One of the many uses of biofeedback training is to learn to monitor physiological aspects of one’s body. One of these aspects that people can learn to monitor, and then control, is their breathing. Breathwork is similar in that it is a conscious alteration of breathing. It can refer to altering the rate of breathing, the depth of breathing, or the amount of time in between breaths. There are several types of therapies that involve breathwork, and some believe that this can result in spiritual or psychological benefits.
So, what is breathwork, exactly? In this case, it is a therapy where the patient monitors and changes breathing levels in order to obtain desired results, which some people believe can have direct effects on one’s physical well being, emotional well being, and spiritual well being. The practice has been in use for thousands of years and has its roots in Buddhism.
One type of breathwork that is very common around the world is yoga. Many people may not realize that yoga is a type of breathwork, but it is. In yoga, a person will combine slow, sustained movements and stretches with patterns of breathing in and out with specific patterns of motion. This helps the person relax, and can also help loosen muscles and increase flexibility.
Another variant of yoga that evokes breathwork is Zen Yoga. This is a more modern method that invokes aspects of several ancient methods. Its aspect of breathing comes from Qigong, a traditional Chinese system of self-enlightenment and physical well being. It involves diaphragmatic breathing, a healthier and deeper way of breathing that brings in more oxygen.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of breathing method that is taught on its own. It is so effective that many people use it to combat stress and other symptoms such as mild nausea. It involves breathing by flexing the diaphragm rather than through the rib cage, as is typically done. This takes practice, but with enough time, people have been shown to make it their default way of breathing. Breathing with this method can help people have a better well being overall.
Another interesting therapy that surfaced over the past several decades is the rebirthing-breathwork. This is based off of a theory that birth is one of the most traumatic events in life, and so recreating it can help people work through other trauma or stress that they are facing. People who practice this method try to connect the inhalation and exhalation stages of breathing seamlessly without any break in between.
There are dozens of other styles of breathwork, including Integrative, Transformational, Shamanic, Clarity, Conscious Connected Breathing, Radiance, and more. These methods each focus on a different aspect of breathing as well as a different aspect of health. It is true that the validity of some of the methods in this last list are debated, but it is also true that many aspects of breathwork have been validated by science and can have real and lasting positive effects on one’s health.