top of page

Breathwork: A Guide to Conscious Breathing Techniques

A primal movement. Breathing - we unconsciously breathe every moment of every day. It's autonomic - something we generally do not have to think about and the body does it for us; involuntary. However, our natural breathing practices may not be benefiting us in the way a conscious breathwork effort would.


I'll approach this from two ways; one being a performance perspective drawn from my time as a personal trainer and the other a shamanic introspection. Both interpretations allow the parasympathetic nervous system to engage and the flight or fight responses to turn off - mitigating stress in the body.


For instance, let's use the example of holding your breath while doing some kind of core exercise. We can sometimes get so focusing on the doing or the completion of said task that we forget to breath. Somewhere in between your 10 rep set you may be gassed out because you were holding your breath. Unconsciously, we focus on the task at hand and may forget that our breathing in fact helps us with that set. Fight or flight so-to-speak. This could then be transferred to any interaction in which fight or flight reactivity may be deemed necessary.


I'm going to go out into a bit of a tangent here, but bear with me. In the 90's there was a non-profit group in Canada called the Concerned Children's Advertisers - if you ever had the pleasure of watching those commercials you'll join me in remembering them fondly.


There's one that specifically comes to mind for me though, The Chase:



What I really enjoyed about this commercial growing up, was that it really played on the whole stay fit or else this could be you. And as a child who would want to be chased by anyone for kisses? Not I, but now that I'm older I can truly appreciate it for it's face value - STAY FIT because you never know; mind and body.


Moreover, it's not only important for our physical health to regulate our breath, but it plays a part in our emotional wellbeing. Going back to fight or flight; when a situation arises and our hearts start fluttering and the feeling of that pulse is vibrating through the body...is the breathing staying calm or getting shallow and erratic?


Breathwork can meaningfully affect how you react in a fight or flight circumstance. Let's say, for simplicities sake, a scary noise makes you jump and you realize within a moment that it's something you didn't need to get worked up for. One is able to sense the non-threat and then regulate breathing to calm the nervous system down.


Again, easier said than done at times, but breathwork has helped me work through a lot of trauma in my own healing journey. It's merely one of the tools.


How does one begin to work on breathing in a conscious way? What would it look like if you could instantly feel that anxiety building up and then dissipate with conscious effort in breathwork alone?


Beginning with the first, performance of the human body:

 

Nasal Breathing leads to proper diaphragmatic breathing which leads to overall better performance. What I mean by nasal breathing is this: inhaling through the nose 2-4 seconds and then exhaling through the mouth for the same amount of time. You're more successful with diaphragmatic breathing when you are nasal breathing.


Interestingly, the diaphragm is responsible for 75% of the air that enters your lungs! The diaphragm also increases the thoracic cavity volume and decreases abdominal volume which supports the low back when intrabdominal pressure is being utilized properly. In layman's terms if you're breathing correctly it will help to support your core.


Now there's a specific reasoning behind breathing through your nose - Nitric Oxide.


When we breath through the nose we actually have Nitric Oxide coming into our cardio-respiratory system. Nitric Oxide acts a vasodilator which is a fancy term to describe the opening of our blood vessels. The benefits are lower blood pressure and open airways!


Neat trick right? Nitric Oxide also helps to kill bacteria in the nose so it's a fantastic first defense as opposed to breathing through the mouth and your tonsils have to filter (if you have tonsils).

*Side Note: The tonsils are wildly given a misinforming reputation of doing nothing; however, tonsils are the first defense in respiratory infections (if we're not including nasal breathing). Tonsils actually trap that infection in the throat which successfully stops the spread of infection to the lungs.


 

Try nasal breathing to improve your health, the steps are below:


1. Begin by laying on your back, you may bring your knees bent up and your feet on the floor for basic purposes, but if you have a couch or chair nearby where you can bring your legs up to 90 degrees that will be more suitable. That elevated 90 degrees actually helps to create space for your diaphragm to fully expand through the abdomen and contract.


2. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth - this helps to ensure your mouth stays shut rather than relaxed and open. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. INHALE through the nose 2-4 seconds and then EXHALE for the same amount of time or a bit longer. Think slow and controlled here.


