It seems like everyone is talking about the healing power of breathing these days. I know it seems like another trend to add to your ever-growing to-do list, from the latest HIIT workout to the newest diet trend, here’s one more thing you need to do to stay healthy, right?
Dude, I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
Breathwork is not a trend. it has been around for thousands of years and has been used to clear the mind and maintain good health.
Intentional breathing has been an important part of my journey, and that’s why I’m honored to provide breathing sessions on the Lindywell app. the power of slowing down and breathing with intention cannot be underestimated.
Whether you’re new or familiar with breathing, or just want to learn more about it, you’ve come to the right place.
My breathing journey
I’m a recovering health person and like many people trying to manage the lack of control we’ve experienced in 2020, I bought everything the internet said would support my self-care journey (I see you, Peloton dusting around the corner). .
It was towards the end of 2020 that I felt mentally worn out and emotionally drained. I have a pretty serious trauma history, and that year brought a lot of unresolved pain to the surface. I had nothing left in my tank, so I turned to my trusty advisor, Google, to help me figure out why I couldn’t get out of this funk.
One suggestion I came across was breath work. This practice intentionally manipulates the breath to create a deeper connection with the self, along with other benefits including mental clarity, spiritual connection, and a calm nervous system.
It couldn’t hurt; it was just breathing, wasn’t it?
Something happened when I took my first 15 minute class. Did it help my self-care game? Sure, but it did better than that. It oxygenated my brain enough to think a little more clearly. I felt instant relaxation in my body and that feeling lasted well after the session.
It even brought a few tears (the rest can do it, you know). It also gave me enough solidarity to take the next right step: finding a therapist to help me through this troubled time. One step led to another and with almost daily breathing I started to get better and better. I was helping my nervous system heal. It was under my control.
Who knew that one small class would lead this elementary school teacher to a new career? And as a teacher, I love learning about the benefits (yes, it’s backed by science). So let’s explore how breathing affects your body and how you can start practicing right there, right now.
The link between breathing and stress
The healing power of breathing is especially evident when we look at how it affects stress. To understand how breathing can reduce stress, it’s important to first understand the connection between the two. Stress is a natural response to perceived threats or challenges and triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response.
When we experience stress, the body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which cause a number of physical changes such as increased heart rate and tense muscles. When you are stressed, your breathing also changes, becoming fast and shallow.
By taking deep, slow breaths, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps counteract the fight-or-flight response and promote relaxation. Let’s look at some of the ways this plays out in the body.
Breathing and the autonomic nervous system
Breathing is closely related to the autonomic nervous system. This system controls bodily functions that occur without conscious control, such as heart rate, digestion, and breathing. Breathing can directly affect the activity of this system with each inhalation and exhalation.
- Breathe. When you breathe, your heart rate increases and blood vessels constrict, activating the sympathetic nervous system.
- Exhale. When you exhale, your heart rate slows and your blood vessels dilate, activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
With intentional breathing, you shift your physiological response from the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) to the parasympathetic nervous system (“relax and digest”), inducing relaxation and calm.
Breathing and stress hormones
Stress triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response. Breathing also plays a role in the release of stress hormones, but vice versa. when you intentionally slow and deepen your breath, you lower cortisol levels, which in turn can lower blood pressure and help you feel more relaxed and rested. to relieve
Breathing and muscle tension
Stress can cause muscle tension and tightness, often leading to more feelings of anxiety and stress as the body stretches and tightens. When you breathe deeply, you take in more oxygen and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates muscle relaxation. As this happens, you may feel less stressed and more relaxed.
Breathing techniques for stress reduction
At Lindywell, we bring breath to every Pilates workout. While this is a powerful way to be intentional about your breathing, we encourage you to take it a step further and practice breath work on your own. This can allow you to slow down, connect inward, focus on letting go of anxiety and stress, and let the breath support you.
Additionally, there are many different breathing exercises that can help you reduce stress, but can be difficult to do while moving your body. Here are some different techniques to try.
Remember, as a Lindywell member, you have access to all of our breathwork practices. A great place to start is with us Breathwork Basics Session. Start your 14-day free trial to experience Lindywell breathing for yourself.
Box Breathing (4×4)
It’s a simple and effective technique for reducing stress, and you can do it anytime, anywhere, from your car to your workspace. This is a great exercise with kids too. My kids make a box shape by drawing one side each step.
Pro tip: Make this your home when things are quiet. You want your kids to develop muscle memory so that when the going gets tough, they have this tool in their toolbox.
How to do it? Take a slow, deep breath through your nose for four seconds, feeling your stomach expand as you inhale. Hold your breath for four seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds. At the end, hold for four seconds and repeat for 3-5 minutes.
This technique, also known as “sedation breathing,” was popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil. It is designed to relax and reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help you sleep better, lower blood pressure, and increase focus and concentration. In other words, it is beneficial to do almost any time. It can be helpful to place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, but it is not necessary.
How to do it? Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight. Start by repeating this breathing pattern for 4 cycles and increase to 8 as you feel more comfortable.
The healing power of breathing cannot be underestimated
I learned that the healing power of the breath cannot be underestimated. Breathwork is a powerful way to stimulate your nervous system, regulate your emotions, feel calmer, and ultimately reduce stress and anxiety.
This practice has had a profound impact on my own trauma-healing journey. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here at Lindywell if it wasn’t for this self-help Google search that turned into a life-changing practice. We hope you will try to experience the power for yourself.