Let’s dive into breathwork, what it is, how it can change your life as well as all the physical and mental health benefits that go along with it!
Breath and Breathing…. Seems like such an elementary topic from the outset because we all breathe every day, all day long. But we are going to talk about the kind of breathing that will change your life, change your body, and change your energy field.
Wim Hof is the creator of this method of breathwork that I use, so if you don’t know him, go do some googling because he is pretty phenomenal. He is known as the iceman for good reason. The Wim Hof method involves breathwork, cold therapy, and lastly, commitment. If you go to WimHofMethod.com, you can find many free resources and classes to get you started.
We aren’t going to dive into cold therapy in this article, but perhaps I’ll do one on its own. But I will say that I do ice baths often. The other day someone asked, “Isn’t it cold?” And my response was “Heck yes it’s cold. But it forces an incredible implementation of mind over matter and inner resolve”.
Some people think it must not be that bad if it is something I am doing. I beg to differ. Some of us do incredibly hard things and it all comes down to mental strength. Running marathons and doing half Ironman races back in my earlier years took incredible mental resolve. Conditioning too, but none of that mattered without the mental strength.
I remember my second ever ice bath. My hubby and I were going to do 2.5 minutes. I set my timer but then I also wanted to record myself during the ice bath so I started a video. Well, I didn’t know that if a video is going that the timer still goes off but it is silent. I remember it being exceptionally difficult in the first minute and I just tried to dig deep and find my place of resolve.
Well…. 5.5 minutes later my husband looks at the timer and sees it has been going off for like 2.5+ minutes. So he asks me if I want to get out. And I responded with “No, I want to do this for 2.5 full minutes”. Then he goes on to explain that we missed the timer. And you can see me open my eyes and come back to this reality in utter confusion.
I completely lost time and was nowhere in this plane of existence for the prior 5+ minutes. Ultimately I became oriented and we got out around the 6 minute mark. I had dug so deep that I wasn’t even in this awareness. I’m glad he was there because who knows how long I would have been in there for!
Anyway, we’ll talk about cold therapy another time. SOON!
Back to Wim Hof… This is a man who literally defies science. He was called out to be an anomaly so he basically said “oh yeah? Well let me show you that anyone can do it”. He was called an anomaly because he did things like swimming in freezing lakes, standing in a box of ice for extended periods of time, climbing mountains in the snow in shorts, doing marathons barefoot on ice, combatting endotoxins through simply breathing, etc….. This was a cool experiment, by the way.
He was able to accomplish all these things through his method of breathing.
They injected him with an endotoxin that would normally cause a pretty severe reaction such as fever, headache, nausea, and basically just a miserable and severe experience for a few hours. He felt his body would combat the endotoxin through breathwork. They agreed to do the experiment and sure enough, his body had almost no reaction to the endotoxin as he lay hooked up to all these machines, simply doing his breathwork.
Basically, he showed he is capable of controlling his autonomic nervous system (which he also does in his cold therapy work) which is something we normally don’t have control over. This is the system that controls things like our breathing and heart beating.
Again, they called him an anomaly so he got a few participants to do the experiment with him. A group of 30 participants was gathered. 18 were trained by Wim Hof and the remaining 12 were in the control group. He took 4 days and trained the 18 in his breathing techniques, meditation, and cold exposure. They swam in freezing water, lay in the snow, and climbed a mountain is -27 degrees C wind chills in shorts.
When the untrained 12 participants were injected with the endotoxin, their immune system did what it would normally do and they had a miserable experience. The untrained group did their breathwork for the first 2.5 hours of the 8 hour experiment and were all successful in dampening the immune response yet increasing the white blood cell count. So they fared just fine.
Wim Hof Breathing Method
So just what is the method of breathing? At the most basic level, it starts with inhaling deeply, with a belly breath, and then immediately exhaling.
Wim Hof has many demonstration videos on his website and you can also find some intro 11 minute breathwork videos of his on YouTube like this one below.
Just lay down or sit if it is more comfortable. Relax. Fully inhale with a deep belly breath. It is like you fill the belly first and then the chest. Then immediately exhale. No force, no pause. Do this 30-40 times. On the last one, exhale and hold your breath. When it is time to breathe again, inhale fully and hold it for 15 seconds. Then repeat this whole process 3-4 times.
Common things that you might experience are changes in body temperature, tingly hands and feet, and feeling light headed. I tend to get really cold so I start in a warm room lying under blankets.
Right now I do 4 intervals. The first breath hold is 1.5 minutes, the next two are 2 minutes and the last is 2.5. Easy peasy.
Let’s jump into some benefits of breathwork. You might be amazed at some of these benefits.
