May 18, 2016

Benefits of Breathwork

quote_tarnasPhysiological Benefits

  • instinctually move the body towards physical equilibrium & homeostasis
  • access deep relaxation states
  • correct restrictive breathing patterns
  • improve stress management:  Shallow breathing is associated with fight or flight response and tends to lock people into high arousal.  Breathwork brings direct experience of the parasympathetic, relaxed states, improving access in day to day life.
  • natural pain relief
  • stimulate melatonin release, helpful as a sleep enhancer.
  • support anxiety and panic attacks — focus on breathing can help alleviate anxiety, symptoms of depression and other negative emotions .  In one study, deep breathing before a performance reduced performance anxiety in musicians (Ardito)
  • One 2013 NIMH study suggests taking slow deep breaths a few minutes a day may help reduce blood pressure (Anderson).
  • 2012 study – deep breathing practice improves heart-rate variability, reducing heart attack risk
  • 2005 Harvard study suggested a relationship between controlled breathing and cortical thickness
  • stimulates the longer brainwave patterns that are found during various stages of sleep and meditative states of consciousness, helping to reduce stress

Psychological / Therapeutic Benefits

  • access hidden or suppressed emotions which are not easily accessed verbally
  • release/cathart old emotional baggage trapped in the body such as grief, anger, guilt, shame in a safe environment
  • deepen trust in intuition and inner knowing, building a greater capacity to self-soothe / self-care
  • enhance ability to express feelings more fluidly and spontaneously
  • improve feelings of self-empowerment, self-confidence and self-esteem, helping to reduce depression/stuckness
  • increase ability to self-express
  • improve access to a more centered and grounded state of mind.

Spiritual/Emotional Benefits

  • strengthen mindful awareness – greater capacity to be more present in life
  • connect more deeply to others
  • enhance creativity, insight and intuition, joy and pleasure capacity
  • achieve meditative and higher states of consciousness and spiritual awareness – access insights & visionary and transcendent experiences which bring clarity to life
  • connect to a deeper more meaningful relationship with self, which enhances inner peace, meaning, purpose, and overall outlook on life
  • deepen feelings of one’s embeddedness in the larger world, and the universe
  • expand one’s capacity to trust in life’s unfolding and ability to surrender to the what is out of one’s control

At the very minimum, participants will see improvement from the relaxation aspect alone.

To learn more, read Laurel Watjen’s journal article on Holotropic Breathwork as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy (pdf).”

Laurel is a close colleague and co-founder of Breathwork Northwest, our Pacific Northwest 501(c)(3).