First of all, breathwork refers to any type of breathing exercises or techniques to improve mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. During breathwork you intentionally change your breathing pattern in a conscious and systematic way. The ancient technique of breathwork is having a moment—celebs like Gisele Bündchen and Christy Turlington swear by it, and it has some serious mood-enhancing and body-boosting benefits. Here’s what you need to know before you try it.
How can practising breathwork help me? The draw of the practice largely comes down to the transformational potential a practice has on the mental state. Regular practitioners claim mental improvements such as overcoming depression, managing addiction, and/or having a more compassionate self-view. But even in our modern world, the spiritual component cannot be ignored. “The depth of practice, experience of the practitioner, and the trust and willingness of the person are what can elevate a simple technique to a whole other level of sacred, even in a less typical-seeming, spiritual context,” explains Erin Telford, a breathwork instructor.
Why the sudden interest? We are living in a time when breath has never felt more sacred—becoming eerily significant as a respiratory virus ravages the globe. But almost concurrent with the spread of COVID, the practice of breathwork has gained momentum and entered the realm of pop culture. New York City breathwork teacher Erin Telford agrees. “People are seeking inner peace,” she says. “And breathwork is one way to do that that's efficient and effective.”
So how do you do it? You can practice breathwork in a group, one-on-one with a practitioner or at home by yourself. Sessions often last for hours and usually involve lying down on a yoga mat and breathing in a highly controlled (and not always comfortable) fashion. Experiences vary, but many people say it can get pretty intense—think visions, life-changing revelations and outpourings of emotion. Telford was working as an acupuncturist and Reiki master for years before she tried it and says that it was one of the most powerful healing experiences of her life. “It gave me an outlet for all of the repressed anger, resentment, grief and sadness that was in my body.”
Whoa, sounds cathartic. Any other health benefits? One group of Danish researchers found that breathwork noticeably improved the mood of participants, while a study published in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy suggested that it might be helpful in treating anxiety and depression. And according to expert Dan Brulé (who counts Navy SEALS, Olympians and Tony Robbins as clients), mastering your breath might give you a leg-up in your career. “Sometimes all it takes is a slight tweak of the breath to open up all kinds of new levels of abilities, skills and possibilities,” he says.
Sign me up. Where can I try it? Filter through SISU list of providers and check out local meditation or yoga center for group sessions, or do a search to find a private practitioner on our 1-1 listings for a personalised guided session. Looking for a quick fix? Get a taste for breathwork with this simple three-minute anti-stress exercise. Aaaand breathe.