Breathing is easy, right? It just happens without you even thinking about it. An involuntary system in the body that requires absolutely no thought to function. Yet, most of us are breathing completely incorrectly without realising. Enter breathwork, a new movement in wellness.
The power correct breathing can have on the body (mentally and physically) hasn’t been well documented in the western world, but it’s actually been quite established in eastern cultures for quite some time. Rebecca Dennis is a breathwork specialist and focuses her coaching on treating issues related to stress, anxiety, addiction and depression. She regularly hosts retreats and workshops to help people discover more about their own breathing habits and is even taking up a residency at the Marbella Club from the 5th-9th May to help guests harness the power of the breath. She has kindly shared below her guide to breathwork and an insight into the incredible benefits it can have on our overall wellbeing.
What Is Breathwork?
There are many different techniques and explanations of Breathwork. Simply, Breathwork is when we consciously use our breathing to change the way we feel and think, changing our state of being. You can reach other states from feeling anxious to calm, stressed to relaxed, from scattered to focused. Any time we use a technique involving our breath to change our physical, mental or emotional state, that’s Breathwork. The technique I like to teach most is called Transformational Breath, a conscious connected breath using acupressure, movement and sound. I look at people’s breathing patterns and where they are holding onto blockages and tension which are released during the sessions. Every breath correlates with our experiences in life and we tend to hold our breath when we are trying to control emotion or pain. This is a self-healing technique empowering the breather to become a master of their own breath. I am constantly learning new ways to play with our breath to raise higher states of consciousness and heal on many levels.
Breathwork has been around for 1000’s of years, from ancient eastern traditions, such as Pranayama, to athletes improving their performance and more modern western techniques that are used as a form of therapy. Breathwork is constantly evolving and there is so much we can do with our breath.
Why is it important to learn how to breathe properly?
Breathing is the only involuntary function in our body that we actually still have the power to control. The association between breathing and the state of our body and mind has been recognised for centuries. In the East, you can see it as breathing practices in Buddhism, Taoism, Yoga and in practices such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi. In the West, we are beginning to catch up and yoga, mindfulness and breathwork are being integrated into schools and workplaces.
Understanding how to use your breath as a tool, you become the master of your inner world and how you react to the world around you. Reduced stress and anxiety, increased energy levels, improved sleep, improved creativity, induced flow states, increased athletic performance and cardiovascular health – these are just a few of the benefits that can result from Breathwork. Most people from an early age are using only a third of their respiratory system and most adults and teenagers have restricted breathing patterns which may affect their health and wellbeing. You only need to observe people in everyday life to realise the extent to which tight jaws, tight bodies, tight minds and schedules are literally restricting their breath and therefore contributing to unhealthy life patterns.
How Can I Incorporate this into everyday life?
Breath awareness is the foundation for all breathwork. Where are you breathing in your body? Is it flowing or restricted in places? Is the breath shallow or deep? Are you breathing more in the chest or in the belly? Are you holding your breath when you text, type on your computer or are going through your to-do list? Sometimes we forget to take a breath at all.
Many of my clients are overusing their neck and shoulder muscles and muscles which are not primary breathing muscles, thus causing tension in the body. I also notice the breath moving up and down so begin by reframing this and feel the breath expanding in and out. Using a deep diaphragmatic breath is key. Breathing into the belly but also feeling the rib cage expand in and out. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us into a calm state and when the mind goes into overthinking or overwhelm, we can rewrite this and retrain the nervous system to come out of stress response reducing anxiety and stress. Breathwork has changed my life and I see many other lives changing just by making simple changes to the way they breathe in everyday life.
Some tips to help you achieve conscious breathing
- Begin by grounding yourself. Quieten the mind by bringing your focus to the breath. Feel the ground beneath your feet, push your heels and toes into the ground. Moving your belly as you breathe in and out will help the diaphragm to release tension and therefore increase our lung capacity.
- Listen to the sounds around you. A clock ticking, the sea, the wind. Soften your focus and close your eyes if you can. Notice your breath and how it feels and take a long deep inhale through your nose and let the exhale go softly out of your mouth. In your mind say ‘I’ as you breathe in and ‘let go’ as you breathe out. Inhale and exhale with a little pause in-between.
- If your thoughts begin to wander, just look at them as clouds in the sky; the sky is always there but the clouds come and go and allow the mind to wander back to the breath. It may be easier for you to count the breaths inside your head to keep focus.
- Breathe into your belly and allow the belly to expand and contract with each breath, recalibrating your system and resetting your thoughts and your body’s systems with each breath. Relax your shoulders and jaw.
Practice this for a couple of minutes, to begin with, and then increase it to 5 – 6 minutes. Remember to relax the exhale. The more you practice, the more it will flow with ease.
For more information on Rebecca Dennis and her upcoming residency at the Marbella Club find more details here.
words by Rebecca Dennis
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