How many times have you been advised to take a deep breath when you were stressed, upset, frightened, etc.? It turns out, there’s centuries worth of wisdom behind that advice. Breathwork is an ancient exercise involving active breathing that helps to calm stress and anxiety, and promote inner peace. This practice has been gaining traction in the wellness industry recently, with instructor-led classes becoming quite common in many cities.
Ancient Wisdom, New Audience
Breathwork entered the mainstream as an addition to yoga classes, but it’s expansion into full-length classes and workshops is due to the benefits breathwork is said to provide. It is said to help reduce stress and anxiety, and to increase restfulness, creativity, and intuition. But how can deep breathing do all of that?
The Science Behind Breathwork
One of the side effects of fear and stress is that we take increased, shallow breaths which, in turn, impedes our concentration and clarity. Deep breathing counters the chemistry in our bodies that is produced by fear and stress, giving our brains a moment to relax. When our brains can relax, our bodies can relax, the tension will ease a little, and suddenly there are possibilities available.
There are many kinds of breathwork, ranging from basic deep breathing exercises to intense, near hallucinogenic experiences. The practice began as meditation exercises in the ancient east, and have been interpreted, adapted, and mutated throughout the ages since. The three most commonly practiced breathwork exercises in group classes are: Pranayama, which is about controlling your breath in order to create positive effects on your mind and body; Holotropic, which is usually accompanied by loud music and involves intense breathing exercises that create an altered, drug-like state of consciousness; and Rebirthing, which is often performed while lying underwater, and is said to help you release the residual trauma you experienced during birth.
Breathwork at Home
Breathwork classes are becoming increasingly popular, but it can be an intense exercise, and group experiences are not for everyone. And while there’s always the possibility of a one-on-one experience with a licensed instructor, an experience like that could prove to be expensive, or have a long waiting list. So, here are five tips on how to get started with breathwork in the privacy of your own home:
- Set aside 10 – 15 minutes per day to perform your meditation in a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed by the other residents of your home.
- Create a playlist of three to four songs that you enjoy. It’s best if the first two are faster paced and the last are calming.
- Lie on your back with your eyes closed. You can cover your eyes with a face mask if you prefer.
- Breathe deeply all the way into your belly, then into your chest throughout the first two songs, exhaling completely each time through your mouth. If you feel tense during this time, breathe into it. This will ultimately help the tension release.
- Once the music transitions to calming, begin to breathe in and out through your nose. You may experience vibrations throughout your body during this period. Let it flow as long as you like.
If you find this breathing exercise helpful, and would like to explore breathwork further, there are many self-guided meditations to be found online. You may also want to consider taking a class with a licensed instructor near you. They may even be available for one-on-one sessions if you are uncomfortable with group sessions. So, if you’re looking for a way to refresh yourself this year, why not give breathwork a try?
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