Content Writer Stacey tried ‘catching her breath’ for four weeks – here’s what transpired
It wasn’t until my yoga teacher told me that I couldn’t breathe properly, that I gave the action much thought. “In, hold it, then, out…”, she would whisper into my ear while I held downward dog position. But however hard I tried to relax into the breath, I just couldn’t seem to inhale like she wanted me to. My breathing, in her own words, was: ‘short and shallow’. “You need to relearn it completely,” she said, pulling me aside after a class one day. “Try breathwork.” If you aren’t already aware, breathwork is having a wellness moment. Classes are now popping up all over the country, particularly in healthy hotspots such as London and Manchester. The benefits of regular practice can be increased mental clarity, more energy, and a feeling of reconnection with your body. I was sceptical that a simple puff of air could bring these types of rewards, but my yoga instructor suggested that sorting out my breathing wouldn’t just aid me with my practice, but help me cope with work and life stresses, too. So, I took a deep breath and dived right in.
Studies show that breathwork can relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, as well as stress-related medical problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease. While I don’t have any of the above, I know full well that I don’t cope with stress efficiently. I normally power through on adrenaline for a few days, then I collapse. Exercise has always been my solution to process my emotions better. In fact, it was the reason I took up yoga, which, coincidently, breathwork is a big element of. I started to put the theory into practise when I felt the panic bubble up in my chest at work, I found somewhere quiet, took four deep breaths, and tried to bring my awareness back. I thought about the feeling of my clothes on my skin, the sounds around me, and the different areas of my body. It took me a few minutes, but sure enough, my pulse began to settle.
The hardest thing I found initially was making time to prioritise breathing, so I downloaded an app called Stop, Breathe and Think, to make my life a little easier. Let me just begin by saying, you’re going to feel a little silly. But the beauty of breathwork is that you don’t have to take dramatic lungfuls of air as if you were drowning, it can be a quiet moment at your desk, or before you put your shoes on in the morning. As I started, I noticed that during my practice, the tension would fall away from my body. I tried to fill my belly with air before the exhale, and breathe through my nose on the inhale. I quickly found that the more I did it, the better I felt, and the more I wanted to keep going with it.
I’ve always loved the idea of mindfulness, but struggled to put it into practice. What I didn’t realise, is that breathwork facilitates this. It meant that I paid more attention to my snacking habits, listened better during conversations I had, and felt the slight shifts that happen everyday in your body, such as hunger cues and changes in my moods, much more clearly. After my month of breathwork was up I felt, strangely, a bit more in control of everything. Breathwork now feels like something secret I can tap into; a shortcut to unwinding my frazzled self in a matter of seconds. And, if the breath sceptics like me can give it a go, there’s no reason why you can’t try it too.
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