Breathwork Breakdown: “Why & How” Anna Moore FYC
One of the simplest and single most effective ways of healing the body is through breathwork and consciousness of breath. It can be practiced anywhere and at anytime, from our office to our living room, and everywhere in between. Breathwork is one of the many ways we can deepen and enhance our mind, body and spirit connection, which will create the opportunity for more ease and flow in our everyday lives.
10 Benefits of Breathwork:
- Deep breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is activated in times of stress and anxiety. It is where the brain tells the body to prepare for the fight or flight response. Deep breathing will slow our heart rate down and, in a matter of seconds, our breath will communicate to our brain that there is no danger, which relaxes our muscles.
- Breathing elevates mood. Breathing raises levels of endorphins and lowers stress hormones. Breathwork is an extremely effective tool to empower ourselves in quickly finding calm and balance in challenging situations. Try practicing your favorite breathing technique right before an important meeting, or during a fierce conversation.
- Breathing brings clarity and mindfulness to our mind-body connection. Practicing mindfulness breathing, we can gain clarity on where we hold our emotions and tension in our bodies. With practice, we can learn to breathe into the tense areas of our bodies (areas where we may hold our pain), and to actually release that tension with every exhale.
- Breathing boosts energy and stamina. The more oxygen in our body, the more natural energy we will have. Practice breathwork on the way to work to increase productivity.
- Breathing increases oxygen in our blood. Increased oxygenation of our blood through focused breathing techniques improves brain function and even athletic performance by properly oxygenating the blood being sent to our muscles. Practice breathwork after working out to give muscles more oxygen and reduce soreness.
- Breathing strengthens the immune system. Our immune system is our best defense against all disease and dictates how most other systems of the body function.
- Breathing can release toxins from our bodies by 70%. When we exhale, we are releasing carbon dioxide waste, which has passed through our bloodstream into our lungs. The other 30% is released through the bowels and bladder.
- Deep breathing promotes better sleep. Playing into the function of our immune system, rest and sleep are essential to repairing toxic damage from our day. Breathwork practiced right before bed will assist us in falling asleep more quickly once our head hits the pillow.
- Reduction in blood pressure. When stressed, the body releases adrenaline. As a result, the blood thickens and the heart pumps faster, putting strain on weakened arteries. Breathwork reduces the body’s release of adrenaline, and lowers blood pressure.
- Breathing normalizes the heart rate and rhythm. By reducing blood pressure, breathwork can also normalize the rate and rhythm of the heart, which is known to improve the quality and duration of our lives.
How to Cultivate a Regular Breathwork Practice:
For maximum benefit, practice one or more of these breathwork exercises daily. Beginners may start with their favorite breathwork exercise for 1 minute per day, and may work up to 15 to 30+ total minutes of various breathwork exercises daily. Many of the following breathwork exercises are based upon Kundalini Yoga (known as the “Raj” or the “King” of Yogas), and are meant to maximize the positive effects of each position in a very short amount of time.
Best Practices on Breathwork Form:
All of the following exercises are meant to be done in a seated position, and can be performed on a couch, in a chair, in a wheelchair, or on the floor.
- Be mindful to sit up tall before, during, and after all breathwork exercises, and always elongate the top of the spine towards the sky.
- Practice breathwork by breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth gently closed.
- While breathing through the nose, turn the corners of the mouth up in order to naturally release endorphins in the brain.
- When available during breathwork practice, close the eyelids for each sequence.
- Keeping the eyelids closed, turn the eyeballs towards the Third Eye (located directly between the eyebrows and one inch above) to activate and strengthen Inner Wisdom and Intuition.
Beginner Breathwork Exercises
Neck Rolls Right & Left (Effect: Warm Up Spine)
- INHALE right ear to right shoulder, then roll head back towards spine.
- EXHALE left ear to left shoulder, then roll chin towards chest.