3. Notice if your chest is rising and falling or if your stomach is. With one hand on your on your chest and one on your stomach it will help you take the guesswork out. If your chest is rising, try and be mindful of expanding your breath all the way down and through your belly instead - getting the diaphragm to work for you (remember that 75% of air to your lungs comes through the diaphragm).


4. Continue practicing your breathe work; being mindful throughout the day...this will slowly help to retrain your breathing and become more first nature if you were not already breathing like this.


Now this was a very simplified breathing technique - there is a lot more to breathwork from a conditioning and performance perspective because you could then go into breathing and bracing. Bracing is what actually engages the core and pelvic floor which can be difficult to learn at first.

 

Breathing is our very first primal movement; when born and upon death. We've covered breathing from more of a performance perspective, but if I may, I will now approach breathing through a shamanic lens.


 

Through this journey called life, we have moments that may be energetically draining if we allow them to be. For instance, something someone says strikes a chord within you and without conscious effort you may erupt on them verbally/emotionally or perhaps you shut down. While at the time it might have seemed necessary, it was in fact an energy loss moment.


We must be mindful of our own energy - when we're feeling ungrounded or reactive our energy tends to travel up into our head. This makes us ungrounded because our energy is no longer at the root of our spine. When this energy travels up into our head, we will often find it difficult not to be reactive or in fight or flight. Our 'lizard brain' engages and is more concerned about protecting the ego and overall safety than cognitive/critical thinking.


But what could it look like if we were able to become conscious of our energy before it gets to the point of that bubbly popping off?


With conscious breathwork; I will give you a tool to successfully ground that energy so you can become neutral to situations WITH PRACTICE and turning that reactivity into productive energy instead.


 
body outline with point 2 inches below navel
The One Point

One Point


In order to stay grounded we must keep our energy below our navel; specifically 2" below the navel. In our human experience, we tend to carry energy in our chests or heads (ie. overthinking, reactivity, leading with the heart, etc). However, we have the power to drop our energy back down to that centre at any time with the one point.


You will take your index/pointer finger, find your navel, and roughly two inches below that you will press your finger there. Not enough to hurt yourself, but enough pressure that you feel the abdominal wall underneath.


When we practice the one point we are consciously inhaling and exhaling (regulating through breathing) and focusing on using our intention to focus on drawing that energy back down to that point; thus why you're using a fairly firm pressure with the one point.

*Your finger could get tired with the pressure; remember it's an exercise and we're creating intent with a mind/muscle connection for a few intentional breaths. Practice until you feel grounded and your energy has dropped.


 

Through the practice and repetition of the one point I am able to stay grounded, which allows me to conserve my finite energy. It also allows me to improve on my own quality of story in terms of situational experience. I improve by using less emotions which results in a steady go with the flow type of feeling and more logical thinking.


Again, we might not always be successful in grounding that energy before we allow those emotions to take over. But the important part is that you can begin to be conscious of these efforts and when to take action. Being tactful in your use of energy.


Notice when these moments may be time for you to practice some breathing, focus, and intention. How much energy are you using? Try and recall any emotional situations where you could feel that actual loss of energy afterwards.


While we incorporate the practice of the one point in the future - let's be mindful. Every day is not a walk in the park and some days may be more testing or trying than others. Practice anyways.


This means we are on a healing journey. When the things that once triggered us no longer trigger us - it is healed. I don't know about you, but I'll still have days where I need to just go through the emotions and process. Others, I just don't see the point in 'rising to the occasion' with my energy if it's wasted on something I won't remember in a few days. You bet your bottom it takes a lot of practice. It's not about being perfect; it's about the progress. Choose your battles wisely.


It's about becoming more conscious of our own thoughts and feelings; this includes actions and reactions. With practice, we become more mindful of triggers and situations that provoke that energy to become ungrounded. In turn we can control our thoughts, feelings, and energy too.


We must be mindful that we are only in control of ourselves on this hero's journey. We cannot control the actions or reactions of another - that's the purpose and beauty of free will. We must navigate wisely. And if there's moments of falling into old patterns, as there will be, please hold gentle space for yourself as you navigate the unknown.


Breathwork is merely a cog in the moving wheel of processing and innerstanding.


Making the unknown, known. Know thyself, for the good of all.


A'ho



8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page