The Basics of Breathwork

Uncategorized Feb 09, 2021

The term "breathwork" might sound contradictory at first. After all, isn't breathing NOT supposed to be work? True, most of the time, it's an unconscious practice. But when you practice the conscious control of your breath, this is known as breathwork. And I'm going to tell you all about it today!

What is breathwork?

So, by now you know breathwork is the conscious control of your breath—but that doesn't just mean your basic inhale and exhale pattern. It also involves using different techniques and exercises to intentionally change your breathing pattern. 


As for the "why" of breathwork, it turns out there are all kinds of powerful reasons in its favor. 

Consider the findings from this study:

"Slow breathing techniques promote autonomic changes increasing Heart Rate Variability and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia paralleled by Central Nervous System (CNS) activity modifications...Psychological/behavioral outputs related to the abovementioned changes are increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion."

In plain English, controlled breathing practices can have a powerful effect on your central nervous system.

Specifically, it can trigger your parasympathetic nervous system to kick into gear. That's the one responsible for the "rest and digest" response that slows your heart and calms your system.

When the sympathetic nervous system is in control, you're in "fight or flight" mode. Of course, that serves an important purpose in protecting you from danger. But the problem is, many of us are in this state of fight or flight, even when there's no imminent threat. You could be tense, on edge, stressed, and on high-alert as a result.

But by consciously controlling your breathing with breathwork, you can counter the fight or flight mode with the rest and digest response.

Here are just a few of the ways this can help you:

  • Increased relaxation
  • Better sleep
  • Boosting metabolism and immunity
  • Inspiring creative thinking
  • Processing and healing emotional pain and trauma
  • Improved well-being
  • Feeling more present, connected, and vital

Not to mention, breathwork is available to people of all abilities and ages! No equipment is required, it can be done ANYWHERE, and its effects can be felt immediately. 

Now that we've covered some of its benefits, let's explore some different breathwork practices and styles you have to choose from. 


During your search for breathwork practices, you'll come across a number of different styles.

  • Pranayama: If you've ever done breathwork in a yoga class, there's a good chance it was pranayama! Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath and yama is the Sanskrit word for control. Together, pranayama means the practice of controlling your breath, all with the purpose of soothing and revitalizing your mind and body. 
  • Vivation: Another form of circular breathing meant to improve your well-being with a feelings-based practice.
  • Transformational Breath: Breathing consciously and without pausing with a focus on healing trauma.
  • Holotropic Breathwork: This style of breathwork is meant to produce an altered state of consciousness with deep and fast breathing, with the ultimate goal of emotional healing.
  • Clarity Breathwork: Once known as rebirthing, clarity breathwork is a practice created by Ashanna Solaris and Dana Dharma Devi more than 30 years ago meant to bring healing and transformation to its practitioners. 
  • BioDynamic Breathwork: Also focused on trauma-healing, BioDynamic breathwork incorporates conscious touch, movement, emotional release, and meditation with breathing. 

Breathwork practices 

Today I'm going to start you off with two of my very favorite breathwork practices. 

The Double Inhale

Let's start with The Double Inhale. This simple technique involves two inhales for every one exhale:

  • The mouth is open on the inhale and exhale
  • 30 times, then hold (approximately 10-30 seconds)
  • Repeat three times

The expanded version also incorporates two inhales for every one exhale:

  • The mouth is open on the inhale and exhale
  • Expand on the inhales, let go on the exhale
  • The inhale and exhale connect with no pause
  • The belly expands on the inhale naturally (don’t force or exaggerate it) belly relaxes on the exhale
  • 30 times, then hold your breath (approximately 10-30 seconds)
  • On the holding of your breath, imagine the energy starting at the base of your spine moving up and concentrating, even spiralling at your third eye, space between your eyes.
  • Repeat three times

Box Breathing

Whether you call it box breathing or square breathing, this breathwork practice gets its name from the four components (or corners) it incorporates: an inhale, breath hold, an exhale, breath hold, and performing each of these components for four seconds at a time. 

  • As you inhale for four seconds, imagine drawing a line straight up. 
  • On your four-second breath hold, imagine that line turning to the right, drawing the top of the box. 
  • As you exhale for four seconds, that line moves downward. 
  • Finally, the bottom of the box is drawn on your next four-second breath hold. 

More breathwork resources

There are so many different ways to incorporate breathwork into your life. It's one of the six essential components of a vitality plan (read more about the other five here), and it's a critical component of a Soulful Activation practice to help you connect to your highest self, centering yourself from this place, and activating your innate power, intelligence, vitality.

Have I piqued your interest in this powerful practice yet? I’d love to share even more breathwork resources with you, so let's chat! Reach out here

In the meantime, if you loved this post, here are three to read next:

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