- Continue rolling the head right for one or more minutes, then switch directions. INHALE while rolling the head left and back, and EXHALE while rolling the head right and forward.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Effect: Balance Left & Right Sides of Brain)
- Place index and middle fingers of right hand on Third Eye.
- Gently close right nostril with right thumb.
- INHALE deeply through left nostril into bottom of belly. Hold breath briefly while releasing thumb from right nostril, gently closing left nostril with right ring finger.
- EXHALE fully and INHALE deeply through right nostril, keeping left nostril closed.
- Hold breath briefly while releasing ring finger from left nostril, gently closing right nostril with thumb.
- Continue inhaling and exhaling through opposite nostrils for one or more minutes.
Root Lock Breath (Effect: Maintain Personal Boundaries)
- INHALE deeply and, keeping breath held briefly, “Lock the Root” by very tightly squeezing all pelvic floor muscles.
- Keeping Root firmly locked, EXHALE firmly until all air is expelled.
- Relax Root, and INHALE deeply with relaxed pelvic floor.
- Continue breathing deeply for one or more minutes, locking Root on EXHALE, and relaxing Root on INHALE.
Intermediate Breathing Exercises
Chin Forward and Back (Effect: Increase Purity of Thought & Action)
- INHALE deeply while extending chin up and away from base of spine, elongating shoulders back and away from ears and placing hands gently on knees or lap.
- EXHALE firmly while curving pelvis and shoulders forward, extending belly straight back and tucking chin to chest, creating “C” curve with body.
- Continue breathing deeply for one or more minutes, extending chin forward on INHALE, and tucking chin to chest on EXHALE.
Sun Salutation Variation (Effect: Cleanse & Brighten Auric Field)
- Extend fingertips out to left and right sides of hips, far away from body, elongating shoulders away from ears.
- INHALE deeply while turning palms towards sky and bringing hands together high above head, keeping shoulders low and away from ears.
- EXHALE fully while turning palms towards Earth and elongating fingertips to left and right sides of hips, far away from body, elongating shoulders away from ears.
- Continue breathing deeply for one or more minutes, lifting fingertips high on INHALE, and lowering fingertips down on EXHALE.
Breath of 7 (Effect: Activate Ability to Improve Life Circumstances)
- INHALE deeply on a slow count of 7.
- Hold breath gently for a slow count of 7.
- EXHALE fully on a slow count of 7.
- Hold breath gently for a slow count of 7.
- Continue breathing deeply for one or more minutes, INHALING for 7 counts, holding breath for 7 counts, EXHALING for 7 counts, and holding for 7 counts.
Advanced Breathing Exercises
Venus Lock Twist (Effect: Deeply Cleanse All Organs)
- Create “Venus Lock” (cross four fingers of both hands, release thumbs) behind back, arms extended.
- Lift hands as high as possible, thumbs pointing down, shoulders elongated away from ears.
- INHALE deeply while twisting head and shoulders left and pulling hands right.
- EXHALE deeply while twisting head and shoulders right and pulling hands left.
- Continue breathing deeply for one or more minutes, INHALING while twisting left and EXHALING while twisting right.
45° Arms Breath of Fire (Effect: Purify Lungs & Blood)
- Extend fingertips above head at 45° angle, palms facing forward.
- Point thumbs to sky, and fold fingertips into palms.
- Keeping arms lifted and shoulders low, rapidly INHALE and EXHALE through nose, pumping lower belly with each breath.
- Continue INHALING and EXHALING through the nose as quickly as possible for one or more minutes.
Shoulder Bounce Breath of Fire (Effect: Rejuvenate Energetic Body)
- Place hands gently on knees or lap.
- INHALE deeply while lifting shoulders up to ears.
- EXHALE deeply while lower shoulders back and away from ears.
- Increase breathing pace to as fast as possible, matching pace of shoulder movements to pace of breath.
- Continue INHALING and EXHALING quickly for one or more minutes, lifting and lowering shoulders with each rapid breath.