“Just breathe” or “take a deep breath” – we’ve all been told one of these at least once in our lives, usually when we are stressed, upset, angry, emotional, overwhelmed, or any other excitable state. But what if it was more than just a saying?
The process of breathing is crucial to living, and directly impacts many different body systems. For example, by changing our breath pattern we can influence our heart rate. Our breath has a direct effect on our autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for states of activation and excitement or relaxation and calm. These states are more formally referred to as the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, and heal response). This is exactly why we are told to ‘take a breath’ when we are excited – a slow, controlled breath tells the body that it is not in danger and relaxes the system.
What is breathwork?
Quite simply, it is breathing with intention. Since breathing is an automatic and controlled function, we often don’t think about how we are breathing or, even, if we are breathing. We may not even realize just how much the breath affects other functions in our body or our state of mind. Through breathwork, we consciously use the breath to shift our state of wellbeing. Breathwork or controlled, intentional breathing is often used in Pilates and yoga – though the breath is secondary to the movement, whereas specific breathwork practices do not focus on movement and are usually done lying down.
What to expect in a breathwork session?
There are two types of breathwork practices: integrative (less than 8 minutes) and meditative (more than 8 minutes). Integrative sessions are great to use in your day-to-day life. You can do some quick breathing at your desk, while on a walk, first thing in the morning or right before bed. The best thing about breathwork is it requires no tools or special setup. Meditative sessions are more intricate, and it is encouraged that these are facilitated by a trained professional. In a meditative session, you will be lying on the floor, the facilitator will guide you through different breath patterns, and the goal is that you focus only on your breathing. As indicated by the name, during these longer sessions you can reach a meditative state (if you struggle to keep your mind quiet or from wandering during a traditional meditation, breathwork is a great option for you). Many people come out a meditative breathwork session with a clear mind and feeling refreshed. Others may feel emotional throughout a session, or they may feel a sense of pure relaxation. No two breathwork sessions will be the same, but consistent practice helps keep the mind and body connected.
Interested in trying Breathwork?
Our Reflexology Therapist and Breathwork Facilitator, Dionne, offers a new Reflexology & Breathwork Hybrid treatment. The 60-minute session combines the relaxing effects of integrative breathwork and reflexology to provide the ultimate reset and recharge for your nervous system. It is great for reducing stress, improving sleep, and creating a sense of calm in your body and mind.