The symptoms of stress can often be sneaky, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly what is out of balance in our body. With stress and anxiety, our breathing becomes shorter, our muscles become tighter, and our minds become busier. There is a very good chance that stress can be directly affecting your health. The good news is, you hold the key to your own, natural stress relief.
Breathing is part of our biological nature. Something we hardly have to think about, and that our bodies do naturally on their own. However, when our bodies become stressed, overworked and anxious, our breath becomes shorter, shallow and restricted. Oftentimes we don’t even realize that we aren’t taking in a full complete breath, but the effects that it has on our bodies, is very real. The simple act of breathing in and breathing out, doesn’t just keep you alive, it provides our bodies with a vast array of immediate and long term health benefits. When you add the practice of mindfulness (holding awareness) to your breath, you are practicing an art known as breathwork, that is centuries old, and is extremely therapeutic.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Unknown
Have you ever just sat and watched a newborn baby breathe? They breathe in deeply from their diaphragm, their little bellies expand and contract with each cycle. Their whole body is immersed in the breath itself. Most of us in this day and age, with the triggers and stresses of daily life, have forgotten something so innate within our DNA. We now find ourselves detached from diaphragm breathing, and we often breathe from our chests. This can create excess tension in other parts of our body. When we breathe from our chests, instead of our diaphragm, we do not reap the full benefits of the breath itself. We use the muscles in our shoulders, necks, and chests to expand our lungs, which can result in neck pain, headaches, and an increased risk of injury. As our bodies compensate, this can also cause our posture to change as well, as our shoulders begin to slump forward. Shallow breathing also robs our bodies of vital oxygen, stress relief, and pain killing endorphins.
The Science Of Breath
When we take in a deep healing breath, it supplies our bodies with much needed oxygen. Your body’s cells need oxygen to live and carry out their basic normal functions. Our lungs are also responsible for getting rid of carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of our cells. The simple act of breathing, supplies our whole nervous system, muscles and organs with vital life force and anti-inflammatory properties. When our breathing is constricted, our bodies can suffer from a surprising wide range of ailments.
“When we breathe in a shallow way, the body remains in a cyclical state of stress—our stress causing shallow breathing and our shallow breathing causing stress. This sets off the sympathetic nervous system, the branch of the autonomic nervous system that primes us for activity and response.” – Headspace.com
Essentially, our bodies then become more likely to contract acute illnesses, irritate pre-existing medical conditions, and extend the duration of healing times.
“Shallow breathing doesn’t just make stress a response, it makes stress a habit our bodies, and therefore, our minds, are locked into.” – John Luckovich, an apprentice Integrative Breathwork facilitator in Brooklyn, New York.
Did you know that there are many different types of breathing techniques that are beneficial to our overall health and wellness? These conscious breathing techniques that we will get into more in a few, help us tune into our bodies and offer a holistic approach to natural stress and pain relief.
Origins of Breathwork
We can trace the practice of breathwork back through time, to our ancestors and their sacred daily rituals. Throughout history, breathwork has been referred to by many names, depending on region, religion and language. The Chinese call this lifeforce energy qi, and Hindus call it pranayama or “prana” which literally translates to “controlling the breath” in Sanskrit. Many yoga practices, ancient and current, feature Pranayama technique. There are over fifty Pranayama methods out there, some more notable than others. Buddhist Monks from all over the world have been practicing the art of Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) for centuries. “Ānāpānasati is now common to Tibetan, Zen,Tiantai and Theravada Buddhism as well as many Western-based mindfulness programs. Anapanasati is to simply feel the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body, as is practiced in the conditions of mindfulness, meditation and grounding. Simply put, mindfulness is the art of holding awareness, within whatever activity you are doing.
In more recent times, there was a German psychiatrist by the name of Johannes Heinrich Schultz. Johannes had developed what is known as “autogenic training” in the 1920s as a method of relaxation. The practice is based partly on slow and deep breathing. It is still probably the most-known breathing technique for relaxation in the Western world today. Although there are many different terms to describe breathwork, they all have the same defining principle; mindful awareness of the inward and outward breath. While in the past, breathwork has been closely tied in with meditation and yoga, today the art of breathwork has evolved into a more modern practice that can be done all on it’s own. Many holistic practitioners and teachers have now begun to practice and experiment with different patterns, lengths, and repetitions of inhalation, exhalation and retention (holding your breath).
“Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is relax.” – Mark Black
Connecting The Mind, Body, Spirit
Breathwork has a unique way of balancing and connecting our mind, body and spirit. This connection allows us to think clearer, relax easier, and live healthier, more harmonious lives.
- Breathwork has been known to relieve pain and inflammation, due to the release of endorphins
- Stimulates your lymphatic system by releasing carbon monoxide. Breathing is actually responsible for 70% of toxin cleansing within your body
- When your body has plenty of oxygen, the better your organs perform and function. This also allows for more efficient digestion, and even an improved immune system
- Can help lower blood pressure. When our bodies relax, our blood vessels dilate which improves circulation. Deep breathing also slows and helps regulate your heart rate
- Our posture can even benefit from breathwork, allowing us to breathe in from our diaphragms rather than our chest, which puts strain our neck and shoulders
- When we become stressed and anxious, our brains release a chemical called cortisol, which is known as the “stress hormone”. When we take more complete breaths, our heart rate slows, bringing in more oxygen and more endorphins- which play a direct role in our mood and our pain levels
- There are more and more studies emerging that show how breathwork can help treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD
- Mindful breathing can help you access and bring awareness to the deeper parts of your mind. The areas of your brain that hold trauma, triggers, and buried emotions. This allows you to make a connection to possible layers that need to be healed and released
- Breathwork can feed your spirit. When you practice the art of conscious breathing, you can move beyond your physical body and brain, to connect with your core, your spirit, the essence that is YOU
- Simply being in the moment, focused just on your breath, allows you to tune out all distractions, and be fully present to the sensations within you. Allowing for a calm connection to spirit and all that is
- Gratitude. Many find that practicing breathwork offers an opportunity to be truly grateful for the incredible capacity and ability our bodies hold, to heal, release and acknowledge anything that no longer serves us.
“What consumes your mind, controls your life.” – Unknown
Techniques, and Apps To Support You On Your Journey
Since breathwork has become more mainstream, there have been quite a few apps and websites that have been created to support you on your breathwork journey. These helpful apps and websites also offer meditation techniques, blogs, mindful practices, and other helpful stress management tools. Some of our favorites that we encourage you to check out are: Headspace, Breathwrk, Calm, MindBodyGreen, iBreath, and Waking Up, by Sam Harris. If virtual support isn’t your thing, there is a wide range of skilled practitioners and teachers all over the world, that can help guide you through your journey. We encourage you to research practitioners with several different healing backgrounds, and find someone that you really resonate with.
Are you eager to start your breathwork journey right this instant? Although breathwork can be practiced literally anywhere, it is helpful to find a quiet place, where you can sit comfortably or lie down with no distractions. So whether it is a quiet room, out in nature, or you are sitting in your parked car, relief is just a few breaths away. Here are three breathwork techniques that are perfect for beginners, courtesy of MindBodyGreen.com:
When you feel overwhelmed: The 4-7-8 breath
- The traditional way of doing 4-7-8 breathing is to empty the lungs of air, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, exhale out of the mouth for 8 seconds, and repeat at least 4 times.
- As you breathe in, imagine the grounded and nourishing energy of the earth, mountains, trees, plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and herbs coming up into your body. As you hold your breath, visualize the breath spiraling up the center of your body (through the seven chakras) and pulling any energy or thought that does not serve you. Then as you exhale over 8 seconds, imagine that excess energy releasing out of the mouth, and visualize light pouring through the top of your head back down to your feet and the earth below you.
When you need an energy boost: The 4-4-4-4 breath
- To practice this technique, start by releasing all of the air from your chest, and hold your breath for 4 seconds, then breathe through the nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, then exhale out of the nose for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes to feel the effects.
