Finding tranquillity and clarity often feels like a distant dream in today’s fast-paced world. Yet, there's a powerful tool within you that's accessible at any moment, capable of transforming your mental, emotional, and physical state: your breath. 

Breathwork is an ancient practice offering a path to achieving a much-needed sense of calm and wellbeing. Let's delve into what breathwork is, its types, benefits, and how you can incorporate it into your life.

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What is Breathwork?

Breathwork involves consciously manipulating your breathing pattern to influence your mental, emotional, and physical state. It helps ease the mind and heal the body, bridging the conscious and subconscious mind. 

The Power of Breathwork

Breathwork is powerful because it directly affects the autonomic nervous system, helping to reduce stress, enhance relaxation, and promote an overall sense of wellbeing. By altering the depth, rate, and pattern of breathing, you can shift from a state of fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest, enabling your body to rejuvenate and heal.

How Does Breathwork Work?

Breathwork stimulates the vagus nerve, which plays a central role in regulating the nervous system. This can lead to a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, fostering a state of calm. Additionally, breathwork can enhance the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, which is important for optimal health.

Multiple-exposure image of a woman practising pranayama breathwork outdoors.

Breathwork Techniques

The two most widely-recognised breathwork techniques are Box Breathing and 4-7-8 Breath.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, also known as square breathing, involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding again, each for an equal count of seconds. This technique helps to induce a state of relaxation, reduces anxiety, and enhances focus and mental clarity.

To practice Box Breathing, follow the steps below:

  1. Find a comfortable seated position and relax your body.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose, counting to four slowly.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  4. Exhale fully through your nose or mouth, counting to four.
  5. Hold your breath again for a count of four.
  6. Repeat the cycle, focusing on the rhythmic pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding for several minutes.

4-7-8 Breath

The 4-7-8 breath technique involves inhaling through the nose for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and exhaling through the mouth for a count of eight. This practice activates the body's relaxation response, reduces stress, and aids in falling asleep.

To practise 4-7-8 Breath, follow the steps below:

  1. Sit in a relaxed position and gently close your eyes.
  2. Inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, for a count of eight.
  5. Repeat the cycle three more times, focusing on the steady rhythm and the sensation of releasing tension with each exhale.

The 4 Types of Breathwork

Breathwork, rooted in ancient traditions, has evolved into a modern tool for healing, self-exploration, and personal transformation. Each type of breathwork brings its unique approach and set of benefits, catering to various needs and preferences:

1. Pranayama: The Art of Breath Control

Pranayama, a pillar of yoga, is a spiritual practice that teaches the rhythm and control of breath to influence the mind and body. Pranayama exercises range from the simple, such as Ujjayi (the ocean breath), to the more complex, like Kapalabhati (the skull shining breath). 

These practices are designed to cleanse, balance, and unlock the pranic energy channels, promoting vitality, calming the mind, and preparing it for meditation. The beauty of Pranayama lies in its accessibility and impact on physical and mental health, making it a cornerstone for anyone seeking a holistic approach to wellbeing.

2. Holotropic Breathwork: Exploring the Psyche

Developed in the 1970s by psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof, Holotropic Breathwork is an experiential method of self-exploration and therapy. It uses accelerated breathing, evocative music, and focused bodywork to induce altered states of consciousness. 

This process facilitates access to different levels of the psyche, releasing emotional and energetic blockages. Participants often report amazing insights, emotional releases, and a deeper connection with themselves and the universe. 

Holotropic Breathwork sessions are typically conducted in groups and guided by certified practitioners, providing a safe and supportive environment for deep inner exploration.

3. Rebirthing Breathwork: Renewal and Release

Rebirthing Breathwork, or Conscious Energy Breathing, is a technique that focuses on releasing suppressed traumatic memories and negative beliefs. Developed by Leonard Orr, this practice involves connected and continuous breathing that helps to dissolve physical tension and emotional pain, leading to a sense of rebirth. 

Practitioners believe that by revisiting and releasing these buried traumas, you can free yourself from the past and experience improved mental and physical health. Rebirthing is often practised in one-on-one sessions with a trained facilitator, providing a personalised and nurturing experience encouraging growth and healing.

