Breathing Challenge & Breathwork Fundamentals

LET'S LEVEL-UP YOUR BREATH

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In this guide:
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INTRO

What is Breathwork?

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Breathwork is a form of alternative therapy that involves controlled breathing techniques to improve physical and emotional well-being. It can be used to reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy levels, and promote relaxation. 

 

Breathwork can include a variety of different techniques, such as deep breathing, rapid breathing, and alternate nostril breathing, and is often incorporated into practices like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

 

Some people also use breathwork in combination with other therapies, such as psychotherapy, to help address specific conditions or issues.

Health Benefits of Beathwork

Breathing practices are believed to have numerous health benefits ranging between emotional and physical health.

Reducing stress and anxiety

Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques have been found to help to activate the body’s natural relaxation response, which can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Reduced symptoms of depression

Some research has suggested that breathing practices may be helpful in reducing symptoms of depression.

Improving sleep

Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques may help to promote better sleep by reducing tension and promoting a sense of calm.

Improving respiratory function

Some breathing practices, such as pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, can help to improve respiratory function by strengthening the muscles involved in breathing and increasing lung capacity.

Improving cardiovascular health

Controlled breathing techniques have been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, which may have positive effects on cardiovascular health.

Boosting the immune system

Some studies have suggested that certain types of breathing practices may have immune-boosting effects.

In general, it’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare provider before starting a new breathing practice. Your health care provider can help you determine whether a particular technique is safe and appropriate for you, and can provide guidance on how to practice safely and effectively.

Common Principles of Breathwork

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How does one practice breathwork?

It is important to find a breathing practice that feels comfortable and enjoyable, as this can help make it easier to stick with the practice over time.

 

Different breathing practices will use different techniques, but often share some similarities with regards to attention, regulating and holding your breath.

Attention

 

Many breathing practices involve focusing your attention on your breath or on a specific object or mantra. This can help you to stay present in the moment and quiet your mind.

 

When focusing on your breath, become more aware of how it moves in and out of your body. This can help you become more attuned to your body and more mindful of your breath.

 

Regulating your breath

 

This involves controlling the rate, depth, and pattern of your breathing. This can be achieved through various techniques, such as taking slow, deep breaths, or breathing in through one nostril and out through the other, such as in pranayama breathwork.

 

Holding your breath

 

Some breathing practices involve holding your breath for a short period of time, either after inhaling or exhaling. This can help you increase your lung capacity and improve your ability to control your breath.

Types of Breathwork

There are many different breathing practices that are commonly used, and can depend on factors such as common preferences or cultural customs within a specific region. It’s important to remember what works for one person may not work for you.

Deep breathing

This involves taking slow, deep breaths, filling your lungs completely with air and exhaling fully. This can help to relax the body and calm the mind.

Controlled breathing

This involves regulating your breath in a specific way, such as inhaling for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 6. This can help to slow down your breath and create a sense of calm.

Alternating nostril breathing

This involves using the fingers to alternately block one nostril while breathing in and out through the other nostril. This practice, used in pranayama breathwork, can help to balance the body’s energy and calm the mind.

Box breathing

This involves inhaling for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 4, and holding the breath again for a count of 4. This can help to improve focus and reduce stress.

The 4-7-8 technique

This involves inhaling for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 7, and exhaling for a count of 8. This can help to improve sleep and reduce anxiety.

Pursed-lip breathing

This involves exhaling through pursed lips as if blowing out a candle. This can help to improve breathing in people with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

How to Build a Breathwork Practice

Building a breathing practice can be a helpful way to improve your physical and mental well-being. Here are a few steps you can follow to help you build a breathwork habit:

1

Choose a technique

There are many different breathing practices to choose from, so it’s a good idea to take some time to explore different techniques and see which ones work best for you. It may be helpful to try out a few different techniques to see which ones you enjoy and find most effective.

2

Set a goal

Decide how often you want to practice your breath work and for how long. It can be helpful to start with small, achievable goals, such as practicing for 5 minutes a day. As you become more comfortable with the practice, you can gradually increase the length and frequency of your sessions.

3

Choose a comfortable location

It’s important to find a comfortable place to practice your breathwork where you won’t be disturbed. This could be a quiet corner of your home, a secluded spot in a park, or any other place that feels comfortable and peaceful to you.

4

Create a routine

Consider incorporating your breath practice into your daily routine. For example, you might practice first thing in the morning, before bed, or at a specific time during the day. By making your breath practice a regular part of your routine, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

5

Be consistent

Consistency is key when it comes to building a habit. Try to practice your breath work at the same time every day, and make an effort to stick with it even on days when you’re feeling busy or stressed.

6

Be patient

Building a habit takes time, so it’s important to be patient with yourself. Don’t worry if you have a hard time sticking with your practice at first – just keep at it and you’ll gradually get better.

Overcoming Breathwork Setbacks

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Some common setbacks to establishing a regular breathing practice include:

  1. Lack of time
  2. Difficulty sticking to a routine
  3. Difficulty focusing during the practice 
  • Try to make your breathing practice a non-negotiable part of your daily routine.

  • Sticking to the same time and location that you choose to practice can improve habit retention as you begin to associate the location with habit.

  • Try using a mantra or focusing on a particular sensation (such as the feel of the breath moving in and out of your nostrils) to help anchor your attention.

  • Lastly, if you’re still having trouble sticking to the habit, it may help to find a breathing buddy or join a class or group to help keep you motivated and on track.

Common Questions

If you feel dizzy during breathwork, it is important to stop the practice and return to normal breathing. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and focus on your breath until the dizziness subsides. It is also a good idea to consult with a medical professional before continuing with the breathwork practice, as dizziness can be a symptom of a medical condition.

Great question! There are certain medical conditions that may contraindicate the practice of breathwork. These include, but may not be limited to:

 

  • Epilepsy
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Glaucoma
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychiatric conditions such as panic disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder
  • Recent surgery or injury

 

It is important to consult with a medical professional before beginning any breathwork practice, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Breathwork can be intense and may trigger symptoms or complications in certain individuals, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Breathwork can be intense and may cause some individuals to experience increased anxiety. If this is the case for you, it is important to approach the practice with caution and to start with more gentle techniques.

 

Here are some suggestions for how to continue practicing breathwork without increasing your anxiety:

  • Begin with a shorter breathwork session, such as 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the length of the practice over time.
  • Instead of using a more intense technique, such as hyperventilation, start with a more gentle technique, such as a 4-7-8 breath or a box breath.
  • Practice breathwork in a comfortable and safe environment where you feel relaxed and at ease.
  • It can be helpful to have a friend or therapist present during your breathwork practice or have someone to talk to after your session.
  • If you start to feel anxious or uncomfortable, stop the practice and return to normal breathing.

 

It’s also important to remember that breathwork isn’t for everyone and that’s perfectly okay. It may be better to find other relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation that you are comfortable with.

Support Systems for Breathwork

Apps: There are many apps available (eg. Othership) that can help you learn how to breathe effectively, and provide guided breathing exercises and meditation practices.

 

Books: There are many books available that offer guidance on how to practice breathwork and meditation, and provide a variety of techniques and exercises to try.

 

Classes and workshops: Many studios, gyms, and other organizations offer classes and workshops on breathwork and meditation, which can be a great way to learn from an experienced teacher and connect with a community of breathwork practitioners.

 

Online communities: There are many online communities (such as the MasterHealth community) and forums dedicated to breathwork and meditation, where you can connect with others who are also interested in these practices, sharing tips and experiences.

 

Personalized coaching or therapy: Some people find it helpful to work with a coach or therapist who can provide personalized support and guidance as they develop their breathing practice.

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