With so much going on in our everyday lives, who really has time to stop and breathe? Unfortunately, this lack of intentional breathing has left us anxiety-prone, stressed, and out of tune with our true purpose and inner selves.
Enter breathwork meditation: a form of active breathing to help shift the focus inwards, regulate our state of mind, and create a sense of calm and purpose. It may even prevent certain disease states, like depression and anxiety.
What Is Breathwork?
Breathwork is a form of active meditation utilizing breathing techniques. The International Breathwork Foundation (IBF) defines the practice as, “a dynamic body-mind practice using conscious connected breathing techniques for inner peace, enhanced health, wellbeing and personal transformation.”
As opposed to simply taking deep breaths, practicing breathwork meditation is active breathing and utilization of breath as a tool for self-healing.
“This particular breathing pattern moves stuck energy, allows us to let go of the mind, and opens the heart,” says breathwork teacher and founder of Pushing Beauty, Michelle D’Avella.
How to Practice A Simple Breathwork Meditation
There are many ways to practice breathwork including guided breathwork with practitioners, group workshops, and self-guided meditations. We’ve broken down a simple way to get in tune with your breath below that takes less than 15 minutes, thanks to D’Avella.
First, find a quiet and comfy place where you won’t be distracted or disturbed. This also means placing your phone and other devices out of reach. Next, put on a playlist with three of your favorite songs. “Try to let the first two songs be more up beat and the last soothing,” D’Avella notes. “Anything that suits your taste.”
Lie comfortably on your back and close your eyes. If you have an eye mask or towel, use that. Close your eyes and breathe for the first two songs.
D’Avella instructs, “Breathe the first inhale into your low belly and then take in a second inhale into your heart. Exhale the entire breath through the mouth completely,” she says.
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“Let the breath fall out of the body. Do not push it out. You should be able to visibly see your belly and chest expand as you breathe.”
Notice what’s coming up in your body through the first two songs. “After a few minutes you should feel your body tingling. That’s your energy moving. Let it do its thing,” D’Avella says.
“This work is about letting go. The only thing you have to do is breathe. If you feel tightness or tension place your awareness there and breathe into it. Be willing to let go.”
After two songs play, D’Avella says to switch it up. “Once the third song begins release the breath and begin to breathe in and out of the nose. Let your body vibrate here for as long as you like,” she says.
Practice this breathwork meditation once a day, if you’d like. Because the practice is so quick, it can be done whenever you find space throughout the day.
Does Breathwork Meditation Really Work?
Breathwork meditation sounds nice, but does it really work?
Songwriter and meditation and breathwork facilitator Bob Sima notes that breathwork practices help to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve metal clarity and focus, and elevate mood, among other benefits. “Most of us are in constant, low-grade stress and we tend to breathe shallow and quickly,” Sima says.
“Deep and conscious breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which kicks off the natural relaxation response. This is the exact opposite of a stress response. Breathe slower, deeper, and more consciously to reduce anxiety,” he notes.
Studies show that breathwork truly does work. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy found that breathwork is a useful tool in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
This 2015 study found that participation in breath body mind workshops, a form of guided breathwork and meditation, was associated with “significant improvements in psychological and physical symptoms, quality of life, and C-reactive protein,” a market of inflammation. Practicing regulated breathing practices, the study notes, “may have significant long-lasting benefits for IBD symptoms, anxiety, depression, quality of life, and inflammation.”
Breathing based meditation is also associated with decreased posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in U.S. military veterans, according to this 2014 study.
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