4. Transformational Breathwork: A Journey of Change

Transformational Breathwork is a dynamic practice that combines deep, conscious breathing with movement, sound, and sometimes affirmations for an emotional and physical release. This practice is designed to improve the body's energy flow, clear blockages, and enhance your capacity for joy, creativity, and spiritual connection. 

Transformational Breathwork is known for its ability to address specific issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression, offering a powerful pathway to transformation and healing. Sessions can vary in length and are often tailored to the individual’s needs, making it a versatile tool for those seeking to make significant life changes.

Man practising pranayama breathwork outdoors by the sea.

Benefits of Breathwork

The benefits of breathwork are vast and varied. It can:

  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Breathwork techniques like deep abdominal breathing activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm the body and mind almost instantly, offering a natural and accessible way to manage long-term stress and anxiety. Regular practice rewires the stress response patterns in the brain, making challenges more manageable and improving overall quality of life.
  • Improve Emotional Health and Resilience: By encouraging the release of suppressed emotions and traumas, breathwork can lead to deep emotional healing, increasing your capacity to process and express feelings. Breathwork strengthens emotional resilience, making it easier to bounce back from life's ups and downs.
  • Enhance Concentration and Mindfulness: Techniques that involve mindful breathing can enhance concentration and cognitive function, making it easier to focus on tasks and improve productivity. Breathwork practices encourage a state of mindfulness, where attention is focused on the breath and present moment experience, reducing distractions and promoting a sense of inner peace.
  • Increase Energy Levels: By increasing the oxygen flow to the body and brain, breathwork can invigorate the system, providing a natural energy boost that lasts throughout the day. Certain breathwork practices can help balance the body's energy systems or chakras, leading to a feeling of vitality and rejuvenation.
  • Strengthen the Immune System: Improved breathing patterns enhance blood circulation, ensuring that vital nutrients and oxygen are efficiently distributed throughout the body, supporting overall health and boosting the immune system. Regular breathwork practice has been shown to reduce levels of stress-related hormones in the body, which can lower inflammation and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Promote Deep Relaxation and Better Sleep: By activating the body's relaxation response, breathwork can help release physical tension and mental clutter, leading to deep relaxation and peace. The calming effect of breathwork on the mind and body can improve sleep patterns, making it easier to fall asleep and enjoy more restorative rest.
  • Support Physical Healing: The enhanced oxygenation and stress reduction benefits of breathwork can support the body's natural healing processes, encouraging recovery from illness and injury.
  • Foster Spiritual Growth: Many find that breathwork opens the door to deeper spiritual exploration and connection, facilitating experiences of transcendence, oneness, and enlightenment.
  • Improve Relationships: As breathwork enhances self-awareness and emotional regulation, it can lead to more harmonious relationships, fostering empathy, communication, and understanding.

How to Do Breathwork by Yourself

Starting a breathwork practice by yourself is easy. Begin with just a few minutes a day, focusing on deep, intentional breaths. Find a quiet space, sit comfortably, and start by inhaling deeply through your nose, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Notice the sensations in your body and allow yourself to relax with each breath.

Breathwork vs. Meditation

While both breathwork and meditation aim to bring mindfulness and relaxation, breathwork focuses more on the active manipulation of breath to achieve a specific state. In contrast, meditation often involves observing the breath and thoughts without interference.

Emotional Release and Breathwork

It's not uncommon to experience emotional release during breathwork. Crying can occur as the body releases pent-up emotions, leading to a sense of relief and peace. This release is a natural, healing aspect of the practice, allowing you to confront and move past emotional barriers.

Considerations and Safety

Breathwork is generally safe, but it’s not suitable for everyone. Those with cardiovascular issues, severe mental health conditions, or pregnant women should consult with a healthcare provider before starting. 

Feeling weird or sick after breathwork can be a sign of overdoing it or not practising correctly. Always listen to your body and practice under the guidance of a qualified instructor if you’re new to breathwork.

A woman with her eyes closed as she stands on a beach, practising rebirthing breathwork.

Common Questions About Breathwork 

Can Breathwork Be Practiced Daily?

Breathwork can be a daily practice. Even just a few minutes can have a significant impact on your day. It’s about finding a rhythm and routine that feels right for you.

How Does Breathwork Affect the Brain?

