Written by Olga Shkolnikov
In moments of stress or anger, we’re often told to simply breathe. Breathe in….breathe out…calm down. Deep breathing typically does help soothe the nerves–even if the suggestion may get on those nerves! After living through a pandemic for over a year, breathwork (special breathing techniques) may be one of the most impactful practices for boosting immunity, decreasing stress, promoting wellness, and compensating for being in constant survival mode.
Whether we’ve been aware of it or not, our bodies have been in flight-or-fight mode since March 2020, operating on high alert for far longer than is healthy. Living in fight-or-flight mode can leave us feeling utterly exhausted from anxiety, overthinking, and insomnia. If any of this sounds familiar to you, breathwork will be your best friend.
You can try this anywhere, but it’s recommended to be somewhere that allows you to focus and be present in the moment. Take a deep breath in for four seconds through your nose, feeling your stomach expand while your chest remains relatively still. When we are nervous or not present in our bodies, we tend to take in shallow breaths from the chest that don’t supply enough oxygen. Abdominal breathing increases our oxygen and nutrient supply while also relieving tension, supporting muscle growth, and boosting energy. After taking in deep abdominal breaths for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, and slowly (super slowly) let that breath out through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeating this 4-7-8 breathwork pattern four times will reverse your fight-or-flight response and prevent the physiological responses that have our hearts and minds racing even in seemingly calm moments.
This 76-second technique can be used on a daily basis to relieve the stress of our current world and any high-pressure life event. For students who have already experienced so many challenges with the switch to online and hybrid learning, this can make all the difference. As they approach finals, SATs and ACTs, and other major exams this spring, breathwork can be monumental in helping regulate emotions as well as maintaining mental and physical wellness. Breathwork benefits include decreased anxiety, improved sleep, elevated immunity, curbed food cravings, and decreased inflammation.
How is breathwork so powerful? One reason is its ability to reconnect us with our bodies. When we don’t feel safe in our bodies, we tend to escape to our minds, often getting trapped in loops of anxious thoughts. By redirecting our attention to our bodies through our breath, we learn to feel safe again. For an extra boost of peace, energy, and wellness, you can pair breathing with movement in activities like yoga or shadow boxing.
Start with 76 seconds today and increase how often you practice. In 21 days of daily breathwork, you will have formed a habit. In 90 days of daily breathwork, you will have crafted a lifestyle. Your health and peace are worth every second.