the nose, fill the chest and belly up with the breath, and then exhale by drawing the navel back towards the spine and releasing the breath out," Polsinelli instructs. "You can continue this for just three minutes and will experience a great [body-mind] shift!" Or, try segmented breathing. "Another form of breathwork that helps to alleviate stress is breathing in in eight segmented breaths through the nose, and exhaling out for one long, deep breath through the nose," Polsinelli says. "Imagine taking eight sniffs in and one long deep breath out. This helps to remove stress from the body, relax the mind, and cleanse any energy out of your aura."
And don't forget to focus on your exhale: Much like segmented breathing, this technique, which is one of Gomez's favorites, features a longer exhale. "The exercises you can do to alleviate stress on the body and mind typically follow a ratio where your exhale is longer than your inhale," he explains. "A quick and easy one we teach is the 'calm' exercise. Sit or lay down flat in a comfortable position. Breathe in through your nose, expanding your belly on the inhale for four seconds. Breath out through your mouth, flattening your belly, for six seconds. Repeat three to six times or as long as you'd like. You can feel this one pretty fast." Another quick trick? Breathe through your left nostril only. Shockingly enough, this focused breathing type can be hugely beneficial. "Our nostrils activate different energies within our bodies, so by breathing through the left nostril we are telling the body to slow and calm down," Polsinelli shares.
Integrate Breathwork Into Your Daily Life
Here's the best part: Breathwork can help enhance your daily life—all day, every day. "Breathwork can awaken you to a whole new perspective," Polsinelli says. "By taking time to tune into yourself, you can heal your emotional traumas, frustrations, anger, and become more clear on who you truly are. From this, each of your relationships will grow with new perspective and understanding. Breathwork is also very beneficial in moments of stress or that trigger us. Our breath fuels our thoughts—by controlling your breath, you can have more power over your thoughts. And when we have power over our thoughts, we can create a life that we truly want."