A Beginners' Guide to Breathwork and Meditation


Photography by: Evgenia Kostiaeva

While the practices of Breathwork and Meditation are frequently used to complement one another, the two techniques - and the way they affect your body and mind - differ in some important ways.

As part of Strava's Makings of Greatness series, we have been speaking with Manoj Dias, Open Co-founder & Teacher, to find out more about Breathwork and Meditation techniques, and how building time to incorporate these practices into your day can help improve your mental and physical well being.

What is the difference between Breathwork and Meditation?

While Breathwork and Meditation are sometimes spoken about in a similar vein, the two should not be confused. "Breathwork involves the conscious control and manipulation of the breath to influence physical, mental, and emotional states. It is a focused practice of regulating breathing patterns," Manoj explains.

OPEN: Guided Breathwork & Meditation Practice - Try it for free

"Meditation, on the other hand, is more of a practice that trains awareness, attention, and kindness to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Breathwork often manipulates the breath for a desired outcome, in meditation we can leverage various techniques beyond just focusing on the breath, such as mindfulness of thoughts or sensations."

Photography by: Ground Picture

Put simply, Breathwork is focused on the manipulation of breathing to achieve an outcome like reduced anxiety or an increase in energy, while Meditation is a wellness technique that trains our awareness to strengthen our focus and get more familiar with everything that's occurring in the present moment (both internally and externally).

A note on Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a quality of awareness that can be used in meditation practice or integrated into daily life (i.e. through nonjudgmental awareness).

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Do you need equipment to practice meditation or breathwork?  

The reality is that you don't need any specific equipment to practice Breathwork or Meditation. As Manoj explains: "For both breathwork and meditation, you generally don't need anything special. However, a quiet and comfortable space can enhance your practice. 

"Pro tips include choosing a space and time when you won't be disturbed, finding a comfortable posture, and minimizing distractions (i.e. turning notifications off your phone). You may also want to include some cozy clothes or blankets for added support."

Breathwork can enhance performance by reducing stress and improving focus. Meditation, meanwhile, can cultivate mental clarity, emotional resilience, and a deeper understanding of self.

Of course, when it comes to Breathwork and Meditation, there are products like Open that can help guide you through various practices and programs. These products are particularly useful for people beginning their 'journey', as they offer Breathwork and Meditation practice for those with varying experience and differing time commitments.

Is there a better time of day to practice Breathwork and Meditation?

We all live busy lives, with various pushes and pulls on our time. As such, the best time to practice Breathwork and/or Meditation is the time that works for you. However, the body and mind function differently at different times of the day, and you may therefore benefit from varying your desired outcomes depending on when you have time to practice.

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"Depending on the style of practice and the desired outcome (are you looking for energy, calm, clarity, relaxation?) some people prefer mornings, while others find evenings more suitable,” Manoj says.

"When meditating, you may want to start your day with clarity and focus, so it is best to use a technique that allows that in the early morning when the mind is the least active. In the evening, when the mind is very active and you’re preparing for bed, you may want to practice sleep meditation to support relaxation."

Photography by: PopTika

Again, this is where products like Open can help guide this journey. These products feature Breathwork and Meditation programs that focus on a variety of outcomes, from Sleep to Energy, and Focus to Relaxation.

Will Breathwork and Meditation help my performance?

Put simply, yes. From Navy Seals to professional athletes, people use Breathwork and Meditation as both emotional controllers and performance enablers.

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"The mind-body is the interaction between mental processes and physical health and both practices can impact this relationship," Manoj concludes. "Breathwork can enhance performance by reducing stress and improving focus and tends to be more instantaneous. Meditation, meanwhile, can cultivate mental clarity, emotional resilience, and a deeper understanding of self over a period of time. This can lead to improved overall well-being.

"When we work with both we’re able to listen to internal physiological cues and respond to life with more clarity and wisdom."

If you’re interested in beginning - or continuing - your Breathwork or Meditation journey, you can try the Open app for free. Open now connects to Strava to capture the extra efforts you put in that elevate your performance.

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