Updated: Feb 20
Breath work, or “breathing practice,” has several potential benefits for the brain and body. Breathing exercises fall under the category of “Pranayama” in yoga, which means bringing discipline to the breath. It involves conscious manipulation of the breath through various techniques, such as lengthening, deepening, and/or holding the breath. At times, breathwork may simply consist of ‘Breath awareness’, i.e.- focusing attention on the act of breathing.
Here are some of the benefits of breath work:
1. Reduces stress and anxiety: When we're stressed or anxious, our breath tends to become shallow and fast. This type of breathing can activate the body's stress response, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Breath work techniques, such as slow, deep breathing, can help to calm the body's stress response, leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety.
2. Increases relaxation: Breath work can also help to promote relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the "rest and digest" response. When we are relaxed, our heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and we feel more at ease.
3.Improves focus and concentration: Some breath work techniques involve focusing on the breath and letting go of distracting thoughts. This can help to improve focus and concentration, as well as reduce feelings of mind wandering.
4. Increases blood flow and oxygenation: Deep, slow breathing can increase blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, which may have a number of benefits for cognitive function.
5. Improves sleep: Breath work can also help to promote sleep by reducing stress and anxiety, as well as increasing relaxation.
6. May have anti-inflammatory effects: Some research suggest that breath work is connected with low levels of cytokines which are markers of inflammation in the body.
7. Enhances spiritual connection: For some people, breath work is an important part of their spiritual practice. It can help to promote feelings of peace, connection, and mindfulness.
Overall, breath work can be a powerful tool for optimise the health of our nervous system. There are a variety of breath work practices, some are fairly easy to practice and some need more focus, guidance and attention to practice. However something as simple as slow deep breathing have been shown to have numerous benefits. It's easy to incorporate into daily life and can be done anytime, anywhere.