Today, I want to dive deeper into our intention for the month. As you know, our focus is all around our breath. We’ve spent our meditation practices focusing on our breath, using our breath as our anchor, letting our breath guide our practice, and helping achieve a certain outcome for our meditation. I’m sure you’ve noticed that our breath is a powerful tool. And this is true not just inside of our meditation practice, but also outside of our meditation practice and into our lives. That’s why today I want to talk about some of the benefits of a Breathwork practice.
The practice of controlling our breath in various ways to achieve a certain desire is called pranayama. It literally translates to “breath control” and chances are you’ve heard this term used in your yoga practices as well. (Spoiler: if you’ve taken my classes in the Studio or on YouTube, you definitely have.)
In a vinyasa style practice, we move poses with our breath, finding growth and expansion on the inhales, and finding contraction and grounding on the exhales. You may have heard the terminology of ujjayi pranayama, or ocean breath. This is where we inhale and exhale through the nose with a slight constriction at the back of the throat. This breath sounds like ocean waves floating in and out of the shore. It’s also a warming breath and will warm your physical body from the inside out.
In a slower practice like a restorative or gentle class, we still use our breath but often can be in a much slower and more passive capacity. Letting our exhales release and create a little more space and allowing our inhales to be nourishing. Sometimes I will pair a relaxation breath meditation into a restorative class as it’s so cohesive and a great way to sneak meditation into our class without anyone realizing they are meditating since they’re in a relaxed state already.
So what are some of the benefits of breathwork and why may this be something you choose to bring into your own life on a greater scale?
- Reduced rate breathing can stimulate rest and digest, parasympathetic nervous system state to help with sleep, stress, and anxiety.
- Rapid, pulsed breathing stimulates a sympathetic nervous system response to increase energy, prepare for exercise, or boost the body’s natural defenses.
- Strengthen cardiovascular health and build respiratory capacity. Some respiratory conditions like asthma can be successfully managed by increasing CO2 levels in the blood.
- Breathing can help reduce the fear of public speaking, improve digestion, reduce insomnia, lower stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
- Balance and help release suppressed emotions
- Release stress and manage chronic pain
- Calm the mind and improve concentration
In my own life, I’ve been incorporating more breathwork practices and found it very useful. My favorite is Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing. This breathwork practice helps lower stress and anxiety, bringing a sense of calm as the hands are alternating opening and closing of the nostrils. We’re giving the mind something to think about which helps keep it from wandering toward worries and to-dos.
I’ve also been enjoying Kapalabhati breath or Breath of Fire, which is a Kundalini practice said to cleanse the lungs and sinuses, energize the body and mind, and help the body to heal and build strength. This is an advanced breathwork practice as it uses a forceful exhale and contraction of the abdominal muscles and a passive inhale. What I love about this breath is that I’ve been able to see my improvements and ability to maintain this breathwork practice for longer periods since incorporating it into my practice more.
I do need to mention that some breathwork practices, including breath of fire, are contraindicated for pregnant women and certain health conditions, so always speak with your medical provider.
But there are a whole slew of breathwork practices that we haven’t even talked about this month that can be utilized in your life, including Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing and Breath of Fire that I just briefly mentioned, then there’s also Bee Breath, Sitali breath, Sitkari breath, Belly Breathing, Bellows Breath, Lions Breath and many more. We’re not going to dive into these today, but if you have really enjoyed our breath intention this month, then you may want to look deeper into the practices of breathwork. I’d also love to know if this is something you want to learn more about as I’m working on some additional breathwork training after finding it so helpful in my own life so I hope to bring more of this to you all in the future whether on the podcast, over on my YouTube channel, or in my virtual studio, Studio Connection. So come find me on Instagram @iamkatiearnold and let me know how you’re feeling about breath.
Monthly intention: Breath
It’s time for a bonus episode! Instead of our usual meditation and journal prompt, today we’re going to dive deeper into our intention for the month and talk about the benefits of breathwork.
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