“Just breathe” or “Take a deep breath”
We’ve all be told one of these at least once in our lives, usually when we are stressed, upset, angry, emotional, overwhelmed, or any other excitable state. But what if it were more than just a saying?
Breathing is a crucial function to living and impacts many other body systems. One example is when we change our breath pattern, we can influence our heart rate. Our breath is also a key influencer on our autonomic nervous system which is responsible for states of activation and excitement or relaxation and calm. These are more specifically referred to as the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze response) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, and heal response). This is exactly the reason we are told to ‘take a breath’ when we are excited – a slow controlled breath signals to the body that it is not in danger and relaxes the system.
What is breathwork? Quite simply put, it is breathing with intention. Since breathing is an automatic and controlled function, we often do not think about how we are breathing or IF we are breathing. But our breath is very impactful to other functions in our body and impacts our state of mind as well. Through breathwork, we consciously use the breath to shift our state of wellbeing. Breathwork or controlled intentional breathing is often used in Pilates and yoga – though the breath is secondary to the movement, whereas specific breathwork practices do not focus on movement and are usually done lying down.
What to expect in a breathwork session? There are two types of breathwork practices: Integrative (less than 8 minutes) and Meditative (more than 8 minutes). Integrative sessions are great to use in your day to day life, you can do some quick breathing at your desk, while on a walk, first thing in the morning or right before bed and the best thing about breathwork is it requires no tools or special setup. Meditative sessions are more intricate and it is encouraged these are facilitated by a trained professional. In a meditative session, you will be lying down, the facilitator will guide you through different breath patterns and the goal is that you only focus on your breathing. As indicated by the name, in these longer sessions we can get into a meditative state (if you struggle to keep your mind quiet or from wandering during a traditional meditation, breathwork is a great option for you). Many people come out a meditative breathwork session feeling refreshed, their mind is clear, they may feel emotional through a session or they may feel a sense of pure relaxation. Another great thing about breathwork is no two sessions will be the same, but consistent practice helps keep the mind and body connected.
Want to give it a try? Book a 1:1 Virtual Breathwork Session with me.