What is breathwork?
Breathwork has recently become a hot topic in the wellness community. You’ve heard it before, “slow down… take a breath,” or “breathe and then respond.” The power of the breath lies within each of us and is often forgotten as we run from activity to activity throughout the day without thinking once about taking a moment to connect with our breath. By taking a moment and connecting with our breath we give ourselves the chance to slow down and release tension we often create in our bodies throughout our busy day. Although there are various techniques, deep diaphragm breathing can assist us when we are feeling symptoms of anxiety, stress or anger. Deep breathing helps to relax our body, our busy mind, lower our heart rate, decrease blood pressure and according to researcher Chris Bergland (2017) “instantly stimulate your vagus nerve and lower stress responses associated with “fight-or-flight” mechanisms” (Bergland, 2017). Bergland states, “When it comes to effective vagal maneuvers, any type of deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing—during which you visualize filling up the lower part of your lungs just above your belly button like a balloon…and then exhaling slowly—is going to stimulate your vagus nerve, activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and improve your heart rate variability” (Bergland, 2017).
Here are a couple 3–5-minute exercises you can try right now!
Breath for Relaxation
Begin by bringing awareness to your body. Perhaps noticing any tension in your muscles– your brow you may have furrowed, a clenched jaw or shrugged shoulders are all common areas we hold tension in the body. Gently try and release the tension by doing a quick stretch or little shoulder, head and neck roll. Close your eyes and place a hand on your belly and one on your chest. This helps to bring awareness to the breath and also helps you to feel and regulate a steady movement. Begin taking a long slow inhale through your nose and down into the bottom of the lungs and into belly for the count of 1-2-3-4, now hold in the breath for the count of 1-2-3-4, and now exhale through the mouth for the count of 1-2-3-4. Repeat as many times as you like and feel free to increase the seconds (i.e., hold for a count of five next time and then a count of six if you feel able). If you are having trouble breathing into the belly, try to visualise or feel the breath moving towards the pelvis.
4-7-8 Seconds of Breath
To begin close your eyes. Notice your feet on the ground or your back against the chair. Purse your lips and let a whoosh sound exit your mouth as your exhale. Close your mouth and breathe in for the count of 4 (silently) through your nose. Hold your breath for the mental count of 7 and then release through the pursed lips with the whoosh sound for the count of 8. Repeat.
Practicing breathwork is just that, a practice. Do what feels good and works for you. Try and schedule in time to practice and build it into a daily routine. A good place to start might be before bed or by scheduling a reminder alarm on your phone. Why not give yourself a moment to take a break and take a breath. Why not begin today?
*Make sure to practice these exercises in a safe place, sitting or lying down. Refrain from using heavy machinery and only close eyes when in a safe environment.
Bergland, Christopher. “Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises and Your Vagus Nerve.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 May 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-athletes-way/201705/diaphragmatic-breathing-exercises-and-your-vagus-nerve.