What is Breathwork?

Breathwork practices are on the rise and for good reason. 

Focusing on the breath is more calming on the mind than meditation. It oxygenates the body, accesses the parasympathetic system (except for holotropic breathing), and helps you move beyond the mind and into a new state of awareness. 

As an active and healing form of mediation, breathwork gives your brain something to focus on so that you can transcend the mental level of consciousness and reach a deeper level of consciousness where healing, spirit and love reside.

We can release thoughts, beliefs and memories that are not supportive of our growth by exhaling them. This will help us to feel whole and better equipped to manage stress and anxiety. 

There are many breathwork techniques. Each one has its own purpose and affect on the body. Here are some of the most popular:


Also known as yogic breathing, pranayama is the practice of harnessing (yama) prana (sanskrit for breath and life force) of the Universe through conscious breathing and connecting the breath to movement, There are a few pranayama practices, the most popular are:

Lion’s Breath
Simhasana in Sanskrit helps clear the throat and release stuck energy. Inhale through your nose then open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and roar out your exhale with a “ha” sound. Energetically pulling in your abdomen will help you blast all the air from your lungs, making your next breath a fresh start.

Alternate nostril breathing
Nadi Shodhana is a breathing technique to bring balance. in the yogic & Ayurvedic traditions, the right nostril connects to the Pingala Nadi channel (masculine, extroverted, yang energy), while the left nostril connects to the Ida Nadi channel (feminine, creative, yin). Focusing on each nostril as you pull prana through them, balances your mind, body, and energy.

To do it, place the tips of your pointer and middle fingers of your dominant hand between your eyebrows, using them as an anchor. Use the thumb and ring finger to alternatively block your left then right nostril through this exercise. As you block your right nostril, inhale through the left. Pause at the top of your exhale, closing off the left nostril. Release your right nostril to exhale. After a pause at the bottom of your exhale, repeat this cycle 5-10 times in both directions.

Ujjayi breathing
For most of a vinyasa and ashtanga yoga class, you practice ujjayi pranayama, Sankskrit for “victorious breath.” Keeping your mouth closed as you breathe in and out through the nose with your mouth closed, your breath will build heat in the body. Constricting the throat, but keeping the jaw and face relaxed, you’ll be able to hear your own breath, which enhances your ability to meditate. The slight pulling up and in of your pelvic floor keeps your energy lifted and core engaged.

Kundalini Breathwork

Kundalini breathing is a powerful technique that can help you access the latent energy present in the base of your spine, known as the kundalini. This technique is a form of pranayama, or yogic breathing, which involves deep, rhythmic breathing exercises that are designed to awaken the kundalini energy and promote spiritual growth. The aim of kundalini breathing is to balance and activate the chakras, which are energy centers in the body, and to increase the flow of prana, or life force energy, throughout the body. Through regular practice, kundalini breathing can help you achieve greater mental clarity, emotional balance, and a deeper sense of spiritual awareness.

To practice kundalini breathing, you should first find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. Begin by taking a few deep breaths, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Then, begin to inhale deeply through your nose, lifting up your perenium as you do. Hold that breath at the top, pulsing your perenium muscles, then release and repeat.

You can also use mantras, such as “Sat Nam” or “I am truth,” to help focus your mind and deepen your practice. With regular practice, kundalini breathing can help you cultivate a deeper sense of inner peace, joy, and spiritual growth.

Holotropic Breathwork

In the 1970s, Stanislav “Stan” Grof developed holotropic breathing as a way to reach higher states of consciousness.

Holotropic breathing is a therapeutic technique that was developed by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina. This technique is designed to induce altered states of consciousness through deep, rapid breathing exercises. The aim of holotropic breathing is to help individuals access the unconscious mind and release emotional and psychological blockages that may be contributing to mental health issues or emotional distress. Through this process, individuals may experience profound insights, spiritual awakenings, and transformative healing experiences.

To practice holotropic breathing, lie down and begin to breathe deeply and rapidly, close to the point of hyperventilation. The breathing is done in a continuous pattern, without pausing between inhalation and exhalation.

Holotropic breathing can lead to a state of altered consciousness, where you may experience intense physical sensations, emotional releases, or vivid visions. During a session, a facilitator may play music, offer guidance, or provide other forms of support to help individuals navigate their experiences and stay grounded.

Holotropic breathing is not without risks, and it is important to approach this technique with caution and under the guidance of a trained professional. Some individuals may experience discomfort, panic, or other adverse reactions during the breathing process, and it is important to have appropriate support and safety measures in place. However, for many people, holotropic breathing can be a powerful tool for self-exploration, personal growth, and healing.

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