I’ll never forget the experience I had in my first holotropic breathwork class. I had been practicing yoga for over 10 years and had dived deeply into pranayama breathing and meditation via my yoga teacher training + ongoing studies. I had been an instructor for over 6 years and reached the point in my practice where I was passing down the knowledge I gained to other rising teachers and practitioners. So, I was already deeply immersed in the wellness world before I had my breathwork awakening and I released a LOT to say the least. I promised myself I would study the practice deeper when I had time.
So, when I decided to dive deeper and get my breathwork certification, part of me assumed that what I would experience there would be in line with other wellness certifications I’d taken before, massive studies but with that deeper relaxation and the releasing part I felt before. And yet, like any open hearted student, I remained open-minded about what this new experience would give me.
I laid on my bed, slightly annoyed by my instructors use of profanity, closed my eyes and followed his cues to place one hand on my heart and the other one my stomach. I released my annoyance as he guided me through deep breathing, up through my stomach and up into my chest. He coached me to keep that sequence of breathing, past the point where my body wanted to give up. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling the effects of the breathing all over my body.
I yelled as instructed, I cried, I released and I let go… of a lot. In the end, every feeling that passed through me served me in a tangible way. So I practiced daily and by the end of the certification I knew this deep work had come at the perfect time for me to release old baggage and trauma so that I could step more into my power and teach others to do the same.
As I think about challenging times, like the one we’re in today, I realize the need for breathwork is more important than ever. Here are the five ways breathwork can help you in tough times.
Reduce stress and anxiety levels: Breathwork has been shown to reduce stress, symptoms of depression and anxiety levels. According to a 2017 study by Frontiers of Psychology, those who regularly practiced breathwork training sessions were found to have significantly lower levels of cortisol – our body’s stress hormone. Deep breathing allows your body to quickly relax. Within breathwork, the response is even more profound. Once you get used to taking fast pace breaths, you can relieve tension that may have built up in your body for years.
Connection to Spirit: Most breathing sessions include music. The rhythms of the music, alongside the rhythms of your breathing, allow many people to go into their own inner world and connect with their true spirit. This spirit is the same Spirit that lives in all of us. Many people who do breathwork of any kind report spiritual awakenings and other types of cathartic breakthroughs.
Process Emotions: Deep breathing is believed to open up emotional and psychological blockages. As a cornerstone of breathwork, deep breathing allows practitioners to experience the healing of deep emotional pains and traumas. I’ve led workshops on breathwork following intense conversations on social justice, rape and abuse, and other weighty conversations. Students have said that by following these heavy conversations with breathwork, they feel they’re able to let go of some of the stagnant energy and unprocessed feelings they had.
Overcome Addictions: With most of the nation still on lockdown, many are struggling with vices and addictions. According to research firm Nielsen, weekly retail sales of alcoholic beverages have jumped 25 to 55%. Although not meant to be a substitute for substance control meetings – breathwork has been shown to help people who struggle with addictions. Breathwork is a practice that helps many forgive themselves and become aware of their own choices and the role they play in healing themselves. And the good news is, it can be done remotely!
Enrich Creativity: Right now, it’s natural for many of us to feel a bit uninspired during a Global Pandemic. Breathwork sessions help unblock emotions and work through repressed emotions – leading to mental clarity and creativity. Use the time at the beginning of your breathwork session to set an intention tied to increasing your creativity and then allow the process to work its magic!