BREATHWORK: TIPS AND TECHNIQUES TO SUPPORT YOUR WELL-BEING

BREATHWORK: TIPS AND TECHNIQUES TO SUPPORT YOUR WELL-BEING

There is a lot more to breathwork than simply breathing. 

What is breathwork? 

Breathwork is any breathing technique that intentionally manipulates your breathing rhythm in order to alter your physical, mental or emotional well-being. 

breathwork

Why is it useful? 

Intentional breathwork has been used in ancient traditions around the world for centuries. Yoga, Tai Chi and Buddhist practices are heavily anchored in the power and potency of harnessing our breath. Pranayama- the yogic practice of focusing on the breath – is one of the eight integral limbs of the yoga practice and is a fundamental element of the practice. 


Deep breathing is not only relaxing, it has been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system, and maybe even alter gene expression. How cool is that? More importantly, breathwork – when used can correctly - can be used to train the body's reaction to stressful situations, reducing the production of harmful stress hormones in our system and recalibrating our minds.

… and it’s been under our noses this whole time!   


The Science 

Our autonomic nervous system controls bodily functions such as breathing, digestion, blood circulation and heartbeat, among others. It is so named because it works autonomously, i.e. without our conscious control. You cannot control your heartbeat or your digestion, but you can control your breath. This makes breathing unique in that it is a bodily function that can be performed voluntarily and involuntarily. By virtue of this fact, intentional manipulation of our natural breath pattern works as an extremely effective way to “bridge the gap” between our conscious and unconscious minds. 


There more! 

The autonomic nervous system is broken down into two separate divisions: 

  1. Our sympathetic nervous system 
  2. Our parasympathetic nervous system
sympathetic nervous system

 

The sympathetic nervous system oversees our fight-or-flight response. When activated, our breath quickens, our pupils dilate, our heartbeat increases, our digestion is inhibited and our muscles tense. Adrenaline is released by the adrenal glands, and we are ready to fight. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to escape danger.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis. It is also known as our rest-and-digest mode. When activated, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down our breath and heartbeat, relaxes our muscles and brings the body into an overall greater state of calm, encouraging the repair and deep rest that a lot of us need. 


Why is this important? 

Knowing this, we can choose to activate (or deactivate) either of these bodily responses by bringing awareness and consciously controlling the rhythm of our breath, using the power of our mind to effect change in our bodies. 

Yes, please! 

Techniques to try: 

Different techniques have different results. We’ve listed a few yogic practices below. Give them a go and see which fits you best. You might find that you enjoy Bhastrika Breath (“Bellows Breath”) first thing in the morning or Nadi Shodhana (“Alternate Nostril Breathing”) in the evening to wind down. As a general rule; short, rapid breathwork is a great way to charge up while slow, deep breathing is useful to encourage slow down and bring the body (and mind) into a state of deep rest. Even patterns encourage steadiness, feeling grounded and a clear mind. 

  • Box Breath

  • Effect: Equilibrium, Groundedness. Useful to cope with stressful situations or when feeling overwhelmed. Known to assist with insomnia, high blood pressure, increased cortisol levels or everyday cares and concerns. 

    Tip: Sit and observe your natural breathing pattern. Observe the rise and fall of your chest and stomach. If you notice that your chest is rising but your stomach is not, you are shallow breathing. Encourage the tummy to expand on your inhale to activate full relaxation. 

    How to: 

    1. Sit in a comfortable position. Ideally, upright but you can also do this technique lying down with one hand on the chest and one hand on the stomach. 
    2. Breathe as you would normally for a few moments. 
    3. Inhale for a count of four (count slowly!) 
    4. Hold the breath at the top of the inhale for a count of four (if you can). 
    5. Exhale slowly through the mouth for a count of four (again, slowly!)
    6. Hold the breath out for a count of four and repeat. 
    7. Continue for at least 10-20 rounds. 
    8. Release the pattern and observe the effects on your breath, body  and mind. 

