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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

Breathwork - and its benefits for mind, body and soul

Updated: May 8

You may have heard recently about breathwork – as it is becoming increasingly popular in the West as a holistic remedy and antidote to the stress and anxiety of burn-out culture. But breathwork isn’t new – just like many other spiritual practices including yoga and meditation, it’s been around for thousands of years.

It is thought that breathwork as it is now started life as pranayama. ‘Prana’ meaning ‘energy’ or ‘life force’ ‘Yama’ meaning ‘to regulate or lengthen’ in Sanskrit – breathwork in yoga brings us back to the body and calms, focuses and quietens the mind. But Pranayama is just one type of breathwork.

Now, many modern teachers have emerged sharing the benefits of breathwork in different ways. Wim Hof and Judith Kravitz are big names you might have heard of who have their own special breathwork methods designed to bring calm and clarity of mind.

TIME Magazine hailed breathwork ‘the fastest way to calm down’ – and since it can be done discreetly anytime, anywhere, it is perfect for anyone suffering with anxiety or stress-related illness.

Breathwork and modern medicine

If you’ve tried breathwork before, it may have been at a yoga studio or meditation centre. But now breathwork is becoming more mainstream and is even being recommended by medical professionals for patients with anxiety and breathing difficulties.

Breathwork has many benefits for our health – from detoxification to helping us cope with stress and anxiety. In recent years various scientific studies have proven the effects of breathwork on mind and body – supporting its inclusion in a variety of holistic medical treatment pathways. There are no side-effects of breathwork, so it’s safe to use for everybody, even children and elderly people (although caution and advice should be taken if you have serious illness or are pregnant or breastfeeding).

The benefits of breathwork are expansive – too many to cover in just one blog, but I have included a brief overview of the positive effects below.

Benefits of breathwork for the mind

Breathwork is perhaps best known for its positive mental effects. It helps us to feel calmer and more grounded. Scientific studies have provided a number of insights into how this happens – and research shows that breathwork supports increased levels of happiness and relaxation in a number of ways.

Breathwork releases a number of endorphins which promote feelings of happiness, calm and relaxation, as well as slowing down the mind, reducing ‘monkey chatter’ and promoting theta brainwaves which help us to feel more restful and peaceful.

Benefits of breathwork for the body

Because breathwork activates the parasympathetic nervous system, it slows down the heart rate and lowers our blood pressure. This is wonderful for anyone suffering with chronic stress, as it brings us into a state of healing and ‘rest and digest’, supporting better sleep and higher energy levels.

Breathwork also helps us to breathe better. Many of us have become accustomed to shallow breathing, taking deep breaths intermittently. This over time can affect our lung capacity and cause us to feel breathless – especially those with lung disease or anyone prone to panic attacks. When we breathe from the belly and diaphragm with the whole body, rather than just with the chest, we increase lung capacity and ensure a rich supply of oxygen to the body, revitalising cells and enhancing physical function of the organs and blood flow.

Our lungs are one of the five organs of detoxification – so breathing fully is also an important way for our body to remove toxins and waste products. Through a regular breathwork practice we can support this process, which in turn can help with the physical symptoms of a variety of illnesses, especially chronic illnesses and autoimmune conditions.

Benefits of breathwork for the soul

Breathwork has a variety of important spiritual benefits beyond enhancing physical and emotional health. It is said to bring about greater conscious and unconscious awareness, raise our vibrational frequency and enable us to experience the world with greater clarity from a spiritual perspective. Breathwork can also be used to open our ‘third eye’, enabling us to deepen our intuition and access our spiritual gifts.

Many people find that their minds are ‘too busy’ or distracted to meditate – breathwork can assist with this through slowing down the body and mind enough for us to relax even for several minutes and is a great meditation aid.

Additional benefits of breathwork include:

  • Trauma release

  • Improved sleep

  • Pain relief

  • Improved digestion

  • Enhanced exercise performance

  • Reduced fear and negative beliefs

  • Enhanced creativity

  • Reduced feelings of anger, grief and depression

How do I start practicing breathwork?

One of the wonderful things about breathwork is how easy it is to learn and get started. You don’t need to go to a specialist teacher or class to try breathwork – although this may help, especially if you’re completely new to it.

You’ll find lots of videos on YouTube and social media channels sharing quick and easy breathwork practices to get you started. If you find yourself easily distracted or struggle with breathwork, you only need to try a few minutes at a time to start feeling the benefits.

There are also a number of apps you can download on your phone including – these help you to time your breaths and keep to a count without having to count in your head. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace incorporate breathwork, too.

If you’d like to learn more about breathwork and its benefits for anxiety and breathlessness, take a look at my blogs here. Breathwork is also a key part of my Cancer Wellness Packages

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