- As you are inhaling, imagine the earth element of the north rising up and nourishing the physical body. As you hold your breath, imagine the breath swooping through the mind like the wind element of the east, clearing out any thoughts that do not serve and keeping the thoughts that do serve you. As you exhale out of the mouth, imagine the fire element of the south that resides in the center and heart of our body, burning any thoughts and feelings in our emotional heart and belly to release through the mouth (traditional box breath exhales out of the nose, but I like to exhale out of the mouth to incorporate the heart energy).
- As you hold your breath for the last 4 seconds, ask the loving higher self, the gentle feminine water element of the west, to come into your presence and be with and guide you through the waves of your life.
When you feel yourself getting worked up: The 5-5 breath
- To start, focus on the natural rhythm of your breath to obtain a baseline length of each inhale and exhale. Then for 1 minute, breathe in for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. Then repeat for 5 seconds, then repeat for 6 seconds, and if you want to, gradually expand to 10 seconds. Start with 5 minutes total and work your way up over time to 20 minutes. Imagine the earth energy rising up into the body, and then the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the body that you no longer want to hold on to, releasing out of the body through the exhale.
- The best way to know which technique is right for you is to first identify what you are struggling with and what you are seeking. These are suggestions, but as with any healing modality, it is best to experiment with each form to see which one feels most aligned with where you are. Remember, your breath is your inherent healer and guide inside of you.
There are many different breathing techniques out there, and it usually takes some time and practice to find the ones that really resonate with you. We encourage you to have some relaxing fun, and experiment with different methods until you find the right fit for your needs.
“Breath is the power behind all things… I breathe in and know that good things will happen.” – Tao Porchon-Lynch
Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil, CBD Can Help Bring Balance Back To Your Life
In a world where stress is running rampant, it is important to have more than one tool in your toolbox. Meditation, earthing, journaling, physical activity and yoga are all beneficial ways to help support your healthy lifestyle. In addition to these practices, there are also other ways to support your quest for calm. Hemp Oil and CBD are quickly becoming popular amongst people in search of holistic, natural ways to combat stress, pain and anxiety. Using a Hemp Oil product to start your day, and even prior to your breathwork practice, may offer a wide range of stress relieving support. Although we have a long way to go with research, there are many current studies that support the possible benefits of adding a Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil that contains CBD to your wellness routine.
CBD (found in Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil) has shown promising results, to help alleviate and possibly diminish symptoms of stress and anxiety, by working directly with your Endocannabinoid System. The main function of the ECS is to aid in the balance of all other bodily systems, including our immune system. The Endocannabinoid System is a universal regulator composed of enzymes, endocannabinoids, and endocannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids within the body interact with endorphins, hormones, immune cells, and cell regeneration, among other biological processes. The ECS was officially discovered during a 1988 study which revealed that these receptors, the most abundant neurotransmitter receptors found in the brain, reacted to cannabis compounds similarly to its own compounds. Endocannabinoid receptors exist throughout the brain and body, with CB2 receptors being present in high quantities in the immune system.
“The endocannabinoid system, though relatively newly discovered, is extremely important and is responsible for two basic activities. The first is to modulate pleasure, energy, and well-being. The second is to slowly nudge the body back to health in the face of injury and disease.” – Dr. Michael Moskowitz in his book CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medical Cannabis.
It makes perfect sense, that when our ECS is out of balance, the effects can be felt, and it can begin to take its toll on our bodies. Bringing various cannabinoids into your wellness and self care routines can provide benefits. Going for a Full-Spectrum CBD oil that contains CBC may be especially beneficial to your wellness.
Synchronicity™ aims to bring your mind, body and spirit, back into balance, and back into sync. We have lovingly crafted the most efficacious, Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil on the market. Never using harsh extraction methods, and utilizing the entire hemp plant to bring you the full potential and full effect. Our Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil is a welcome companion to any wellness routine. We carry a wide range of capsules, aromatherapies, tinctures and topicals for you to experiment with, and find what works for you. After all, your body knows best. We encourage you to reach out to our team of customer care experts, that are here to help answer any questions that you may have. At Synchronicity™ we believe a balanced body, and a healthy mind is the secret to a happy, fulfilling life.