Whether you take a martial arts, meditation, or yoga class, you’re going to find that breathwork is a fundamental part of your practice. Breathing is so fundamental to every moment of our lives, yet so often we breathe unconsciously and without intention. Yet breathing is a miraculous way into the otherwise unconsciously regulated autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and so much more. We can’t just focus and lower our heart-rate or body temperature directly, but we can most certainly, through breath-work, slow down our breathing, which in turn affects our other unconscious systems, opening an incredible door into our body and mind.
Topics on this article:
– Stronger Cardiovascular Health
– Better Respiratory Health
– Better Sleep
– Improve Sleep Apnea
– Reduce Stress
– Prepare to Face Stress, Improve Concentration
– Learn Powerful Breathwork with Boabom
Breathwork, fundamentally defined, is breathing in a conscious, deliberate way. And whether you are studying breathing techniques as part of a movement class or in a practice devoted specifically to breathwork, there is very little you can do that is better for your mind and body than taking the time and energy to breathe consciously. From simple things like calming down before a stressful meeting or test to long-term physical and psychological outcomes, conscious breathing is at the core of taking care of ourselves.
This is why breathwork is fundamental to nearly every practice of meditation, yoga, or martial arts, and why it is an integral part of every Boabom and Seamm-Jasnai class. The breath is like the backbone of the class, the rhythm that builds our energy and propels us forward, and at the same time the fabric that ties us together and helps us focus and quiet our mind.
That there are so many varieties of breathwork going back thousands of years speaks both to the fundamental importance of conscious breathing and to the capacity of the human mind to create, experiment, study, and expand. These breathwork techniques range from the fundamental Buddhist meditation technique of Anapanasti through more involved techniques like Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing) from the yogic tradition, Tummo from Tibetan Buddhism, and into modern systems like Holotropic Breathwork, to name just a few. For someone completely new to breathwork, the sheer variety of techniques can be staggering… who knew there could be so many different ways to breathe?
In Boabom and Seamm-Jasani we start with a simple, fundamental breathing technique that is designed to exercise our entire respiratory system, from nose to the diaphragm and back again. We breathe in deeply through our nose, filling the lungs, then exhale through the mouth, engaging our diaphragm along with our abdomen, stomach, and throat. Through this breathing we can center ourselves, build focus and concentration, and at the same time feed our muscles the oxygen they need to do work at their maximum capacity, without the overexertion that can come from too much anaerobic work.
Why Begin a Breathwork Practice?
It can take some of us a little time to adjust to conscious breathing, especially when we’re used to breathing automatically and unconsciously. But with a good teacher and patient practice, your breath work practice will soon become natural. And while intentionally taken breaths will always be a small proportion of the breaths we take every day, the more we practice, the better all of our breaths will be. Even just an hour or two a week of breathwork can have a significant influence on the time when you’re not breathing consciously, as your breaths will be deeper and you will be more quickly able to shift into conscious breathing when you need it. The calm, centered focus you gain from your breathwork practice will spill over into your everyday life, and all of this healthy breathing can improve not just your mood and energy level, but also your physical health.
Stronger Cardiovascular Health
Breath work exercises your lungs and improves your cardiovascular health. Breathing exercises, especially if they focus on deeper breathing, stimulate and strengthen your lungs: think of resistance training and its effects on your muscles. The more you exercise your lungs, the more efficiently they perform, and with a little practice you’ll see a big effect. If things like walking up stairs and walking distances tire you, you’ll find these things will get easier with practice. And if you already exercise regularly, you’ll likely see an increase in your endurance by learning to control your breath.
Better Respiratory Health
Keeping our lungs healthy doesn’t just help us walk farther or run faster. Better breath means healthier lungs, which can help us fight off respiratory infections, from colds, to the flu, to COVID. Deep breathing, especially when combined with aerobic exercise like Boabom and Seamm-Jasani, is the best way to strengthen your lungs, which can help to prevent serious COVID complications. And for those who are recovering from COVID and suffering shortness of breath or other pulmonary complications, breathwork can help recover your lung capacity—but of course make sure to consult a doctor before trying out a new technique.
Breatwork helps us to reduce stress, which can have a huge effect on sleep. Whether we use breathwork to help us calm down before going to bed or we use a specific technique to help us get to sleep, many varieties of conscious breathing can help us get a better night’s sleep. Even the more active and energizing breathwork techniques, when practiced earlier in the day, can really lower our stress levels and help us to fall asleep and get better rest.
Improve Sleep Apnea With Breathwork Exercises
Breathwork can help with sleep apnea, too. Sleep apnea is a very common ailment—it’s estimated that one in 15 adults in the U.S. suffers from it. Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to the point where they no longer keep the airway open. This causes blood oxygen levels to drop and the sufferer to wake up briefly—so briefly they do not remember waking up—but enough to interrupt a normal sleep pattern. This occurs repeatedly through the night and can have significant negative effects on our health. Breathwork helps to decrease sleep apnea by strengthening those muscles, so they are less likely to slacken and we can enjoy an uninterrupted night of restful sleep.
Deep, conscious breathing is one of the very best ways to reduce stress, both generally and in specific situations. By practicing breathwork we can reduce our overall stress load which will make us more relaxed and energized in general. And when we are facing a stressful situation we can use our breathing techniques to help us calm down in the moment. When we are stressed we can go into a fight-or-flight response, where our muscles tighten up and our breathing becomes fast and shallow. By slowing down our breathing, inhaling and exhaling deeply, we can lower cortisol levels, reduce our heart-rate, and regulate our blood pressure, letting our body lead our mind to a quieter place.
Prepare to Face Stress, Improve Concentration
Even before we enter a stressful situation, breathwork can help. As we prepare for a challenging meeting, a big test, or any stressful or difficult situation, we can prepare by practicing conscious breathing. Just a few deep breaths can help us feel more confident, in control, and more clear-headed. This clarity also improves our concentration, as we can use breathwork to help us clear our mind and body of negative, distracting thoughts and help us to be in the moment, working and focusing on the here and now.
Learn Powerful Breathwork with Boabom
Because breath is so fundamental, this simple act, of breathing consciously, can yield so many incredible benefits. In a Boabom or Seamm-Jasani class we are breathing consciously throughout, and just an hour of practice once a week can be a great place to start. If you’d like to see for yourself how breathwork can improve your physical and psychological health, try a free on-demand or live introductory Boabom class at the Boston School of Boabom.