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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Essence of Breathwork

Apr 28, 2023 09:31AM ● By Martha Kein
In this modern era filled with stress and anxiety, breathwork helps people calm down, focus and achieve better health. There are many reasons why breathwork is trending right now, and how it’s used to naturally boost both mental and physical health and well-being.

Breathwork as Meditation

Breathwork has recently become quite popular, yet there may be misconceptions about it. Often, people associate this “new trend” of breathing exercises and breathing to heal with meditation practices. But this is not exactly accurate. Breathwork is a field all its own. While closely affiliated and often confused with yoga and meditation, breathwork and breathing exercises can be done effectively without combining them with other physical or mental exercise practices. Breathwork stands alone as a healing modality and tool for physical and mental fitness. By regulating our breathing through various techniques, we can improve our overall health. Breathwork consists of breathing exercises, done with or without meditation, that will help achieve balance with our body and mind.

We can think of breathwork exercises as lifeblood enhancers since they increase the capability of the body to bring in more oxygen. People won’t realize the power of breathwork until they try it. It’s one of the most uncomplicated and natural ways to enhance our mental, physical and spiritual health.

History Of Breathwork

Over the centuries, people have pursued mental well- being through various meditative practices. Breathwork resurfaced from diverse ancient cultures and religions. It’s mostly rooted in the Eastern practices of tai chi, Buddhism or yoga, but historically it also includes qigong, Sufism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity and even martial arts. Apart from the obvious “spiritual” benefits, breathwork has gained popularity for its guaranteed health benefits.

Western civilization did not place much value on breathwork until the 1960s. Since then, many techniques have been introduced and deemed effective, and breathwork has become a “new” activity that has caught on around the world.

Health Benefits of Breathing Exercises

While breathwork is often confused with yoga, it is just as powerful and has just as many health benefits. Many medical doctors are now recommending breathwork as a supplement to traditional Western medications. By simply learning some new techniques to control our breath through alternating patterns, lengths, inhalation, exhalation or even retention, we can reduce our stress levels and our heart rate and relax.

Breathwork Calms and Relaxes

We can achieve a peaceful mental state by practicing breathwork. The method allows us to intake more oxygen into our bloodstream and breathe out toxins. Then, increased oxygenated blood flow helps calm our nerves which helps relax our thoughts when we are stressed or anxious, and it will also help increase our performance levels.

Breathwork Encourages Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to paying attention to the present without any judgment or negative thinking. It helps us gain control over our emotions and stay stress free. Also, breathing exercises focus on present-time breathing which works as a mindfulness practice.

Breathwork Strengthens Lungs

The lungs are a vital organ of our bodies that regulate the entire breathing process. Breathwork helps us improve our lung capacity and strengthen our lungs overall. So, we’ll have better oxygen intake, and this promotes better mental and physical health.

Breathwork Improves Sleep

Too much worry and stress can deprive us of sleep, which can have a huge negative impact on our well-being. Breathing exercises can significantly ease our stress and anxiety, which in turn promotes better, more restful sleep.

Some Final Tips

Manipulating our breath for mental and physical well-being is a simple task that takes practice to master. Just as people work with personal trainers at the gym to get a jumpstart on their physical fitness, working with a breathing instructor can help us fast track our breathing workouts and personalize our experience. We can also learn breathwork in online classes or even on YouTube. Enjoy the journey.

Martha Kein is school director of The American Yoga Academy, a world-renowned online yoga teacher training school, that has trained and certified yoga instructors for 30 years, and where all are welcome. For more information, call 973-731-9960 or email info@AmericanYogaAcademy.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

This breathing exercise is known specifically for promoting better sleep, calming nerves and swirling minds, and managing reactive emotions and anxiety. The 4-7-8 Breath is used to promote relaxation and counteract the fight-or-flight nervous response we experience when we are stressed.

For those experiencing racing and swirling thoughts that prevent relaxation and sleep, 4-7-8 Breath can help. Some have even called the technique a natural tranquilizer.

How to Practice 4-7-8 Breath

Inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds and exhale for eight seconds.

Prepare:      Sit in a comfortable, upright position or lay in bed.

                    Place our hands on our knees with palms facing upward.

                    Close our eyes.

Breathe:  INHALE. Breathe through the nose for four seconds.

                    RETAIN. Hold the breath for a count of seven seconds.

                    EXHALE. Exhale forcefully through the nose for eight seconds.

                    REPEAT. Repeat steps one to three.

Check:     Steps one to three constitute one cycle of 4-7-8 Breathing.

                Perform four to eight rounds per sitting. If using this exercise to fall                                               asleep, perform it as long as we feel like doing it.

                The best time to perform this relaxing, tranquilizing exercise is before bed.

Medical and Health Considerations

This breathing exercise is suitable for everyone. However, it may be more difficult for children, pregnant women and elderly people to retain the breath for seven counts and exhale for eight counts. If this happens, just count faster instead of changing the ratio of the breaths.

As with any new exercise, stop it feels uncomfortable. Breathwork is an excellent way to improve health and well-being, although it is not a substitute for medical treatment. Consult a doctor if there’s a medical condition. Enjoy the journey.

Source: Martha Kein, school director of The American Yoga Academy, a world-renowned online yoga teacher training school that has trained and certified yoga instructors for 30 years, and where all are welcome. For more information, call 973-731-9960 or email info@AmericanYogaAcademy.