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In today's fast-paced world, we often overlook the simplest yet most essential aspects of our existence, like the way we breathe. While breathing comes naturally, few of us realize the profound influence it can have on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. This is where the concept of breathwork comes into play.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is a broad term used to describe various breathing exercises and techniques aimed at promoting mental clarity, emotional release, and physical relaxation. Rooted in ancient traditions, and endorsed by contemporary science, these practices involve consciously changing the patterns of our breath to tap into its healing potential.
The main idea behind breathwork is that our breath connects and harmonises the mind, body, and spirit. By altering and controlling our breathing patterns, we can influence our emotional state, combat stress, and even release stored traumas.
Different cultures and disciplines have developed various breathwork methods over the years. Some common techniques include:
Holotropic Breathwork: Pioneered by Dr. Stanislav Grof, this involves rapid and deep breathing to achieve altered states of consciousness.
Pranayama: Stemming from the yogic traditions of India, Pranayama comprises a set of breathing techniques to enhance spiritual and physical well-being.
The Wim Hof Method: A more recent technique that combines cold exposure with specific breathing patterns to improve health and resilience.
The Benefits of Breathwork
Breathwork isn't just about taking deep breaths; it's a transformative tool with a wide range of benefits:
Reduces Stress and Anxiety: By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, breathwork can help calm the 'fight or flight' response, reducing stress hormones in the body.
Improves Emotional Well-being: Breathwork can help release pent-up emotions, leading to feelings of clarity, peace, and emotional balance.
Enhances Physical Health: Regular breathwork can improve cardiovascular health, boost immune function, and increase energy levels.
Promotes Spiritual Growth: Many practitioners report profound spiritual experiences during breathwork sessions, connecting them to a greater sense of purpose and the universe.
Enhances Cognitive Function: Better oxygenation can lead to improved concentration, focus, and memory.
Aids in Trauma Release: Certain breathwork techniques can help in releasing and healing from past traumas.
6 Breathwork Exercises To Try
1/ Diaphragmatic Breathing:
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
Inhale deeply through your nose, ensuring that your diaphragm (not your chest) inflates with air. The hand on your abdomen should rise higher than the one on your chest.
Exhale slowly through your mouth or nose.
Repeat for 5-10 minutes.
2/ 4-7-8 Breathing:
Inhale quietly through your nose for a count of 4.
Hold the breath for a count of 7.
Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 8.
This completes one cycle. Repeat for four cycles.
3/ Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama):
Sit comfortably with a straight spine.
Using your right thumb, close off your right nostril.
Inhale deeply through your left nostril.
Now, close your left nostril with your right ring finger, and exhale through the right nostril.
Continue this pattern for several minutes.
4/ Box Breathing:
Inhale for a count of 4.
Hold your breath for a count of 4.
Exhale for a count of 4.
Hold your breath again for a count of 4.
Repeat the process for several minutes.
Sit in a comfortable position.
Inhale deeply through your nose.
While exhaling, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and make a "ha" sound.
This can be repeated 5-6 times.
6/ Breath Awareness:
Simply sit or lie down comfortably.
Notice your breath without trying to change it.
Focus on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils or the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen.
Tips for Breathwork Practice
1/ Start Slowly: Especially if you’re new to breathwork, start with shorter sessions and gradually build up.
2/Consistency is Key: Like any practice, the more consistent you are with breathwork, the greater the benefits.
3/ Practice in a Comfortable Space: Find a quiet, relaxing space where you can focus on your breathing without distractions.
4/ Listen to Your Body: If you ever feel lightheaded or uncomfortable, stop or adjust the practice.
5/ Combine with Meditation: Integrating breathwork with meditation can enhance the benefits of both practices.
6/ Seek Guidance: If you’re unsure where to start, consider joining a breathwork class or workshop.
Breathwork can be a transformative tool, offering a bridge between our mind, body, and spirit. By understanding and harnessing the power of our breath, we can pave the way for a healthier, more balanced, and harmonious life.
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