In terms of science, breathing is loosely viewed as drawing in oxygen and letting out carbon dioxide and other unused gases. It is the process in which we replenish the body with oxygen to be used in vital biological systems such as the digestive, circulatory, excretory and the respiratory systems. It helps keep the cells healthy and in great shape for the general wellbeing of the body.
Breathwork is not so different. It teaches an understanding and mastery of the breathing patterns to yield benefits beyond the physical. It influences your body physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually to give a therapeutic effect.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is essentially any exercise that trains you to control your breathing by manipulating the rate and volume of your breath. It aims at making it a lot more than just a physiological process, but rather a synchronized and coordinated exercise that alters you physical, mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It goes beyond the ‘take a deep breathe’ approach that almost everyone has heard at some point in their life to a more meaningful process with more and longer-lasting benefits.
During breathwork exercises, most people have described feeling a distinct sensation through their bodies and a sense of relaxation that is also defined by people who practice other relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation. They have also been said to bring about some clarity, a better connection between the body and the mind, and a better focus on one’s emotional health.
Breathwork exercise can last anywhere between twenty minutes to two hours or even more for individuals who do it most intensively. It involves a variety of exercises with different intensity and processes depending on the target results. There are various types of breathwork, but we shall explore the difference between meditation and breathwork before checking that out.
Difference Between Mediation and Breathwork
Just like meditation, breathwork seems to have been around for centuries, way before people had studied enough science to be able to explain the connection between breathing and their emotions. In ancient Chinese and Indian societies, it was practised by monks and basically anyone else who knew how alongside yoga and meditation for the same benefits as today but even more profoundly, for the anticipated spiritual wellbeing. It is, however, essential to point out that breathwork has a few differences from meditation.
While most meditation practices solely observe breathing in its natural form, breathwork focuses on it more intensely. It seeks to change the breathing patterns deliberately and incorporate different breathing patterns at each time. Meditation works with the calmness of the mind to get the best clarity, while breathwork focuses on connecting the mind to the individual’s breathing to touch emotions and memories.
The two can easily be used together to increase the accrued benefits. One can incorporate some breathwork exercises into their meditation or yoga routines as long as they have enough mastery or guidance to do so without getting distracted or losing track of their progress.
Types of Breathwork
There are many different approaches to breathwork. Some are relatively uncomplicated; others involve several steps. Some differ with the instructor, and others stay the same. Here are some of the most common types of breathwork:
A shaman is a spiritual practitioner who is said to connect to the spiritual realm of both good and evil through various altered states of consciousness. Shamanic breathwork revolves around this concept with the aim of awakening your inner Shaman. It aims at reconnecting with your mind and soul to heal and let go of dysfunctional patterns.
The process is considered highly experimental, and the benefits will depend on each individual’s experience and capacity.
Vivation Breathwork is a technique that can be learned to quickly to help resolve any sort of negative energy or trauma that an individual is going through. It is said to work by reconnecting the individual with their true feelings so they can separate themselves from the negative. It revolves around five elements, namely circular breathing, complete relaxation, awareness in detail. Integration into ecstasy and doing whatever you want, knowing that your will is enough. Some of the proclaimed benefits of Vivation include:
- Permanent stress reduction
- Encouraging positive thinking
- Dealing with grief in a healthy way
- Improving your mediation
Holotropic breathwork revolves around reaching a certain level of self-empowerment and wisdom that brings about a positive transformation using breathwork. It aims at accessing and acknowledging inner intelligence to allow healing and encourage positive growth. The tern Holotrophic is derived from the Greek words holos which means whole and Trepein, which means moving towards. Collectively, the word holotropic means moving towards a state of wholeness.
The benefits of holotropic breathwork include:
- Giving clarity to matters
- Healing past traumas
- Letting go of negative energy and embracing positive thoughts
Is breathwork healthy?
Breathwork comes with its numerous benefits which are, in fact, scientifically proven. It is a recommendable practise for anyone who is dealing with anxiety, grief, depression, anger control issues and other emotional difficulties. It is, however, vital that you consult with your doctor or physician if you:
- Have had a history with breathing problems
- Are experiencing any cardiovascular problems
- Have a history of getting aneurysms
- Have recently had surgery or deep physical injuries especially those that are affecting your breathing
- Have shown psychiatric symptoms
- Are on any medication that affects your breathing
In conclusion, breathwork is a harmless way of reconnecting with your inner self and understanding yourself deeply. Backed by science, it has several benefits that are guaranteed to put you in a better physical, emotional, mental and spiritual state. If you have any concerns about the risks or complications, make sure that you consult with your doctor and get approval before getting started. There are also a variety of breathwork techniques, so you should make a point of trying as many as you can until you find the one that works for you. Good luck!