What Is Breathwork?

Breathwork is a term for something that has been around longer than you and me both. The question that I constantly get is, “What is breathwork?”

There are so many answers to this question, but here’s one that seems to resonate the most…

Expert Dan Brulé defines breathwork as “the art and science of using breath awareness and breathing exercises for health, growth, and change in body, mind, and spirit.” You can check out the podcast episode I recorded with him here. It was an insane episode where we talked about the doors that breathwork can open and how our unconscious minds and trauma causes disruptions in our breathing. 

Repatterning the mind-body system to foster healing and form deeper, more meaningful connections through the use of breath is a major tool to use when practicing reconnecting with your own body. When I’m asked what is breathwork, I almost always think about the breath being a gateway for self-improvement, self-healing, and spiritual awakening. 

According to CRC Health, “breathwork is a psychotherapeutic, meditative activity that involves the conscious alteration of natural breathing patterns. Breathwork has been associated with other body-centric practices, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong.”

Breath is the foundation of yogic practices. You know how your yoga teacher mentions every few moments to “focus on your breath,” “remember to breathe,” “stay with the breath,” and so on? Well, she/he is guiding you to the foundation of body consciousness. Breathwork is used to help reduce stress, clear the mind, focus on the moment at hand, and gain personal, psychological, and spiritual insights. When practicing breathwork, you can create patterns of calm, focus, and centering. 

Why Breathwork?

Everybody breathes — it’s a fundamental part of being human. When we stop breathing, everything around us is rid of its importance. In so many parts of the world, the breath is seen as a first priority — we somehow missed that memo. Here’s the truth: over 90% of us are using less than 50% of our breathing capacity and by not taking in enough oxygen, we are not fueling our blood or bodies with sufficient energy.

When I think about the question, “What is breathwork?” the answer is easy. It’s a necessity for life. It’s the quickest and simplest way to manage stress and anxiety and it’s a gateway to up-leveling your quality of life. 

Breathwork Modalities

There are so many modalities within the practice of breathwork ranging from holotropic, integrative, rebirthing, transformational, and beyond. What we generally practice here at Pause Breathwork is the holotropic breathing modality. Holotropic breathwork involves controlling one’s breathing patterns to influence mental, emotional, and physical states. Some call it a more intense form of meditation. 

Best Practices

Breathwork has the tendency to bring up patterns, thoughts, past traumas, ingrained experiences, and more. I always suggest that you take good care of yourself before, during, and after you practice. Breathwork is a spiritual experience and deserves to be treated as such. Daily practice allows for your mind to give up the fight. 

When you first begin breathwork, your fight or flight instincts will take over — don’t get upset, our brains are thousands of years old and only doing what they know to survive. But here’s the thing — we aren’t in a state of needing to survive anymore. We are free beings that have the capacity to create, evolve, and clear our past traumas so we can live fulfilled and meaningful lives.

Did you know? The word breath can be translated to mean “spirit” or “soul.”