Breathwork: How To Tap Into The Incredible Power Of Breath
Breathwork is the active form of consciously working your breath to bypass the mind and enter a different state of awareness. This is what most people seek when meditating, and breathwork takes you to that place very quickly. The practice gives the brain's executive functioning something to focus on, so you can bypass the mental level of consciousness and drop into a deeper state of consciousness, where healing, spirit, and love reside.
What exactly is breathwork and how do you do it?
There are many types of breathwork techniques, and each form of breath has a unique purpose and creates a different effect.
As you breathe, you will become aware of thoughts, feelings, memories, and patterns that are not aligned with love and self-love. Even though many of us have processed childhood, beliefs, patterns in psychiatry, therapy, coaching, or healing, breathwork offers an opportunity to release any energy that has been unconsciously residing in the body or energetic system. Once those energies are released, there is more space for your inherent life force to flow through you.
There are little-to-no rules when it comes to establishing your own breathwork routine: You can practice in person with a teacher (in a group or solo setting), tune into a digital session, or guide yourself through a breath sequence from home or in the middle of your workday.
How is breathwork different from meditation or yoga?
Breathing practices are on the rise, and there's a reason why: Unlike meditation, where we are aware of our mental chatter, breathwork allows us to disconnect from the mind and reconnect with our body and energy. From this elevated state of awareness, we are able to heal, grow, and expand.
While meditation is an extremely useful form of self-reflection because it allows us to see the pace, substance, and truth of our thoughts, it also keeps us stuck in our mind, while many people are seeking to get out of their own heads. Meditation is a slow and steady practice that over a period of time will shift our perspective. But many people are seeking relief now, and meditation does not bring the relief they are looking for. Breathwork, on the other hand, can be easier to drop into when you are seeking more immediate feedback. It's a great tool to pull out when you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or off-center.
Who can benefit from breathwork?
There is a misconception that healing arts are for individuals who are struggling or suffering. And yes, breathwork is very supportive for stress, tension, overwhelm, anxiety, depression, fear, grief, sadness, anger, trauma, insomnia, etc. But breathwork is also nourishing for someone who is doing well and feels ready for the next opening—the next layer of love, peace, gratitude, clarity, connection, and insights.
Doing breathwork with a teacher? Here's what to expect.
There are different ways that breathwork can be facilitated based on the guide who is leading you. (If you are new to breathwork and want to connect with a healer to get started, look for a practitioner who has completed all levels of the training, who has been guiding others and has experience, and who has a presence that makes you feel comfortable.)
Your experience will vary depending on the type of breathwork your practitioner is teaching, but no matter what, you can expect to actively breathe throughout the session. As you're breathing, your teacher might speak to you through the journey. You may follow their guidance, or have your own unique experience. Trust the breath will take you to where you need to go for the deepest level of healing available to you at that time.
Some thoughts, feelings, or sensations that might come up during a breathwork session.
Some of the side effects that someone might experience during breathwork include tingling, buzzing, warming, cooling, or tightness in certain parts of their body. They may see colors or images or have downloads and insights. No matter what, whatever is happening is supposed to be happening. Your body has an innate intelligence and wisdom and it will support you in releasing what no longer serves you.
3 reasons that breathwork is so powerful.
You'll tap into your inner knowing.
The first benefit of breathwork is that the innate wisdom of your breath and life force knows exactly where to go for the level of healing that is available for you at any given time. As the breath opens meridians and channels and aligns your body with its inherent and Universal energy, healing happens. There is no need to think, process, or figure anything out after a session. To know you can receive clarity and peace without thinking is revelatory.
You'll feel empowered.
In a breathwork session, you do not need to imbibe an external substance, so there is an inner empowerment that comes from you. Your breath can become the source of answers to questions, insights to challenges, freedom from feeling stuck, and downloads to what's next for you, your life, and your work in the world.
You'll gain a new perspective on life's challenges.
Breathwork supports so many of the challenges everyone experiences. It reduces stress, creates feelings of openness, love, peace, gratitude, clarity, communication, and connection. Breathwork also helps release trauma or mental, physical, and emotional blocks, as well as anxiety, depression, fear, grief, and anger. Last, it can help people receive insights from ancestors and loved ones who have transitioned, as well as downloads about work, creativity, finances, relationships, or health conditions.
The science behind breathwork.
Don't just take my word for it: Look at all the research that continues to come out supporting the benefits of breathwork. Something as simple as making your exhale longer than your inhale has been shown to1 send the body into a more parasympathetic state, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, while coherent breathing, a type of long, slow breath, has been associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms2. Over at the Huberman Lab for neuroscience out of Stanford University, they study how the breath impacts emotional states and how it can actually change the way the brain reacts to fear. On the other side of the world, in the Netherlands, researchers at Radboud University Medical Center are looking into how the Wim Hof method—a breathwork, meditation, and cold therapy protocol—can reduce inflammation and increase pain tolerance.
As with any self-care practice, the most important way to learn if breathwork is useful and helpful for you is to experience it for yourself. To learn more about the power of breathwork and how to start your practice, check out my The Ultimate Guide To Breathwork class on mindbodygreen.
Gwen Dittmar is a business and life coach, breathwork healer, and soul guide based in Los Angeles. She has a Masters in Spiritual Psychology, received her B.A. in Psychology and Women's Studies from The University of Delaware, and is a Certified Breathwork Facilitator and Teacher. She's also a Usui Reiki Master and is currently studying shamanism.
Gwen integrates 17 years of pharmaceutical, biotech, and device consulting, management, and auditing, as well as 12 years of experience in trauma healing, sobriety, wellness, breathwork, and soul medicine.
She draws upon her intuitive gifts and her own personal healing journey from disease to well-being, addiction to sobriety, corporate to entrepreneurship, singlehood to being a mother of two, and marriage to divorce. In addition to coaching virtual and in-person executive, corporate, and individual clients, Gwen offers group coaching and online courses and is available for public speaking engagements.
Gwen specializes in helping high-achievers use life lessons as their greatest spiritual opportunities. You can listen to Gwen coach clients on a myriad of business and life challenges in her podcast, The Beautiful Grit. Her coaching tips and tools have also been featured in Well & Good, and is a member of the Forbes Coach Council.