Is Breathwork The New Meditation? 5 Reasons This Instructor Believes It's More Useful
A deep belly breath, despite its simplicity, can be profound. We've always been familiar with the power of our breath—there's a reason the advice is to "take deep breaths" when we feel overwhelmed or stressed out, and virtually every yoga practice recognizes the importance of a balanced breath.
But breathwork has become so much more than a simple inhale-exhale. (We even predicted back 2018 that breathwork would become an advanced alternative to meditation.) And according to Usui Reiki Master and Certified Teacher of David Elliott Breathwork Gwen Dittmar, breathwork is quickly becoming a go-to method of choice for clearing negative thoughts and balancing energy.
"Breathwork can help you access what you're feeling in the body energetically and emotionally versus reaching into the mind," she tells me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
While meditation will always stay near and dear to our hearts, we suspect breathwork is on the rise for the following five reasons. It's easy, free, and universal—a triple threat, we'd say.
Breathwork can be less overwhelming.
Meditation is great for becoming aware of your thoughts and noticing the connection between your thoughts and your actions. But, according to Dittmar, it can be overwhelming or discouraging for people who have a more difficult time separating themselves from their thoughts.
"I think a lot of times people get very stuck in their heads, and the meditation practice can feel discouraging for certain people based on where they are in their healing journey," she notes.
Breathwork, on the other hand, doesn't require thinking at all. It has those same benefits of helping you get out of your own head, but you don't have to be thinking in order to do so.
"Certain breathwork modalities bypass the mind so that you don't have to be thinking. It really can have that experience of getting you out of the mind," Dittmar adds.
It can give you an endorphin high.
Dittmar is an experienced runner: She's done marathons, triathlons, and has even trained for an Ironman. Needless to say, she has endurance. That's why breathwork is so interesting, as after her first experience, she felt like she had completed a bout of extreme exercise.
"After my first class, the first thing I noticed was I felt like I had just done a triathlon training day," she notes.
She also had quite the endorphin high, the kind that she had only previously experienced after her marathons. "I felt like I had just worked out for about 12 hours, and I had that release that happens from that extreme exercise. I also felt like I got out of my head."
A calmer mind and an endorphin rush without hitting the gym? Consider us sold.
It can clear the body from what you didn't know was even there.
Dittmar notes how people may experience a wide range of emotions after a breathwork practice. Some people feel elated, some feel rather peaceful or neutral, while others can feel sadness or grief.
That's because breathwork can clear energy from your body that you didn't even realize you had. It's sort of like when you feel stressed, but you don't know what you exactly feel stressed about; breathwork can help clear that energy, even when you don't know how you're feeling, yourself.
Breathwork can also clear out energy that you might've picked up from others that you didn't even know you've been harboring. "It starts to clear out energy that is not yours, or energy that you've picked up, so you can better connect with your own energy," Dittmar explains.
That's why a lot of times people may vibrate or shake during their breathwork practice without knowing exactly why. "People just feel very activated, and a lot of them will say, 'What is this? What is that? What's happening?' My answer is that it's just your life force," Dittmar notes.
Breathwork unites people.
Dittmar works with a variety of busy professionals, from doctors to lawyers to accountants and CEOs. While the breathwork practices themselves can vary, she notices how all of these industry leaders can better relate to their employees or bosses than before.
"Those people in top positions, if they can really start to connect to their energy, that energy starts to ripple out into whoever it is that they're leading," she says.
What she means is that breathwork has the potential to create a better company culture; after all, a staff that feels united and can relate to one another can create quite the positive office environment.
It's readily available!
Perhaps the most notable aspect of breathwork is that it's already inside of us.
"Breathwork is effective, it's profound, and it's inside of you," Dittmar says. "You don't have to go see a shaman." We all have the ability to control our breath—and although you might need an instructor like Dittmar to guide you for the first couple of times, you generally have the power to tap into your own breath.
It's something so simple but so groundbreaking in terms of healing. "Because we all breathe," she continues. "Our connection to the human experience is that breath, the breath of life."
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.