Everything You Need to Know to Get Started With Breathwork


Photography by: PeopleImages.com - Yuri A

Breathwork is a technique that human beings have been practicing for centuries. Put simply, it is the process of manipulating your breathing to help manage a variety of mental and physical states. As such, there are different techniques and practices for Breathwork, all encouraging a different psychological or physiological response in the individual.

"Breathwork can promote relaxation, reduce stress, improve concentration, and enhance overall well-being by regulating the nervous system and oxygenating the body," explains Manoj Dias, Open Co-founder & Teacher. "It can be a quick, direct, temporary state-shifting experience."

Breathwork is also a performance enhancer. "By regulating our breathing patterns and oxygen delivery, breathwork enhances endurance, improves focus, and mitigates fatigue during physical exertion," Manoj continues. "Integrating breathwork before exercise primes the body for performance by increasing oxygen availability and reducing perceived exertion. Additionally, post-exercise breathwork aids recovery by promoting relaxation, facilitating metabolic waste removal, and restoring homeostasis in the body's physiological systems."

RELATED: A Beginners' Guide to Breathwork and Meditation

In short, the practice of Breathwork can be used to achieve a variety of outcomes, from relaxation to the preparation for - and recovery after - physical activity.

Breathwork requires a comfortable space to breathe freely. Photography by: Tommaso Lizzul

Needless to say, the barriers to getting started with Breathwork practice are small, if non-existent. When starting your breathwork journey, it can be helpful to use products like Open to help guide your practice, but, in reality, the only thing you need is a comfortable space to breathe freely.

Are there different types of Breathwork?

"Just like meditation, there are many kinds of breathwork," Manoj explains. "There are various breathing patterns and techniques used in breathwork, each with its own effects on the body and mind. 

"In simple terms, up-regulating techniques give you energy and down-regulating techniques calm you down and promote relaxation. Some up-regulating techniques come with contraindications for those with heart conditions, epilepsy or are pregnant. You should always consult a doctor if you are concerned."

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

For anyone interested in beginning their breathwork practice, there are a few different breathing techniques that you can try:

  • Vase Breathing: In a static sitting position a person inhales deeply and then holds their inhale for between 5 and 15 seconds before releasing with an extended exhale.

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: this technique is about making sure your diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle, drawing the breath down into the low ribs and abdomen to ensure the diaphragm is driving the breath rather than the accessory muscles of your neck and shoulders. This helps you breathe more efficiently and relieves unnecessary tension while breathing

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing: alternating inhales and exhales from left and right nostrils, balancing activity in the two hemispheres of your brain and instilling calm and focus.

These breathing techniques are used as part of wider practices - you can find out more with Open.

Breathwork can be practiced in a variety of environments. Photography by: Awa Mally

Getting started: Breathwork practices for beginners

Breathwork can be as simple - or complex - as an individual chooses. For anyone interested in understanding how Breathwork can affect your body and mind, Manoj recommends two different introductory practices.

Box Breathing: Box Breathing is a simple, but incredibly powerful, technique to aid relaxation and return breathing to a steady state following a period of stress or anxiety. "Here we envision a box being drawn with the length of our breaths," Manoj says. "As you inhale, breathe in for 4,3,2,1, then hold 4,3,2,1, exhale for 4,3,2,1 and hold 4,3,2,1. Repeat the process."

Power Breathing: At the other end of the practice is a technique called Power Breathing, as Manoj explains: "Power Breathing involves taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths in a rhythmic and controlled manner inhaling deeply through the nose, filling the lungs completely, and then exhaling forcefully through the mouth. This technique increases oxygen intake, activates the sympathetic nervous system, and boosts energy levels."

Box Breathing and Power Breathing are just two of a myriad of techniques Breathwork practitioners employ. These differing techniques impact the body in a variety of ways, from reducing stress to boosting energy levels. As such, anyone beginning the practice of Breathwork is advised to follow guided programs like Open as they learn the techniques and practices that will help them achieve their goals.

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