as THE popularity of breathwork continues to rise, SALLY discusses the importance of breathing mindfully and examines the healing potential of the breath
WHAT IS BREATHWORK?
'Breathwork’ is the blanket term used to describe different techniques and methods that explore the practice of breathing consciously. Cultures across the world have been practicing breathing techniques for centuries-including Pranayama, Qi Gong and Shamanic Breathwork. Although there is nothing new about the essence of Breathwork; it has certainly risen to prominence in recent years.
Breathwork is a free, practical and powerful form of self healing. Anyone can do it and everyone has the tools. Breathing mindfully just might be the gateway to gain better access into your inner state of being.
WHY is it SO IMPORTANT?
Breathing is one of our body's autonomic functions; we do it without having to make a conscious effort. As a result, we often don’t pay much attention to our breath. Although sighs, gasps, sobs and post-jog panting demand our attention-what happens the rest of the time?
For many of us, the pace of life is fast and slowing down is underrated. In this era of endless distractions, what better way to bring the focus to the present then to stop and watch the breath? Watching the breath offers a moment of stillness, an opportunity to be in control and a chance to heal. It can open up our capacity to explore the intimate, and truly connect with ourselves.
Checking in on the breath is a good indicator on how you're feeling, it offers a connection between mind and body. Consider the difference between your breath before a busy deadline compared to settling in to a cosy sleep; the breath adapts to the body. When you start to make a decision to consciously breathe and explore different breath patterns, you can use the breath to change that reaction response. And that's where things start to get interesting.
HOW WILL I FEEL?
Scientists, yogis and psychologists alike have examined what happens to the body when the rate of breath is changed. They have revealed how the breath can become a powerful tool to balance stress response systems, relieve anxiety, calm an agitated mind and enhance relationships.
Sometimes descirbed as controllled hyperventialtion, techniques that explore rapid breathing, such as the style championed by Wim Hof (see above) can give practitioners feelings of dizzyness, lightheadedness and euphoria. That's not to say that they aren't a powerful tool for healing. The Wim Hof method claims to be beneficial for fighting against auto-immune diseases as well as a multitude of other ailments and improve one's wellbeing.
More traditional techniques such as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama are said to balance and restore, slowing down the rate of breath and stimulating the PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) thus putting your body into rest and digest mode. This involves slow, deliberate breathing often with a focus on a long exhale.
WHERE CAN I TRY IT?
Breath is considered a fundamental component to the practice of yoga and fortunately there has been an increase in the number of yoga studios that offer standalone Breathwork and Pranayama lessons. There are also many workshops and retreats where you can immerse yourself into Breathwork. Check in with your local studio.
Alternatively, there are many online videos that can guide you through a number of different practices but please be mindful as you begin your exploration into the world of Breathwork. Check about any contraindications and speak to a healthcare professional or healer if you have any doubts about embarking on a new method. SB
Elbow Collective bring Breathwork workshops to festivals across Europe and you’ll always find a special attention to breath throughout Sally’s classes and trainings. If you want to find out more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awareness of the breath is a fundamental feature of the fiery Dragon Dance, much loved by Elbow Collective- discover more about it here.