Physical Benefits of Breathwork
Some of the physical benefits of breathwork are:
- more energy
- boost immune system
- natural anti-inflammatory
- better sleep
- increased sports performance
- workout recovery
- autoimmune disease relief
- arthritis relief
- COPD management
- migraine relief
- asthma management
- lowering blood pressure
- improved metabolism
Some of the mental benefits of breathwork are:
- improved mental health
- stress relief
- helps with depression
- increase will power
- boost concentration
- improve creativity
- controlling the autonomic nervous system
- boost endorphins
- stress control
- vagus nerve stimulation
Personal experience with breathwork
When I first started, I could barely hold my breath for 30 seconds. And that is completely fine. I felt like I was failing, though, because I wasn’t able to hold it as long as my husband. I still can’t. But ultimately I realized this is my journey and my body and there is no comparison.
I would panic I think. The fear would take over. The mental resolve would crumble. But if you think about it, if I hold my breath for too long – what is going to happen? I’d probably pass out and then start breathing again. Not the end of the world, I suppose!
I would feel that lump building in my throat and then start gasping for air, even though it was actual gasping since I was holding my breath, but like a holding breath type of gasping.
Then I gave it up for a while because it just didn’t seem to be doing anything for me besides stressing me out.
But I went back because I simply couldn’t deny the health benefits. Only this time, I went back with a different mindset. I remember when I first started running. A friend was running her first marathon and I was running my first 5K on the same day. I remember how daunting it felt to run a 5K race. She told me to just tell myself “My body can do anything for 28 minutes”. 28 minutes was what I wanted to run it in, by the way. So that is what I did throughout the entire race. I just repeated, “My body can do anything for 28 minutes”.
And guess what? It did! And the rest is history and I went on to do marathons and half ironman race. And let me tell you – the swimming portion of a half ironman was torturous. But I would just pretend I was Dori from Finding Nemo and just keep saying “Just keep swimming” in my head.
Can you notice a theme here? I had to keep my conscious mind busy. I had to give it a task other than telling me all the ways I was going to die and all the reasons why it is ok to quit. That was step 1 for me. Give it a task. And that is what I did for breathwork. I would repeat “My body can do anything” over and over.
Guess what happened? I was able to hold my breath for 30 seconds, then 60 seconds, then 90 seconds, then 120 seconds and so on. Once I realized that my body COULD do it, then I started sinking into the sensations in my body. The tingling, the coldness, the lightness. Then I would lift upward and out. And that is where I am now.
By the end of my breathwork session, my mind is clear, my body is light, my consciousness is not sitting heavy in my body and it is the perfect setting to go right into a meditation session.
Breathwork and Meditation
After breathwork sessions are where I’ve had some of my most profound meditation sessions. If fact, this past week I had some pretty strong messages come to me during my meditation sessions after breathwork. It is almost like the first 10-20 minutes that I normally spend trying to quiet my mind simply takes place during breathwork and I no longer need the prep work. I am fully ready to go as soon as the session sends.
As you know, I have an Ayahuasca trip planned for June that I am preparing for. For 3 days in a row this past week, or basically until I acknowledged and listened, the message came through that Ayahuasca wasn’t the avenue for which I am supposed to take my journey. That it was psilocybin that I need to do.
I felt like it was one of those cases where you do muscle testing to see if a food item is good or bad for your body. It was my higher self telling me I need a macro trip on psilocybin vs Ayahuasca. They are pretty similar in a lot of regard with respect to their outcomes.
What also came to me is that the ceremony needs to be my own, not facilitated by someone else. I think this all goes together and I was finally being told it is time to walk my own path vs walking a path of others.
So the same night that I was going to do Ayahuasca, I am going to go out in nature, camp, and do my own psilocybin ceremony and have my journey that way. Same preparation and same intentions. It is funny how our higher self knows best and sometimes we have to still the world in order to hear it. So stay tuned on that front and you can expect to hear from me around the same time about the outcome of the ceremony.
Breathwork in Daily Life
So how might you incorporate breathwork into daily life? The same way you would meditation, or when you have a specific goal, or when you want a physical boost (like before a race), or when you are getting sick or when you are stressed out. The ways in which to use it are endless.
I do breathwork sessions every day followed by meditation. I love how it makes me feel. I also feel that it keeps me ahead of the game in terms of stress, sickness, mental fatigue, physical fatigue and so much more.
Where to do Breathwork
If you want to participate in a breathwork session, just jump on youtube and google “Wim Hof breathing” and a bunch of options will come up. Or go to his website. There is also a Wim Hof app that you can use on your phone. I don’t like the app because you have to look at it to determine how long you want to do your breath holds for and I’d rather keep my eyes closed and get deep into my meditative state.