Many things have changed and developed alongside us to help aid mankind, however some of these things have happened so rapidly that our bodies have been unable to keep up. With the internet and the dissemination of information being so easily achievable and accessible, we’re moving at a speed faster than ever. With this in mind, when we consider that our bodies are still a very similar makeup as to those 100 years ago (if not taller, fatter and living longer) our minds haven’t been built or designed for these changes.
"Whether we want to or not, we have already changed our future course of evolution, and it is not being done by some small group of people who are thinking carefully and planning, it is being done as a byproduct of thousands of daily decisions that are implemented with technology and culture."
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University
So what does this have to do with breathing?
The speed in which we act in our daily lives is faster than ever before. You wake up, you instantly turn to your phone to see the latest news, what your friends did last night and Google about the dream you just had. This didn’t allow your body to wake up, your brain to come to its own conclusions about your thoughts and your day has started with a wealth of information that sets your mind whirring before breakfast.
We know how much pressure and the negative consequences that some of these technological advances can and have had. Breathing is a human function that is part of survival and has been with us since humans first existed. Breathing practices are now common teaching to those who are struggling with anxiety, stress, panic attacks and other things that affect our mental wellbeing.
If we don’t slow down our minds caused by the speed of the world around us, we’re going to become continually overwhelmed and live more chaotically.
What is breathwork?
The term breathwork refers to varying practices that all focus on the way we breathe. We teach ourselves these exercises and meditations to help our minds cope with a variety of situations that they just weren’t built for. This could be from feeling overwhelmed when standing in a room full of people busily chatting, to helping us get more restful sleep and removing those very fast buzzing thoughts.
What can breathing exercises achieve?
Breathwork exercises can increase clarity of the mind as well as helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Whether choosing to practice as a daily ritual or just in times of need, having these exercise resources ready can dramatically improve some of the worst situations. When we make time to learn these exercises we’re actively working on our positive personal development, which also has positive effects on our relationships with the people around us. They’re also great for encouraging creative thinking, increasing mindfulness and our self awareness. First and foremost, breathing exercises are an incredible tool for releasing negative thoughts, encouraging energy flow through the body, reducing anxiety and helping us through times of peak stress. It's important to mention when you feel anxiety, unconsciously you will hold your breath, so slow breathwork really comes into play to ease symptoms of anxiety and even stop the attack happening.
How to find the best practice for yourself
Of course there are multiple different types of breathwork to help suit every individual's needs. These include transformational, combined yoga, vivation, integrative, shamanic, holotropic, rebirthing, clarity and many more. For those dipping their toe into this world, this can appear overwhelming, many names for many things, so it can be difficult to find what's best suited. There is some trial involved to find the best exercises for yourself, you’ll need to try out a few different types!
What exercises does breathwork involve?
Breathwork involves concentrating on the way our bodies move and how our breath acts. We don’t always have to involve ourselves in larger practices but can simply take exercises from them that we enjoy and resonate with. One of the best ways to start is by trying some of these exercises that only take a few minutes to complete and help us identify what we like. These exercises could include pursed lip breathing, lion’s breath, equal breathing, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, alternate nostril breathing, etc.
Breathwork defined: Remember the term breathwork refers to different breathing techniques, programs, and exercises. All of these exercises focus on your conscious awareness of your inhales and exhales. These exercises use deep, focused breathing that lasts a specific amount of time.
Are guided exercises the way forward?
You can simply sit where you are now and try different exercises on your own without the involvement of anyone else. For those looking to take this to the next level there are Youtube videos, apps and podcasts for guided breathing exercises often at no cost. They’re a great way to learn these exercises for when you want to apply them in other situations and a great teaching tool. We recommend our friend Stuart Sandeman, of Breathpod’s live free Instagram sessions to get you started.
Do I have to make a calm environment to work in?
For those moments when everything feels too much, having breathing exercises as tools for calming scenarios is worth more than anything. In this you probably won’t have the opportunity to make a space, however, for practicing breathing exercises creating a tempered environment can really help. It puts you in the mood and makes it an even more enjoyable experience. We recommend the Calm Candle for giving us something to focus on while we are breathing and the Zen Room Spray to provide us with our perfect bubble.
Reteaching ourselves to breathe might sound like a peculiar stance - we’ve been breathing our entire lives! But with how fast the world is moving in positive and negative directions, taking the time to be with ourselves and really be at one with our bodies really helps to reduce how taxing it is on our brains. Some people are unable to have the time away from their phones because of the nature of their work or family life, but this is something we can all get ourselves involved in to help make a difference to how difficult life can get. Those few moments spent breathing before making a decision can make all the difference for a positive outcome.