Breathwork meditation may deepen relaxation, improve your mood, and soothe physical illness.
Breathing is something we constantly do, often without paying any attention to it. However, this simple action can be used as a tool to improve your mental and physical health. Breathwork meditation involves consciously and mindfully changing your breathing patterns to improve relaxation.
There are many reported benefits of breathwork meditation, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving sleep and mood. It may also help with the symptoms of certain physical illnesses.
Popular breathwork meditation exercises include 4-7-8 breathing, box breathing, and alternate nostril breathing.
Breathwork meditation refers to any technique that combines breathing exercises with mindfulness. When engaging in breathwork meditation, you’ll intentionally and consciously change your breathing pattern while paying attention to the sensations that arise in your body.
Many people use breathwork meditation to deepen relaxation, improve focus, and unwind before bedtime.
Combining breathwork with meditation allows you to potentially reap the benefits of both techniques. People use breathwork meditation to improve their mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
According to research, breathwork may:
- boost mood
decreasehigh blood pressure
- deepen relaxation
helpwith symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- improve alertness, focus, and memory
- increase heart rate variability (a metric associated with longevity, fitness, and mental health)
- promote creativity
- promote quality sleep
- soothe emotions associated with grief and trauma
- reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
reducesymptoms of asthma
- reduce symptoms of stress
Meditation and mindfulness, on the other hand, have the following reported benefits:
- reduce anxiety
- improve physical and mental symptoms of cancer
- improve mood regulation
- reduce perceived stress
- improve job satisfaction
Overall, breathwork meditation is a free, low risk activity that may improve your mental state as well as your physical health.
Most breathwork exercises incorporate an element of mindfulness and meditation. Although some kinds of breathwork have been studied more than others, no research suggests certain breathwork techniques are better than others. It’s up to you to decide which breathwork meditation exercises work best for you.
Doing a 4-7-8 breathwork meditation exercise involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This is repeated several times.
Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing involves covering one nostril and alternating on each inhale and exhale. A popular alternate nostril breathing practice is Anulom Vilom, which is a specific type of pranayama (controlled breathing) in yoga.
To practice Anulum Vilom, you hold one nostril closed while inhaling, then hold the other nostril closed while exhaling. Reverse and repeat the process several times.
Bhramari Pranayama (bumblebee breath)
Also called bumblebee breath, Bhramari Pranayama involves breathing deeply and making a high-pitched humming sound while you exhale. Breathwork teachers typically advise you to place your index fingers over your ear while you hum.
With box breathing, you’ll inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and then hold your breath again for 4 seconds. Repeat as many times as you’d like.
Buteyko breathing technique
This breathing technique was developed by a Ukrainian doctor, Konstantin Buteyko, in the 1950s. The technique, which is taught by accredited teachers, teaches you to breathe more gently and slowly by doing exercises that require you to hold your breath for long periods of time.
To learn the Buteyko breathing technique, the Buteyko Breathing Association recommends attending at least 5 hours of in-person training and practicing the exercises for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 times a day, for at least 6 weeks.
For a simple breathwork meditation, try diaphragmatic breathing. It involves breathing while engaging your diaphragm.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Take deep breaths, keeping your chest still and allowing your belly to expand fully.
If you’re trying to do a breathwork meditation exercise, remember that it’s a skill. Like any other skill, it gets easier with practice. If you initially find it challenging to focus, that’s okay — it’ll get easier.
To enhance your breathwork meditation practice, try the following:
- Experiment with different techniques to figure out which you prefer.
- Practice it regularly — every day, if possible!
- Close your eyes. This might help you focus on your breathing better.
- If you’re not sure where to start, try a guided breathwork journey. YouTube and Spotify have plenty of guided breathwork meditations of varying lengths.
- Try mindfulness apps, which often include guided breathwork meditation exercises.
- Although you can create an effective breathwork practice on your own, you can find a certified breathwork practitioner online to aid your journey.
Remember that everyone’s experience with breathwork meditation is different. If you find it anxiety-inducing, consider practicing other mindfulness techniques.
Breathwork involves consciously changing your breathing patterns, while meditation typically involves observing your breath without trying to manipulate it.
Both breathwork and meditation incorporate elements of mindfulness, which is paying attention to internal and external sensations and focusing on the present instead of getting caught up in racing thoughts of the past or future.
Breathwork meditation can have a wide range of physical and mental benefits. Although it might take some practice, it’s a low risk, low cost way to induce relaxation, cope with stress, and improve sleep.
If you’re not sure where to start with breathwork meditation, consider using a guided video or podcast or contacting a certified breathwork instructor.