The Simple (Not Easy) Practice of Breathwork

Breathwork is all the rage these days. With a respiratory illness sweeping the world it’s no wonder that everyone is thinking more and more about the breath we take.

From the moment you’re born until the moment you leave this world behind your breath is your constant companion. Yet for some reason, we don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Much like an old friend or sibling that you’re used to ignoring or pushing around because you know they’re not going anywhere.

But what if I told you that learning to control your breath could help change your life? Would you do it?

Apps like Calm and Insight timer are downloaded every day, but then people fall out of favor quickly. Why is this?

On some level, I think we all know the benefits of slowing down our day and focusing five to ten minutes on our breath, but we just don’t take the time to do it.

Perhaps you’ve gone to a great seminar or participated in a Wim Hof workshop and said to yourself, “This is great! I’m going to start doing this every day!”

But you don’t.

You can see the health benefits right on the other side of doing this great focused practice, but can’t seem to take the time to do it.

It’s a simple practice. Not necessarily easy, but simple.

And that’s why so many of us decide to skip it.

The practice of breathwork can appear almost too simple, too subtle, too irrelevant that we don’t see the big deal in making time for it every day.

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’re probably familiar with some light breathing techniques dropped in at the end of class. You love the way it cools you down after a nice deep hot yoga rinse, but then you don’t look much further than that.

If you knew that ten minutes of breathwork a day could begin to transform both your mental health and your physical health almost immediately would you do it?

The simple (not easy) practice of focusing on your breath begins a domino effect of positive changes in your body.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s try it now, together, while you read.

  • Sit up straight, but not rigid. Plant both your feet on the floor about hip widths distance. Relax your arms down by your side or gently relax them on your thighs.
  • Begin to focus on the air coming in your nostrils. Notice also the air coming out of your nostrils. Take note of the subtle difference between the cooler air going in, and the warmer air going on.
  • As you begin to focus, count to four slowly as you inhale, then count to four slowly as you exhale. All through the nose. You want to seal up your lips.
  • Just do this for five rounds.

Close your eyes.

I’ll wait…

If that was your first time your mind probably wandered, but that’s okay. That’s why we use the nose. We can always come back to focusing on the tip of our nose to guide us back to the breath. It gets easier.

As you are able to stay more focused on your nose and visualize the air transfer you will start to notice the subtle movement in your belly, chest, and lungs.

You just took control of your breathing!

This slow, mindful breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system. Your vagus nerve, that runs from the base of your brain to the abdomen, is stimulated. Your heart rate lowers.

All the tiny nerves that connect through your body are filling with oxygenated air. The more you can stay focused on your breath the more you will notice tingling and feel the energy exchange.

This opens up gateways in your body for energy to flow. Both Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide all balancing out your body in a natural display of air transfer.

This is also why it feels so good to practice breathing techniques at the end of a great workout. It cools us down and balances us out.

Most of us (most of the time) are not breathing at our full capacity, so when we are led down a path to do so it feels so refreshing.

We spend a lot of time in the upper part of our chest. This only recycles a small portion of the four to six liters of air we hold in our lungs. The problem with breathing like this is we get stuck in a fight or flight mentality, which explains why there is so much stress and anxiety in the world today.

Think about how you breathe when you are scared, nervous, or woken from a bad dream. Fast, swallow, breathing. You have to calm yourself down before you can take a nice deep exhale.

This is how so many of us are living our lives!

The air in the bottom part of your lungs doesn’t get recycled or pushed out and it starts to get heavy. The tiny veins that run from your bottom lungs out into the rest of your body responsible for feeding it with oxygenated air are stymied. It becomes stale and inactive.

This can lead to multiple problems.

Controlled breathing starts to become more vital when you realize this.

You can control your breath.

You can feed your body with the magical carbon dioxide, oxygen exchange necessary to balance your system.

You can do it in less than ten minutes a day.

You will find that in a short time of daily practice you will begin to notice changes in your breath pattern without paying much attention to it. You will start to look forward to your ten-minute practice. You might even notice your 10-minute practice become a 20-minute practice.

Your breath is the gateway to greater health. It starts with you. Like any exercise program, you need to be safe and make sure you are listening to your doctor.

Breathwork is a tool. It’s with you all the time and can become your guide to inner insight into your health.

Breathwork is a gateway to understanding how your body and mind are connected so you can use your breath to help control your emotions and surrounding circumstances.

Although breathwork is not designed to take the place of any medication you might be on, you may find that it becomes an addicting way to gain a deeper understanding of your body’s needs, ailments, and trigger points.

I invite you to commit to one week of the four in, four out breathing technique described above. Notice any differences taking place and let me know any insights or feelings.

Taking control over your breath can be very powerful. I hope you learn to follow your breath into deeper understanding with yourself and how your body works.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Mary Clymer

Mary Clymer

Breathwork Coach, Pulmonaut Explorer, & Content Creator. Taking it one breath at a time. Join me at BreathMindset,