Your breath is a powerful tool that you always carry with you, but few know exactly how to harness it for better mental and physical well-being. Here’s a brief guide on how to use this basic bodily function to better your life.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork refers specifically to deep, intentional, often rhythmic breathing in the diaphragm or belly.
What are the benefits?
Breathwork triggers an instinctual relaxation response to calm the nervous system, which can decrease anxiety.
What’s the difference between breathwork and meditation?
During breathwork you actively manipulate the pattern and depth of your breath. During meditation, you let the breath be natural and observe the rhythms.
How do you do it?
There are numerous approaches to breathwork. Here are some of the most common practices and some Sanskrit terms for them:
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi shodhana): The basic concept of this technique is exactly how it sounds. Using your fingers, close off one nostril and deeply inhale through the other. Then pause, switch nostrils and exhale through the other side. Pause, and inhale through the side you just exhaled through. Pause, and then change nostrils and exhale through the other side. Repeat this cycle for 5 to 10 minutes.
Box Breathing: Breath in slowly while counting to four. Hold your breath (also called kumbhaka, or breath retention) for four counts, then breath out for four counts. Hold for four more counts. Repeat this cycle for 5 to 10 minutes.
Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati): Also called Breath of Fire, this technique is known to highly energize and ignite the body. Sit cross-legged and place one hand on your belly. Take a short inhale and breathe out quickly. All the emphasis should be on short, powerful exhales. Perform this breath practice for three rounds of 30 seconds.
Lion Pose (Simhasana): This breathwork is great for releasing anxiety, anger or other challenging emotions. Sit cross-legged or lay down on your back and take a big breath in through your nose. Stick your tongue out and forcefully exhale while making a “ha” sound. Repeat three to five times, and then do a few soft rounds of breathing after.