Research shows that regular breathwork practice can improve areas of the brain related to emotional control, mindfulness, and a sense of calm. It’s a powerful tool for mental health and cognitive function.

Can You Do Breathwork Alone?

While guided sessions can be beneficial, especially for beginners, breathwork can also be practised alone, allowing you to connect deeply with yourself and your breath at your own pace.

Can You Practise Breathwork and Yoga Together?

Breathwork and yoga are complementary practices. Breathwork can enhance your yoga practice by deepening your breath control and focus, while yoga poses can prepare the body for deeper breathwork sessions. Starting with yoga to warm up the body, followed by breathwork for deep relaxation, is a common and effective sequence.

Is Breathwork Suitable for Everyone?

While breathwork offers numerous benefits, it's essential to approach it with awareness. Certain people, such as those with cardiovascular conditions, respiratory issues, or recent surgeries, should exercise caution. It's always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new practice, especially if you have underlying health concerns.

What Should I Expect During a Breathwork Session?

Breathwork sessions can vary widely depending on the technique being practised. Generally, you can expect to experience a range of sensations, including tingling, warmth, emotional release, and a sense of relaxation. Some techniques may produce more intense experiences, including vivid visualisations or a deep emotional purge.

How Long Does a Breathwork Session Last?

A breathwork session can vary from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the technique and the practitioner's goals. Shorter daily practices can be highly beneficial for stress management and emotional regulation, while longer sessions may be used for deeper exploratory work.

Can Breathwork Improve Physical Health?

Breathwork can positively impact physical health by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving respiratory function, and enhancing overall immune function. These benefits contribute to a stronger, more resilient body.

What's the Best Way to Start Practicing Breathwork?

For beginners, starting with guided sessions can be incredibly helpful. This can be through live workshops, accredited online courses, or guided audio sessions. Once you become more familiar with the techniques, you can incorporate them into your daily routine, practising independently and exploring the breath's power to transform.

How Can I Deepen My Breathwork Practice?

To deepen your practice, consider exploring different types of breathwork to find what resonates with you. Attending workshops, retreats, or advanced courses can provide new insights and techniques. Practising regularly and integrating breathwork with other modalities, such as meditation or yoga, can also enhance your experience.

What If I Experience Discomfort or Emotional Overwhelm During Breathwork?

It's not uncommon to experience discomfort or emotional overwhelm during breathwork, especially when beginning. Should this occur, it's crucial to slow down and return to normal breathing. Practising in a safe, supportive environment with the guidance of a qualified practitioner can help navigate these intense experiences.

Can Breathwork Lead to Spiritual Experiences?

Many practitioners report that breathwork has facilitated profound spiritual experiences, offering insights, heightened awareness, and a sense of interconnectedness. While not everyone will have such experiences, breathwork can be a powerful tool for spiritual exploration and growth.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Regular Breathwork Practice?

Over time, regular breathwork practice can significantly improve emotional wellbeing, stress resilience, and physical health. It can also enhance your capacity for mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and spiritual awareness, contributing to a more fulfilled and balanced life.

Discover Breathwork with Centre of Excellence

Access the transformative power of breathwork with our Breathwork Diploma Course, crafted to guide you through breathwork practices for enhanced wellbeing and personal development.

Why Centre of Excellence?

  • Accessibility: We believe that transformative education should be accessible to all. This commitment is reflected in our pricing strategy, designed to ensure that everyone can benefit from our courses.
  • Flexibility: We understand the importance of flexibility in today's fast-paced world. Our courses are structured to fit seamlessly into your life, allowing you to learn at your own pace and schedule.
  • Comprehensive Curriculum: Our Breathwork Diploma Course covers a wide spectrum of breathwork practices, from the basics to advanced techniques, ensuring a well-rounded understanding of breathwork's benefits and applications.
  • Dedicated Support: Enrolling in our course means joining a supportive community of like-minded people and access to expert tutors who are committed to guiding you through your learning journey.

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meet bobi
meet bobi
— November 10, 2023 11:40:00
Just tried breathwork for the first time after reading about it on Centre of Excellence and using the techniques from bobi. It's a game-changer! Feeling more centered and focused than ever. Highly recommend giving it a shot!

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