Breathwork + The Brain
Breathwork is a powerful way to access your body’s innate intelligence to heal itself. Breathwork, the conscious awareness of your breath, is a practice that is thousands of years old, and while there are many variations, styles and names, all types of breathwork offer the chance for personal transformation through improved mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Breathwork offers a very safe way to address stress, anxiety, grief, depression and anger head on so that our moods don’t start to take over our personal and professional lives. How we breathe often indicates how we feel. In the way shallow rapid breaths make us anxious and tired, long deep breaths that originate in the abdomen can help us feel calm, centered, grounded and energized. The reason for this is because deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which takes us out of fight or flight (the sympathetic nervous system). By activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, you’re creating a deep feeling of calm and reducing your overall stress and anxiety.
So we now know that breath positively affects the nervous system but it actually goes beyond the nervous system. Changing your breath literally changes your brainwaves! Neuroscientists have made a direct correlation between an increase of alpha brain waves and reduced symptoms of depression.
There are five types of brainwaves that we move through during a given day. Breathwork is an effective way to shift your brainwaves from beta to alpha and even theta, thereby decreasing negative thought patterns, stress and depression levels.
- Gamma Waves: Heightened perception and consciousness
- Beta Waves: Most of us are spend our walking days in beta, where we’re attentive, thinking, making decisions, problem solving . But in beta we can also feel agitated, stressed, tense, hyper alert, afraid or obsessive.
- Alpha Waves: This is when we are relaxed, reflective and aware and in the present moment.
- Theta Waves: This is an even more relaxed state where we are open, intuitive, and receptive and can have deep insights or aha movements beyond our normal conscious awareness. This can occur in breathwork, deep meditation or in sleep.
- Delta Waves: Our slowest brain waves which occur mostly in deep dreamless sleep where we lose awareness of our body.