How Does Breathwork Fit Into Meditation?

When we think about breathing as a practice, it all seems to simple – we breathe every day, inhaling and exhaling. What is there to practice? Despite this naturally occurring function that propels our existence, how often do you really cherish and appreciate those breaths you take? For many of us, the hustle and bustle of everyday life takes us away from what serves as our core, our connectedness. Breathwork takes us back to our roots. It reels us in from the chaos that is life, and builds our mind, body, and spirit in the best ways possible. Dr. Huberman, a professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University, recently told the New York Times, “The idea is that people can alter and strengthen the neural pathways that link breathing with emotion regulation centers in the brain, which can help them feel calmer and more alert, and sleep better, depending on the protocols they use.”

Sound familiar? Meditation is an ancient practice that involves mental concentration on something (typically the breath, a chant, or an object), which promotes a state of peace and calmness in the mind. Breathwork is considered a practice that can be used right before meditation, in order to prepare the mind, body, and spirit for the meditation experience. Breathing in through the nose and out the mouth actually triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps people remain calm and alert. As more oxygen is distributed throughout the body, we can train ourselves to release frustration, live more in the present moment, and harmonize the left and right spheres of our brain.

Harvard Health notes that breathwork can help individuals turn down their responses to stress as they practice holistic activities such as progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, repetitive prayer, guided imagery, and more. In order to become well practiced in breathwork, you must create a routine that involves about 10-20 minutes of eliciting your body’s relaxation response (by focusing on deep breaths) for several days. An unfortunate aspect of American culture is the desire for a flat stomach, which many Americans tighten their stomach muscles to achieve this – ultimately, this limits our capacity to breathe deeply, where we should otherwise allow our stomachs to distend.

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