Definition - What does Breathwork mean?
Breathwork is a term that encompasses a range of breathing exercises designed to enhance physical, spiritual and mental health. It is used in yoga, tai chi, qigong and even psychotherapy to promote healing, health and self-awareness. Breathwork therapy has become increasingly popular since the 1970s and is thought to help those suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, grief and depression.
In yoga, breathwork is nothing new. It has been a key element in asana practice, meditation and pranayama breathing exercises for centuries.
Yogapedia explains Breathwork
Breathwork is believed to clear the lungs, thereby improving lung capacity and respiration. It is also thought to oxygenate the blood, thereby energizing and healing the body's cells. Mentally, breathwork promotes focus and concentration.
In yoga asana practice, the full benefit of a pose is only realized when the breath is linked to the movements and postures – for example, inhalations on extending movements and exhalations on folding movements. Postures that are held are done so for a set number of breath cycles. Likewise, breathwork deepens and focuses meditation.
Key to yoga breathwork is pranayama, or breathing exercises. There are a wide range of pranayama practices, but one of the most common is alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shohana. The right nostril is closed to allow inhalation through the left. Both nostrils are closed briefly, then the right nostril is opened for exhalation, followed by a pause and then inhalation through the right and exhalation through the left.