    Products to Consider: 

    Lavender or our Juniper Berry Pure Essential Oil blend are ideal to enhance the calming, grounding effects this technique invites.  


    Diffuse in your living space using one of our signature diffusers or rub on pulse points (neck, chest, inner elbow, wrists, back of the knees and ankles) for best results. 

  • Bhastrika Breath – “Bellows Breath” 

  • Effect: Energizes the body and clarifies the mind. If you feel hazy, or like you're moving in slow motion, this is the one for you! Great for increased energy levels. Not so great near bedtime. Use first thing in the morning, during the mid-day slump or prior to a workout for best results.  


    Tip: Bellows breathing is a safe practice, but if you feel light-headed in any way, take a pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round of bellows breathing, slower and with less intensity.

    Bhastrika Breath  Bellows Breath”

    Note: Do not practice Bhastrika breath if you are pregnant, have uncontrolled hypertension, epilepsy, seizures, or panic disorder. You should also avoid practising bellows breath on a full stomach and wait at least two hours after eating.

    How to: 

      1. Sit tall, shoulders relaxed. 
      2. Take a few deep breaths through the nose, ensuring to expand the belly on the inhale and allow the belly to relax on the exhale. 
  • Begin the pattern with a sharp exhale through the nose, followed by a sharp inhale through the nose; exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. (Think: “panting, through the nose”).  
    1. Complete 10 rounds, keeping the head, neck, shoulders still. 
    2. Pump breath through the nose using the belly.  
    3. Take  a 15-30 second break to breathe naturally, observing any sensations in the body and mind. 
    4. Try another round of 20 bellow breaths
    5. Take a break of 30 seconds to breathe naturally and observe. 
    6. Complete with a final round of 30 breaths. 

    Products to consider: 

    Breathe BlendSweet orange, eucalyptus and our Pure Air Essential Oil Collection are ideal to encourage the invigorating lift you may need. 


    Diffuse in your living space using one of our signature diffusers or rub on pulse points (neck, chest, inner elbow, wrists, back of the knees and ankles) for best results.

    1. Nadi Shodhana - Alternate Nostril Breathing 

    Effect: Encourages relaxation and lowers heart rate. 

    Tip: Aim to keep the breath slow, smooth and even throughout. The aim is to anchor the index and middle finger between the eyebrows and use the thumb and ring finger to open and close the nostrils. 

    Note: Avoid this practice if you’re feeling congested. 

    How to: 

    1. Sit tall, shoulders relaxed. 
    2. Lift your dominant hand in front of your face and press your index finger and middle finger between the eyebrows. 
    3. Close your right nostril and inhale through the left. 
    4. Close both nostrils. 
    5. Release the right nostril and breathe – slowly! – out.  
    6. Keep the left nostril closed and inhale through the right.
    7. Close both nostrils. 
    8. Release the left nostril and breathe – slowly! – out. 
    9. Repeat for up to 5 minutes. 
    10. Release the pattern and sit and breathe naturally. 
    11. Observe how you feel. 

    Products to consider: 

    Clary sage, our Calm Essential Oil blend or our Relaxation Collection are a great way to enhance the restorative effects of this technique.   

    Diffuse in your living space using one of our signature diffusers or rub on pulse points (neck, chest, inner elbow, wrists, back of the knees and ankles) for best results.

    essential oils for breathwork

    Conclusion:

    The most effective advice we can give you when embarking on your breathwork journey is “don’t diss it ‘til you try it!” As mentioned, these practices have been around for centuries, and with good cause. We hope you have fun with them. Let us know how you go! 


    Author's Bio

    leah egan brand educator

    Leah is an experienced yoga instructor with almost a decade’s experience teaching meditation, yoga and holistic care. She is trained in Myo-Fascial Release, Vinyasa Flow, Hatha and Yin Yoga. She is also a certified Reiki TUMMO healer, ayurvedic yoga masseuse, life coach and mentor. She can be found on Instagram and Facebook or at www.leahegan.com


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