Breathwork in Mindfulness
Now that we’re getting the hang of the basics of mindfulness—dropping in to our bodies, breath, and the present moment—we can start to build our mindfulness toolbox with different types of exercises and meditations to help us bring our awareness to the here and now. Breathwork is one of these tools, with a multitude of options, and there’s good reason to add it to your mindfulness practice.
Breathwork is simply exercises that focus on manipulating your breath in some way. We normally breathe without thinking about it; your chest rises and falls on its own thanks to the automatic functions of the brain stem. (Although now that you’re thinking about it, perhaps you’ve noticed you’re holding your breath. No? Just me?) When we do breathwork, we mix it up. We take in air differently, breathe for longer counts, or exhale in an unusual way.
We already know that deep breathing is helpful for that stress response our bodies create in reaction to “danger” (real or perceived); it helps to kick our parasympathetic nervous system into gear, which calms our nerves and lowers our heart rate. Studies have also shown that specific breathing exercises can reduce PTSD, depression, anxiety, and overall stress levels, so it has benefits for our mind as well. In fact, a study published by Frontiers in Psychology showed that participants who participated in an 8-week breathwork practice had significantly lower levels of cortisol (that stress hormone) in their system. Breathwork has even proven to improve your immune system. Do I need to go on?
When we think about neuroplasticity, and the fact that we can change our thinking with intention, it makes sense that something like intentional breathing patterns can help strengthen those new neural pathways that we’ve been working on. Add in all of the physical benefits, and we’ve found ourselves a tool that can improve our overall wellness and support us as we remove alcohol from our lives.