The power of breath for physical and emotional balance. A calm mind, more energy, and overall health are just an inhale (and an exhale) away. Learn how to harness the power of breath for improved well-being.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ve heard an instructor remind you to control your breath. In the ancient yogic teachings, the practice of directing the breath is called Pranayama, and it teaches you to breathe consciously, with awareness, and with intent. Within the teachings, there exists many different exercises that can help you tap into your breath as a means of building self-awareness and focus during meditation or yoga.
Today, breathwork has evolved to include many new techniques that focus on the use of breathing exercises as a means of therapy and self-healing. Breathwork is more than an exercise of breathing correctly or with intent.
These breathing techniques are tools for major transformation and healing. Breathwork encompasses a broad range of whole-being therapeutic practices and exercises used to relieve mental, physical, and/or emotional tension.
Let’s find out how it can benefit your mind, body, and spirit.
When you think of breathwork, you probably think of the physical aspect of breathing—the inhaling and exhaling of air. Breathing is a vital part of life; it helps deliver oxygen into your bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide.
Completing a full breath cycle involves your whole body—your chest, belly, back, and mind. It takes effort to coordinate all elements of the breath, even though the simple process seems effortless.
The physical benefits of deep breathing are often immediate. By breathing deeply, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and in turn slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure—creating a feeling of calm. You also rely on your diaphragm instead of your chest, inviting your neck and chest muscles to relax and engage your abs and a larger amount of oxygen to reach your body’s cells and organs.
When your body is controlled by the Sympathetic Nervous System it is operating under the “fight-or-flight”, or Stress Response, and it releases a surge of hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) that causes your breathing to speed up, increases your pulse and blood pressure, and puts you in a state of hypervigilance, the optimal physiological state required to escape whatever it is that may be about to pounce. Deep breathing can help reverse this response and relax your body, thereby engaging the Parasympathetic Nervous System, or what’s known as the Relaxation Response.
Try this: Next time you practice breathwork, focus on the physical aspects of your breath:
- Watch your chest and belly rise and fall.
- Notice the temperature and moisture of your breath.
- Tune into the muscles and bones moving in your body.
- Observe how your body feels when you shift from shallow to deep breathing.
In addition to reversing the physical stress response in your body, deep breathing can also help calm and slow down the emotional turbulence in your mind. In fact, there are studies that show breathwork can help treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Breathwork can help you reach a deeper state of mind. While in this state, you may be able to access buried emotions, grudges, and traumas, and ultimately release yourself from their grip on your mental state. Breathwork is often used to help those who have mental health issues and is seen as a way to calm and focus your mind.
Try this: Next time you practice breathwork, focus on your mind:
- Be aware of the thoughts in your head, but don’t attach to them.
- Feel what emotions come up.
- Notice your inner voice.
- Visualize the intention you set for your breathwork practices.
Breathwork can also be spiritual. When you practice, you can move beyond your body and mind, and connect with your core spirit—your Higher Self. In other words, you can begin to transcend your ego and connect to your True Self and the Universe. Many people who practice breathwork experience spiritual awakenings or attunements to their inner being.
Try this: Next time you practice breathwork, focus on the spirit:
- Feel the universe filling you with air on your inhalation.
- Experience the life force (prana) flow through you.
- Allow yourself to make space for this energy within yourself.
- Feel how this energy connects you with a deeper part of your Self.
- As you exhale, send the energy to all the living things around you.
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Until next month, we wish you all happiness, health and wellness.
-Aquarius Wellness Team