Breathwork: It’s Safe to Breathe
Updated: Jul 27
Breathe! It’s safe to breathe.
We generally take our breath for granted. Breathing is automatic. You don’t need to remember to breathe when you go about your day or when you sleep. The respiratory center at the base of our brain controls our breathing subconsciously.
That said, you can take control of your breathing if you want. For example, you can hold your breath staying under water or train it for speeches or singing.
But, have you ever noticed how often you hold your breath subconsciously?
In his Psychology Today article, “Waiting to Exhale,” Alan Fogel, PhD. provides us with some insight. “Usually, breath holding occurs under stress or threat. It can also occur when we are anticipating something or wanting something to happen: this is the origin of the phrase, "Don't hold your breath!" when expected things may not come true.”
When given the choice, most of us would say that we yearn to stay in a state of “relaxed breathing,” however, we likely don’t even not even realize when we switch over to what is called “effortful breathing.” Fogel goes on: “effortful breathing...[is] not healthy because the muscular effort, coupled with the effects of stress on the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, can impair both physical and psychological function.”
Not all breathing is created equal.
In addition to effortful breathing, I’m going to share another type of breathing with you. Have you ever heard of the term “screen apnea”? Screen apnea is a breath hold or engaging in shallow breathing while you’re looking at the screen. Looking at a screen...this something many of us do for hours a day without even thinking about it!
As shared in this Business Insider article, studies have shown that we can go into a state of “shallow breathing, breath-holding and hyperventilating” when we are in front of our screens. This action triggers “the sympathetic nervous system toward a fight-or-flight state” and our bodies are physically getting ready to take serious action. “Our bodies are tuned to be impulsive and compulsive… we also become tuned to over-consume.”
Said another way: Have you ever been scrolling through Instagram only to look down and notice an entire box of cookies is gone. Who came in and stole these without my realizing it? you may ask yourself, as you wipe the crumbs from your shirt. This is all a result of screen apnea. “In this state… we reach for every available resource, from food to information, as if it’s our last opportunity--- pulling out our smartphones again and again to check for e-mail, texts and messages.”
How can we approach breathing with intention? The answer is simple: breathwork.
We now know a bit about what kind of breathing we want to stay away from, but is there a way to remedy this?
The answer is yes. We can move away from effortful breathing and into intentional or controlled breathing. This is breathing that actually helps and supports our bodies and our minds.
As the reading on screen apnea notes, “Deep and regular breathing, also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, helps to quiet the sympathetic nervous system.” The next time you pick up your phone to check email or send a text, see if you can get in tune with your body. Notice how you feel physically. Approach your breath with intention. But, this isn’t just about being mindful of our time on our screens. This is about intentional breathing in all situations.
While various breathing practices have been known for centuries, studies are merely beginning to reveal the benefits of controlled breath, also known as breathwork. It has been found that breathing practices can help reduce stress, burnout, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, sleep issues, depression, and other disorders. It can improve circulation and blood pressure and even increase anti-inflammatory activity.
Who can benefit from breathwork?
You may think that breathwork is for individuals who are intensely struggling or suffering. You are right; breathwork is very supportive for stress, tension, overwhelm, fear, anxiety, burnout, and more. But breathwork is also beneficial for people who are stepping up to the next level in self-compassion, gratitude, clarity, consciousness, and connection.
I was personally introduced to breathwork one year ago and fell in love immediately. Breathwork became a life-changing experience for me. Now, I run free-of-charge breath clubs in two languages – English and Russian - offering one-on-one sessions, sessions for small groups, and intensive programs. As a result, we’re building strong conscious and connected communities of people who are transforming themselves and their lives.
Curious to try?
Join me at my Breath Club “Conscious and Connected” each month for breath sessions. These sessions are free and open for all whether this is your 1st or 50th breathwork session. We start with a meditation and continue with a conscious, connected breath technique.
New to breathwork? Don’t be intimidated with the novelty of this experience. I will stay with you at every step of your practice.
When you need additional support, close your eyes and imagine yourself in the center of the circle with us holding each other’s hands and sending you our love and support.
Do you feel stronger now?
P.S. I'm adding this update on July 27th, 2022. I'm not facilitating breath sessions now, but I breathe each Sunday with Alchemy of Breath – they offer free sessions to anyone who is interested. Check their sessions here.