The self care practice that you are already doing without realizing
Why breathwork is becoming so popular - and yes it is as easy as just breathing. Read on to reconnect with your breath; because by breathing better your wellbeing is better
Your breath is the most beneficial restorative tool accessible to you at any time.
As newborns we enter the world by receiving - inhaling. Through dying, we surrender - exhale. Breathing is central to life, not only for survival but to the functioning of the body and mind, while playing a vital role in influencing our well-being.
We breathe 26,000 breaths per day, each inhale and exhale connecting to every function and organ. Breath activates our nervous system, changes the endocrine system and impacts brain function. All of which affect digestion, sleep patterns and our bodies opportunity to heal.
Our breath patterns are created through the nature of our own life experience. Breathwork allows us to correct them and the symptoms we have developed as a result in our body, unveiling areas where there may be lack of freedom, integration and surrender.
Neuroplasticity expert Dr Norman Doidge (The Brains Way of Healing) discusses how our nervous system, brain and body are malleable to our external influences. As our power of thought changes, our breath pattern is altered to reflect our emotional state. Ultimately how we breath is how we think.
Allowing the breath to find balance;
Balances the nervous system
Reduces stress levels
Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
Eases chronic pain
Regulates the body’s reaction to stress and fatigue
Raise your level of awareness of your breath within your everyday routine:
There are various forms of Breathwork all of which have the capacity to stimulate or restore your nervous system. Ultimately, our relationship with our breath should be about balance, not achievement.
Play - Mindful breathing.
Become aware of your breath pattern.
This technique requires no effort in changing the way you breathe, however, the act of focusing on the breath naturally slows down your breathing and encourages relaxation. As you focus on how air moves in and out through your nose and lungs, simply notice where there is capacity to feel fuller with breath and where there may be areas of limitation.
For a fuller breath, continue to encourage presence, noticing the ‘here and now.’
Work - Belly breath.
Create further awareness of your breath patten through the physical movement of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale.
Place one hand on your stomach and inhale slowly through the nose (notice the abdomen rising). As you exhale, contract the abdomen muscles and push the air out of your lungs. Be mindful to ensure you encourage a deep and slow inhale.
Consciously breathing fully into the belly and the chest helps to massage organs, creating a physical and emotional detox effect.
Sleep - 4,7,8 Method. Encourage relaxation as you fall asleep by gaining control over your breath.
Begin by inhaling to the count of four, holding your breath to the count of seven, followed by exhaling to the count of eight. Repeat as needed.
This technique activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to reduce agitation and anxiety.
Stress is normal, how we respond to stress is critical.
We expose ourselves to challenges in life and our bodies have the ability to naturally move through these challenges. It is our breath that helps us to connect too and complete an experience by naturally shifting us through our essential nervous system processes.
Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, a cell biologist and internationally recognized leader in bridging science and spirit with his studies of epigenetics summarized in The Biology of Belief how we as humans have the ability to rewire our own systems through conscious breathing.
The Sympathetic Nervous system, our bodies ‘gas pedal’ is directly related to our adrenal glands and adrenaline responses. Connected to our inhale, it is our Fight or Flight response that is generated from within this branch of the autonomic nervous system.
The Parasympathetic Nervous system, our body’s ‘brake pedal,’ signals through our exhale to rest and digest. It controls functions of the body to conserve energy as it slows heart rate and activates our healing state.
The relative balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic is how our body achieves homeostasis on the physical level which also reflects our mental and emotional wellbeing.
When overly sympathetic we are activated, high energy and prone to over-efforting without time to find stillness, rest and repair.
To shift into a parasympathetic state increases our capacity and resilience so we are less likely to be triggered with a reaction and instead are able to remain a witness to emotions or experiences as we live through them.
This bodily form of response and regulation is part of our natural functioning, it is our capacity to come out of our instinctual responses that is important.
Connecting with our breath supports the body in resourcing its innate healing abilities, it is your own medicine. When we are able to operate from a place of balance and ease within, this reflects outward into our external environment, strengthening relationships with those around us, with ourselves and honouring the support of our wellbeing.
Vanessa Werner is a Breathwork Facilitator, Prenatal Educator and Birth & Postpartum Doula based in Auckland, N.Z. From 1:1 sessions, workshops and community talks, it is Vanessa’s passion to empower others through support, discussion and education.