So, what actually is Breathwork?
Maybe you've seen about Breathwork on your social media feed, or come across the numerous breath books that are beginning to line the shelves.
In whichever way it's crossed your path, I'm guessing you're here because you want to know more.
Usually, when I tell someone what I do, it can go one of two ways. Either it will kick start a conversation about a transformative Breathwork experience, or I'll be met with a look of bewilderment. The latter will generally prompt me to ask "Have you heard of Wim Hof...?" and generally the conversation will go from there.
In this post, I wanted to explain some of the things about Breathwork that I wanted to know when I first started but I struggled to find in one handy place. For such a simple practice, there sure is a lot of jargon and terminology that we're somehow just.. expected to know.
Breathwork is not just about taking breaths in and out, it is a powerful practice that can transform your life.
Take a deep breath and let me explain more.
What is it?
Breathwork is a blanket term which describes a variety of techniques that focus on breath control and/or breath release and is a practice that involves conscious control of your breathing to improve your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
It is known to clear and release emotional blocks, reduce stress and anxiety, and even help with physical pain and improve sporting performance. Breathwork can take many forms, with each method aiming to help you access your breath in a way that supports your body’s healing process.
People have been practicing Breathwork for many years. Sacred texts mention Tummo breathing, a meditation practice carried out by Tibetan monks dating back to the 8th century.
Modern Breathwork had a resurgence in the late 60's when Leonard Orr (founder of the Rebirthing breathwork technique) discovered and developed the technique of conscious connected breathing. It is said that the techniques were implemented at a time that the use of psychedelics were outlawed as a way to still enjoy altered states of consciousness.
What types are there?
Similarly to the practice of yoga, there are many different types of breathwork that sit under the umbrellas of Pranayama, Conscious Connected Breathwork and Functional Breathwork.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that means “breath control” and involves various breathing techniques for controlling the prana or life force energy in the body. Pranayama focuses on yogic practices, some of which you may have heard of, including:
Nadi Sodhana 'Alternate Nostril Breathing'
Kapalabhati 'Breath of Fire'
Ujjayi Pranayama 'Ocean Breath'
Bhramari Pranayama 'Bee Breath'
Bhastrika Pranayama 'Bellows Breath'
Conscious Connected Breathwork (also commonly referred to as CCB) is a blanket term for breathing in a continuous pattern, with no pause between the inhale and exhale which encompasses approaches such as:
Holotropic - an intensive type of breathwork that can involve faster breathing, music, and bodywork for deep self-exploration.
Rebirthing - focused on resolving any childhood traumas that may still be affecting your current behavior patterns.
Transformational Breath - all about empowering individuals to achieve lasting transformation by opening up and balancing the breath.
Wim Hof - premised on inhaling deeply and exhaling without any use of force, followed by a period of holding your breath. Also commonly paired with cold water therapy.
Functional breathing, as the name suggests, is typically taught in order to help people learn how to breathe deeper or more effectively and to see benefits to areas of our lives from dealing with the symptoms of asthma, snoring and improving sports performance. Many of us are living our day to day lives with dysfunctional breathing patterns and functional breathwork aims to restore balance for improved physiological health. Some of the schools of functional breathwork that you may be familiar with include:
Oxygen Advantage - a series of unique breathing exercises for optimum health and sports performance.
The Buteyko Method - practicing breath retention exercises to control the speed and volume of your breath.
Other techniques include Hynobirthing, which is the practice used as a tool to support labour and childbirth and SOMA breath, which encompasses both CCB and pranayama techniques.
How do I practice Breathwork?
Whilst you can incorporate a personal practice into your daily routine, Breathwork is often done in a group setting, with a guide or facilitator to lead you through the process. The practice typically involves lying down, breathing in a rhythmic pattern, and allowing any emotions or sensations to arise and release. It can be a cathartic process that brings up intense emotions, but it can also be a deeply healing and transformative experience.
Incorporating breathwork into your self-care routine can provide many benefits. It can help you let go of any old patterns, beliefs, and traumas that may be holding you back, release any tension or stress, and help you access a state of deep relaxation and inner peace. It can also help you develop greater mindfulness, focus, and clarity.
So, if you’re looking to add a new practice to your wellness routine, why not give it a go? It’s a simple yet powerful method that can help you access your own inner wisdom and healing potential.
Just take a deep breath and feel the power of this transformational practice.
Ready to give it a try?
I am a qualified conscious connected Breathwork facilitator and functional breathing coach, having completed Alan Dolan's Breathguru instructor training and also completed the Oxygen Advantage facilitator programme.
I can support with breathwork for emotional release, nervous system regulation and improvements to sports performance and improved physiology.