Breathwork is a practice that carries many benefits along with it. Practitioners boast several benefits–health and otherwise. In extreme instances, breathwork masters like Wim Hof claim to be able to gain almost superhuman immunity through the breathing techniques. In his case, he even went so far as to prove that his capabilities were teachable to anyone interested.
The importance of mental health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now. As we round the corner into another year of the pandemic, we’ve all had to find ways to cope. Some positive, some negative. Breathwork offers a super easy way to manage the many stresses of the day and it’s free! In addition to these benefits, they help to bring us into a place of mindfulness, even in tumultuous times.
While breathwork is a way of life for many, some are just coming to the practice and may wonder what the benefits are. For that reason, we’ve put together this list of the top 8 life-changing benefits of breathwork practice.
Keep in mind that this list is not extensive and each practitioner is likely to have their unique benefits as well!
#1 Natural Anti-Anxiety
The feelings we experience display themselves through physical changes to our bodies. In stressful situations, we may tense our shoulders or fidget with our fingers. People walk with their heads lifted when happy and lower their gaze in moments of irritation or depression.
One way to track the health of your emotions is through the monitoring of your physical state. This is most evident in the breath. Quick, short breaths are common for people experiencing anxiety. Conversely, a slower and more rhythmic breath encourages a calming of the mind.
It does so through the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, reduces the heart rate and relaxes muscles and the mind. The benefits of breathwork in this first instance allows us to communicate directly with our bodies and signal that all is well. In moments where anxiety is taking over, it can be useful to set aside time to focus on slowing the rate of breath.
#2 Immune Booster
There are numerous ways in which diaphragmatic breathing can encourage our immune system. Breathwork expands the lung muscles, increases efficiency in oxygen absorption. This lowers cortisol levels, blood pressure, and improves the autonomic nervous system. All of this working together enhances our immune response–along with all aspects of our lives.
Breathwork master Wim Hof and a group of healthy volunteers showed this in 2014. Hof taught this group his technique – the “Wim Hof method” — to replicate results he’d already succeeded in on his own. This time, the whole group voluntarily underwent the injection of bacterial endotoxin.
Namely, it was a form of E. Coli. The results were promising. The main finding was that the group was able to greatly increase their production of Epinephrine. This acts as a foundational element in the production of anti-inflammatory mediators.
While the research on the topic is still a bit underdeveloped, it’s encouraging.
#3 Stress Relief
A stressful person will tend towards shallow breaths, limiting the diaphragm’s range of motion. Breathwork practices help a person experiencing stress to calm down–body first.
Intentional breathing exercises can bring you out of your mind and back into your body. Often, when stressed, we seek out distractions like television or music or anything else that takes us away from that emotion. Through the focus on the way you rise and fall with each breath, it is easier to maintain your focus on the present. Breathwork is a way to spend time with that feeling, breathe through it, learn from it, and send it packing.
Next time you feel stress levels rising and you’re picturing the overflowing of your stress bucket place one hand on your belly and take a deep breath through the nose for 4 seconds. When exhaling, do so for a count of 6. Continue doing this, feeling your belly rise and fall for 1 to 2 minutes. In 2 minutes or less, you can reduce the stress you were feeling and tackle the issue head-on.
#4 Digestive Support
Throughout the day, several factors can lead to the subconscious tightening of the abdomen. Stress and anxiety can lead to shallow breaths and clenched muscles in the abdomen, shoulders, and back.
Breathing properly helps to increase the flow of blood in the body. It also relaxes your clenched muscles and stretches them through diaphragmatic breathing. When this happens, digestive organs can work more efficiently, speeding up the metabolism and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
All this leads to better digestion and a healthier digestive system.
#5 Increased Energy Levels
Find yourself getting tired in the afternoon every day? Breathwork can help you maintain a greater level of energy throughout the day. There are many ways in which this happens, but the number one way is by increasing oxygen levels in the blood. Improving blood oxygen levels is a great way to help increase the energy levels and stamina you have.
Through the regular practice of breathwork, it is possible to train your body to provide more energy throughout the day. Maintaining energy levels throughout the day is essential for mental health.
#6 Restorative Sleep Aid
The inability to get a proper night’s sleep can wreak havoc on a person’s life. It is much worse than simply battling drowsiness throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to mental health. Lack of sleep can lead to increased irritability, anxiety, and many other issues.
Breathing exercises directly signal our parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body down. Through breathwork, enabling deeper more restorative sleep is possible. Night breathwork usually involves closing your eyes in a comfortable position laying down. From there, they involve several intentional breaths and trying to maintain mindfulness for as long as possible.
The practice of breathwork helps to calm the mind down and prepare it to transition into sleep after a busy day.
#7 Encourages Self-Love
Self-love is, by definition, anything that someone does to take care of their own needs. Breathwork helps to move us outside of our minds and into our bodies. From there, we can establish a deeper connection with ourselves and truly figure out how to best love ourselves.
We spend much of our time outside of our own lives. Breathwork allows us to take a moment and spend it with ourselves. When we spend time with ourselves, we get to learn our needs more intimately, allowing us to take care of them easier. Distractions are all over the place, pulling us outside of our living experience. Breathwork offers presence.
#8 Being Present in a Busy World
This brings us to perhaps the most important of the benefits of breathwork practice in this list. That is the ability to connect with the here and now. Oftentimes, our lives consist of worrying about the future or fixating on the past. Presence is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves. It signals that the moment we are in is worth experiencing.
Through breathwork, it is possible to move past the overstimulation of life. In a hyperconnected digitally social world, this is essential. As we go throughout the day, all the messages, interactions, and tasks add up in our minds. Leaving behind their fragments of emotions, worries, and concerns. Breathwork encourages mindfulness, allowing practitioners to clear that build-up of their mental cache.
It’s such a liberating practice to master and if you follow the coaching education from a breathwork expert then you will genuinely feel the life-changing benefits of breathwork practice as outlined in this guide. 2022 is the year of breathwork!