Stop whatever you’re doing right now and take a nice, deep breath.
Feel better? Good! You just experienced on a small scale the benefits of practicing breathwork therapy.
Breathing is something we do naturally, and it can become a very powerful tool when used intentionally. While breathwork has become trendy, it’s not a new practice. Different cultures have been using breathwork for thousands of years – whereas many of us in the modern western world have grown accustomed to living in a chaotic state of go-go-go and burnout.
It seems too easy, right? We breathe without even having to think about it at all. So if it’s that simple, then why do I need to practice it in recovery?
Here’s all you need to know about breathwork and the benefits it can have during recovery.
What Is Breathwork?
Breathwork is a term relating to techniques that incorporate intentional breathing to slow down the mind and relieve stress. Evidence of breathwork practices dates back to 3000 B.C.E. in India and 2700 B.C.E in China. Since then practices have been modernized and refined for evidence-based results that have been proven to help overall wellbeing.
Various techniques help you learn to connect your mind and body by regulating the flow of your breath. When stressed or anxious, taking a moment to practice intentional breathing can help to slow down your mind, create a sense of relief, and return to the present moment. Can you imagine the health benefits if breathwork was something we took the time to practice daily?
Research has shown that breathwork has a positive impact on your central nervous system and helps:
- Balance blood pressure
- Decrease inflammation
- Elevate mood
- Release stress hormones
- Boost immune system
- Improve digestion
- Increase time in deep sleep
- Improve emotional wellbeing
Breathing techniques range from simple to advanced methods and the benefits can be mental, physical, and spiritual, and have been proven to help in addiction recovery as well.
Benefits of Breathwork In Recovery
There is countless research that has shown a person in recovery must reclaim control over their bodies to thrive on the journey of recovery.
Breathwork is a simple everyday practice that improves mental health and supports long-term sobriety. Some of the many benefits found in using breathwork in recovery include:
Ease Anxiety and Stress
Facing symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks can be common in recovery. Your heart may begin to race, causing your body to release stress hormones, and fight-or-flight mode begins to take control. Your mind becomes overwhelmed and you may be holding your breath without even realizing it.
Breathwork techniques have been shown to help calm the central nervous system. By consciously slowing down your breath you’re able to regulate the flow of oxygen to the brain, reconnect to your mind, and let it know that everything is okay.
Most of us unintentionally engage in shallow breathing most of the day, which prompts sympathetic emotions like stress. Slow, controlled breathing techniques practiced in breathwork therapy help promote happiness and relaxation which have also been found to assist in anger management, releasing repressed emotions, reducing grief, and easing depression in recovery.
Release Trauma and Fear
When we experience trauma, grief, fear, or any form of stress, the body begins to carry it. People can hold on to stresses dating back to their adolescent years without even realizing it.
While therapy can help us to identify these negative emotions, it doesn’t release them from the body. This is where breathwork can help.
Breathwork increases blood circulation and free thought, allowing you to work through the fears and traumas you don’t even realize you’re holding on to. You will create space for increased self-love and abundance by releasing these negative emotions and limiting beliefs!
Insomnia is a common problem, especially among those entering recovery. You may find it difficult to turn off your mind and fall asleep, or you may wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. Certain breathing techniques have been shown to support better sleep throughout the night.
Life is already filled with stressors and stimulants like caffeine and social media that make it tough to sleep at night. Practicing breathwork before bed can help reduce the effects of these stimulants to calm the nervous system, increase melatonin production, and promote restful sleep.
Breathing Techniques for Recovery
Now I understand why I should practice breathwork, but where do I even start?
Here are some breathing techniques that are beneficial to practice during recovery:
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This breathing technique is helpful for those dealing with immense feelings of anxiety and stress. To practice this technique you close one nostril and alternate between each separate breath.
This deep breathing exercise focuses on breathing in the stomach area instead of the chest to calm the nervous system, increase oxygen to the heart, and relieve anxiety.
The Lion’s Breath
Much like the name, when practicing this technique people allow their tongue to hang out their open mouth like a lion and make a noise as they exhale. While this may sound silly, the lion’s breath technique is effective in improving circulation and relaxation!
Ujjayi “ooh-JAI-yee” Breath
This technique calls for one to take a long, deep breath as they make a vibratory noise in the back of their throat. Ujjayi breath has been found to promote relaxation and prevent insomnia.
Keep the Benefits of Breathwork in Mind for Life Long Recovery
There are many benefits of breathwork to consider when deciding which recovery program is right for you. Our recovery programs at Healthy Life Recovery in San Diego, California promote a balanced, comprehensive recovery process that works. Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about the ways Healthy Life Recovery can help you or your loved one on the road to lifelong recovery.
Contributors, WebMD Editorial. “Breathwork: What Is It and How Does It Work?” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-breathwork.
“Learn to Sleep Better with Breathing Techniques.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/breathing-techniques-sleep.