Breathwork is an umbrella term for a wide range of conscious breathing practices that take us beyond the basic need for survival and can bring about a multitude of benefits not just at the physical level but on a mental, emotional and spiritual level. Conscious breathing can change the way we feel and think and also our state of being - from anxious to calm, tired to energised and scattered to focused.
"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again" - Thich Nhat Hanh
So… Breathwork is an incredibly accessible and powerful practice that can achieve a a variety of different outcomes. Dr Ela Manga, a medical professional and expert on Breathwork summarises this perfectly with her acronym ART:
A - Awareness: Before you can consciously control your breath you need to be able to become aware of it. Breath awareness is one of the most fundamental mindfulness techniques and the foundation of Breathwork.
R - Regulation: We know that when our emotional or mental state changes, our breath can be affected (e.g. anxious, scared) but not everyone makes the connection in the other direction, if we change our breathing, we can change our state.
T - TRANSFORMATION: As we move into certain Breathwork practices, we begin to open ourselves up to deeper experiences that allow us to access the subconscious and release energy, tension, emotional blockages and more.
Breath awareness and conscious breathing is the absolute foundation in the management of health, stress, and energy. It is also part of the essential skill set that is required for personal transformation and peak performance. Mastery of the breath was the ancient secret of Yogis, Buddhist monks, Quigong and Zen Masters and nowadays Elite Athletes, Navy Seals and yes…Opera Singers!
Dysfunctional breathing habits develop over time due to chronic stress, pain, poor posture, or past trauma. These unconscious, defensive breathing habits in turn exacerbate the stress response (the Sympathetic Nervous System or SNS) and push tension even deeper into the body. Breathwork activates the relaxation response of the body (the Parasympathetic Nervous System or PNS). This helps clients to break dysfunctional patterns, release stress from the system and they can take these breathing skills home and continue to practise independently.
Because the breath is the bridge linking the mind and body (and spirit!) breathing is always a component of all my sessions however I also offer specific Breathwork focussed sessions which can include various styles, techniques and exercises such as:
Pursed lip breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing (Horizontal versus Vertical Breathing)
Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing from Yoga)
Quigong (combines gentle movement with breathing)
Various styles of breathing for meditation eg Mindfulness