The most simplest way to explain Breathwork is the practice of using some type of conscious breathing technique to enhance physical, emotional and spiritual health. It may be combined with other techniques like yoga, meditation or used it by itself.
HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
Let's talk a little about science!
We have an involuntary nervous system that controls and maintains those aspects in the body that occur automatically like heart beat, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. Our involuntary nervous system has two branches - the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system responsible and controls STRESS RESPONSE SYSTEM (fight or flight system). When we are under stress, our body sends signasl through a combination of nerve and hormonal to activate "fight or fright" system which prompts your adrenal glands, located above your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and anxiety. It also puts a stop to our digestive system as you experience the feeling in your stomach when we are under stress. The parasympathetic nervous system does the complete opposite. It relaxes, calms down, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, and improves digestion.
Here is what can go wrong.
The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) tends to be in overdrive all the time because most people are under too much stress. The negative result is a sympathetic nervous system that stays active and doesn't shut off. Ongoing over stimulation of the fight or flight system leads to burn out of the adrenal glands and an underactive parasympathetic nervous system. Also we unconsciously breath fast and shallow when we are under stress which creates an unhealthy pattern of breathing. Even though our stressful events have passed, we continue to breathe as if we are still under stress and this keeps the sympathetic nervous system turned on as well. This overactive sympathetic nervous system can have negative health effects such as heart conditions, digestive issues, high blood pressure, anxiety and list goes on...
Breathwork can beat stress and here is how.
Voluntary acts of breathing with specific techniques can be used to turn off the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight system) and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is dominant, the breathing is fast, short and shallow. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated we breathe slower, deeper and longer, therefore if we intentionally breathe slower, deeper and longer we can turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. We can calm down, rev up or harmonize the nervous system with our breath. There is simply nothing easier, more affordable and effective for reducing your stress. With the regular and repetitive practice of breathing deep, slow, and long, we can change our breathing patterns and this will affect the underlying issues of these health conditions by helping to restore balance to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Your breath is available to you anywhere and anytime. Take advantage of it and get ready to receive an improvement in your emotions, physical and spiritual health.