Updated: Dec 16, 2020
5 Reasons Why Breathwork Is Here to Stay
Although meditation has a long history, it wasn't until the mindfulness movement of the 1990's that meditation started to have its moment in the sun. Meditation and mindful practices appear to have exploded in popularity in line with the growth of yoga, which makes perfect sense given that Dharana (“holding,” or concentration, and refers to the ability to focus exclusively on one object), and Dhyana ("meditative absorption") are two of the eight limbs of yoga.
One of the other limbs, Pranayama (breathing techniques) has not grown at the same pace despite the cult following of breathwork masters like Wim Hof. Although I had always worked hard to connect my breath to movement in yoga and had my first experience of a hyperventilating breathwork practice in 2011, it wasn't enough to spark my interest until I was introduced to the research of the Heart Math Institute, which demonstrated that a circular breathing practice can pause the stress response in a matter of minutes. And herein lies both the power and potential of breathwork as the next big thing in the wellness industry.
Here's five reasons why breathwork is growing so fast:
1. Breathwork shifts focus from thought
One of the great benefits of meditation is that it helps people become more aware of their own thoughts and thought processes. The downside of so much concentrated focus on thoughts is that it doesn't help people disassociate from their thoughts and get out of their heads.
Breathwork, by comparison, doesn't require any thinking at all. In fact, SOMA Breath combines rhythmic breathing, breath-holds and music that helps people to become detached from their thought processes and get out of the mind entirely.
At a time when people are spending a lot of time at home thinking, SOMA Breath offers people a much needed break from thought, along with the benefits of stimulating the immune system and resetting the nervous system.
2. It connects you to your body and helps to release emotional blocks
People have a wide range of experiences with breathwork and it can also lead to a wide range of emotions either during or after a breathwork practice. I've had clients who have felt ecstatic, energised, peaceful or indifferent, and yet others have felt extreme releases of sadness, or negative emotions that they aren't fully connected to.
Breathing in a rhythm of 2:4, 4:4 or 4:8 hyper-oxygenates the body, bringing in more oxygen and blowing out more carbon dioxide than normal.This alters the pH of the blood stream and creates a stronger electromagnetic field and current to flow through the body.
Some people may experience shaking or vibrations during their breathwork, and in my own practice this can range from pleasant to intense. Each time, I am left feeling very activated, and clients I work with tell me that they feel 'activated', 'energised' or some sort of release when they have a big release.
You can also impact your quality of thought through your breath. HeartMath Institute's studies show that erratic breathing leads to erratic thinking and that smooth consistent breathing leads to coherent thought.
3. It brings people together
Meditation tends to be something we do on our own, and for many of us it is a private practice of contemplation. Breathwork, on the other hand, can bring people together in many different ways. Many breathwork practices are offered in groups with a theme that helps to deepen the connection to a specific issue or topic.
Breathwork also has the effect of bringing people together by enabling individuals to improve their health and vitality which has a ripple effect outwards as those people have a positive impact on the people around them.
Niraj Naik of SOMA Breath strongly believes that breathwork helps people to increase their level of vibrational energy (L.O.V.E.) which helps everyone to improve their health and their relationships.
4. You see tangible results faster
A 5 minute session of rhythmic breathing using a 2:4, 4:4 or 4:8 rhythm can neutralise the stress response in the body. The Heart Math Institute has done extensive research the impact of 'coherent breathing' on the bodies physiological functions. Their research has shown that rhythmic breathing helps to create reduce the variability in heart rate which is what helps to reverse the stress response and bring balance back to the body.
One study showed that breathwork training significantly reduced cortisol levels compared to the control group. Other studies have shown that breathwork enhances peoples emotions, reduces anxiety, depression and stress.
Anyone who has meditated knows that it can sometimes take time to get into a meditative state (some days it can be downright impossible). Breathwork works differently and people who practice notice a change in state almost immediately.
5. We do it any way
The average person takes more than 17,000 breaths per day. That's a lot of breathing. It takes a small shift to change your breathing to make a positive impact on your day, and with some training, you can learn techniques that can give you an advantage when it comes to facing challenging situations, regulating your emotions or improving your physical performance.
If we're going to take 17,000 breaths, we might as well maximise the benefits!
Life is just a series of inhales and exhales. The more we connect to the rhythm of our breath, the more we connect to the rhythm of our lives.
Tim is trained by SOMA Breath as a breathwork instructor, and he draws on his deep experience in yoga, meditation and coaching to create immersive experiences for individuals, groups and corporate audiences.