What is breathwork and why is it important?
How you breathe when you’re working out is more important than you think! Here are the benefits of breathwork for your mind and body.
Breathwork is used in all types of exercises and practices, yoga and spin included. How you use and control your breath is arguably the most important tool to get the most out of your workouts. From influencing your mental and emotional state to optimizing your oxygen intake, understanding and utilizing your breath will play a key role in your fitness journey.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork refers to any type of breathing exercise. These exercises are normally practiced to improve mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. And it’s been proven to be very effective!
To begin, you’ll notice your natural breathing before being guided to manipulate your breathing pattern for the desired outcome. Although there are countless styles and techniques out there, the basic goal is to release toxins and stress when breathing out and to nourish your body and mind when breathing in.
How does it work?
Many studies have been conducted to identify breathing techniques and their
benefits. One popular book on this subject is Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. In it, he explores these techniques both personally and historically and the different effects of both nostril and mouth breathing. We learn that mouthbreathing actually changes the body and transforms the airways – and not for the better! “Inhaling air through the mouth decreases pressure, which causes the soft tissues in the back of the mouth to become loose and flex inward, creating less space and making breathing more difficult,” he says.
It takes time to train our bodies to breathe through our noses instead of our mouths, as it might seem easier to take in air this way while working out. But nostril breathing has many more benefits than its alternative. “The health benefits of nose breathing are undeniable. One of the many benefits is that the sinuses release a huge boost of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen into cells. Immune function, weight, circulation, mood, and sexual function can all be heavily influenced by the amount of nitric oxide in the body,” explains Nestor.
By breathing through your nose while working out, your body can absorb ~18% more oxygen than if you were breathing through your mouth. Try and focus on this in your next workout and see how your body feels!
The yoga connection
Yoga is similar, and most of the different kinds revolve around the concept of ujjayi breathwork. This is the intentional inhaling and exhaling from the nose. The idea is to breathe slowly and deeply and to lengthen the exhale, which will lower the heart rate and keep your body and mind calm.
Ujjayi aids your yoga practice by building inner heat, encouraging cleansing, boosting vitality, strengthening the lungs and so much more! Practising ujjayi pranayama will help you to connect your movements with your breath to optimise the physical benefits. Inhales will generally lengthen or lift your body upwards, while exhales will ground your body or deepen your postures. Tune into these benefits next time you find your breath when you’re on the mat!
Breathwork – and its physical and emotional benefits – is a broad and fascinating practice. By tuning into your breathing and utilizing it to strengthen your performance, you’ll find both your body and mind more at peace throughout your fitness journey.