Breathwork Basics for Healing

Does it sound odd talking about breathwork when our breathing is handled automatically via our autonomic nervous system?

And that's exactly the point. Our breathing is automatic, yet we can control it as well. Thus when we discuss breathwork exercises, we are focused on breathing exercises that are consciously controlled by us -- and not automatic.

Breath is essential to life, but we have found it also an essential tool for healing -- and one of the six healing modalities I discuss in my book, HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Breathwork Basics

There's transformative power in performing various breathing exercises, including the ability to alter your consciousness for healing. People often perform breathwork to improve mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Many people find the idea of breathwork as odd, since breathing is one of those automatic functions (along with our heartbeat and digestion). Breathing is handled by a subconscious part of the brain called the medulla, which automatically controls breathing as well as heart rate and blood pressure.

At its core, breathwork is about taking control of our breathing, and is designed to bring a focus to our breathing, helping to focus the mind, calm our stress levels, lower blood pressure, and bring balance to our bodies.

Breathwork practices have been used by people for thousands of years, and it has roots in yoga. The basic idea of breathwork is to release toxins and stress when you breathe out and nourish your mind and body when you breathe in.

By incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine, you may be able to get rid of several pills and supplements you're currently taking, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, painkillers, statins, antiacids, sleeping pills, and many more.

Scientific Benefits of Breathwork
  1. Improves Mood and Self-Esteem... and Healing. Breathwork helps us improve our mood, build our self-confidence, enhance our self-image, and foster greater self-love... and push away negative thoughts and feelings.

  2. Allows Us to Focus on Our Trauma. When we use breathwork with intention to get into a relaxed state of being, it allows us to examine our trauma from a safe place. Furthermore, people can hire a breathwork coach to help with advanced methods for healing.

  3. Helps Manage Depression. When breathwork is combined with other healing methods, such as yoga or meditation, it can help alter your mood (to one of calmness), ground you, and assist in your gratitude practice.

  4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety. These structured breaths can help you take back control of your fight-or-flight response following stressful situations, bringing peace and calm.

  5. Helps Manage Pain. Breathwork can help manage pain, especially chronic pain (which may or may not be caused by trauma); researchers have found that these breathing techniques help enhance feelings of relaxation, taking the focus away from the pain.

  6. Boosts Health and Immunity. Because you bring in more oxygen when doing breathwork exercises, you are actually contributing greatly to your overall health. Breathwork alkalizes our blood and calms our sympathetic nervous system, which can help lower our systematic inflammation.

  7. Lowers Blood Pressure. Using slow and deep breathing exercises helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will help decrease your heart rate and dilate your blood vessels, which then helps reduce your blood pressure.

  8. Improves Sleep. One of the most direct benefits of breathwork is help with sleep. Studies show that breathwork is perhaps the best natural sleep aid, helping lower energy levels and reducing all the chatter in your brain.

  9. Helps With Digestion. If you struggle with digestive issues (including constipation, diarrhea, or IBS), breathwork may help improve your digestion by getting more blood circulating (which actually helps improve ALL of your body's systems).

  10. Improves Focus and Creativity. Instead of popping a pill for focus, try breathwork. Research shows that breathwork helps people with poor focus. Furthermore, because breathwork helps you clear your mind and relax, it allows your brain to make new connections, increasing creativity.

  11. Enhances Spirituality. Using some of these breathing techniques can result in a mystical experiences and deep spiritual insights. The word "spirit" is derived from the Latin word spiritus which literally translates to "breathing; breath; breath of a god."

Basic Breathwork Techniques for Beginners
  • Deep Breathing. The simplest breathwork technique involves inhaling through your nose for a count of four, holding it in for a moment, and then exhaling slowly out through your mouth until you've emptied all the air from your lungs.

  • Box (Square) Breathing. Popularized by Navy Seals and the military, it involves 4 x 4 counts (like the perimeter of a box); inhaling through the nose for a count of four, holding it in your lungs for a count of four, exhaling through the nose for a count of four and then holding again for a count of four.

  • Holotropic Breathwork. Uses breathing patterns that take you to an altered state of consciousness, where you can address your physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. The goal here is to breathe rapidly to induce an altered state, with holotropic meaning "moving toward wholeness in oneself." (Created by transpersonal Czech psychiatrists Stan and Christina Grof.)

  • Conscious Energy Breathing. This practice is about breathing in energy, as well as air. It involves using "circular breathing," quick, shallow breaths without any breaks between an inhale and an exhale. Also referred to as Rebirthing Breathwork, and developed by Leonard Orr in the 1970s.

Final Thoughts on Breathwork

The good news is that you don't need any equipment or special props or tools to start a breathwork practice. And, at least in the beginning (and depending on your goals), doing breathwork may only take 5-10 minutes out of your day. As you go deeper, your time spent with breathwork will likely increase.

Breathwork has been used as an important healing modality in various cultures and spiritual traditions for thousands of years -- and it can be for you as well. You can work on breathwork techniques when you first get up, at lunch break, or at the end of the day; the key is finding what works best for you.

See some of the links below for getting more details on the many types of breathwork techniques -- for both stress reduction and energy renewal.

Additional Breathwork Resources

Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.