Breathwork is the scientific way of being well. Regular breathwork not only relieves stress, anxiety and anger but can also heal more than 200 breathing-related issues, including panic attacks, depression, hypertension, asthma, migraine, chronic pain, ADHD and other attention deficit problems. In addition to their physiological and psychological effects, regular breathing exercises are the most fundamental holistic healing medium. From digestion to sleep patterns, there is a mutual connection between all metabolic functions and respiration. Dysfunctional breathing is both a symptom of poor metabolism and a trigger for the breakdown of organs and systems. However, it is possible to reverse this process by re-learning natural and correct breathing habits. With the holistic effect of regular breathwork, we can improve our physical health, emotional responses, and mental functions.
Now, let’s take a look at the 10 benefits of breathing exercises and how the breath is a source of holistic wellbeing.
Breathwork reduces the stress level and increases stress resistance
Regular breathing exercises lower the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. It also supports serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine release, making us feel better and strengthening our stress immunity.
Changes in the heart rate, especially during times of stress, is a healthy response. This response, called the heart rate variability (HRV), is considered a good indicator of resilience to cope with stress. Many studies have shown the positive effects of breathwork on HRV. Thanks to this effect, stress resistance is significantly increased.
Helps the body clear toxins
Breathing is more than just an exchange. It is not just inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. As we exhale, we not only get rid of carbon dioxide but also the toxins in our bodies. Therefore, functional breathing is the most efficient detoxification tool. Getting rid of toxins helps strengthen the immune system while amplifying the effects of holistic healing.
The ancient Sanskrit yoga text Hathapradipika tells us about the effects of breathwork in alleviating pain, while modern studies confirm it. According to research, incorrect breathing habits can trigger or increase pain. But it is possible to ease or clear the pain completely with regular breathing exercises. Unlike painkillers that suppress the pain, breathwork supports the recovery of the chemical condition that causes the unpleasant sensation. In other words, it follows a causal healing process, not a symptomatic one. This, in turn, strengthens the holistic healing effect.
Increases oxygen absorption of cells
Oxygen intake and its transmission among the tissues improves with functional breathing habits, and oxygen absorption of cells increases. This is not because we get more oxygen, but because correct breathing improves the oxygen-carbon dioxide balance. Improved oxygen absorption means that all our cells, from our brain to our skin cells, are better nourished, enhancing all physiological functions.
Protects internal organs
Our breathing habits affect the health of our internal organs. Deep belly breathing increases blood flow to the lungs, heart, and digestive organs, massaging them. Rapid and shallow breathing may be the underlying cause of many problems, especially in the digestive organs. With a functional breathing habit, it is possible to overcome these.
Breathwork helps control anxiety and lower the overall stress level. It helps to normalize the hormone release (cortisol – serotonin - oxytocin balance) that would cause an anxiety attack and can reverse the involuntary stress responses of the body. Thereby, it relieves anxiety by relaxing the body and the mind. Regular breathing exercises also make it easier to return to a natural breathing pattern during an anxiety attack. Thus, the physical symptoms triggered by impaired breathing are greatly relieved.
Helps achieve emotional balance
Controlled breathing practices improve the nervous system’s functioning, which plays a vital role in emotional balance. They increase the ability to adapt to different stressful situations without getting into a negative mood and augment emotional strength. Such strength essentially requires an agile autonomic system. We can directly affect the autonomic function and strengthen our nervous system by switching to parasympathetic activity using breathing techniques.
Improves sleep quality
We can improve involuntary breathing during sleep and boost our sleep quality with regular breathing exercises. A balanced autonomic nervous system is sustained with the proper breathing techniques, and a low-stress level also improves sleep quality. Likewise, when we sleep better, the autonomic nervous system gets stronger, and the stress level drops.
Regular breathing exercises support the health of our spine. The cruses (legs) of the diaphragm are attached directly to the spine and hold on along the lumbar spine. Each functional breath provides movement to the lumbar discs along with the diaphragm and rib cage, supporting both the spine and the muscles.
A wrong posture, like slouching, limits the movement of the diaphragm as well as the area for the rib cage to expand when you want to take deep breaths. It is possible to improve posture and increase respiratory flow through breathing exercises.
Our natural breathing rhythm is interrupted sometimes because of our fast-paced and stressful lives. We may feel tired, depressed, or trapped. But when we rediscover functional breathing and develop correct breathing habits, we start feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually awakened and revitalized.
Reaching a sense of holistic healing increases our self-esteem and our belief in life. We feel freer. This, in turn, allows us to have the motivation that strengthens our commitment to life.
By Nevsah F. Karamehmet – Founder - Teacher, Author (11 best selling books) and an entrepreneur, Vice President at the Graduate School of Behavioural Health Sciences and founding president of Breath Coaching Federation,
We are delighted to have Nevsah sitting on our It’s Mental Panel of Experts, Read her full biography here