I am a big believer in the power of breath, and have used breathwork for a whole host of things – combatting my anxiety, tackling my insomnia, getting a handle of big emotions, dealing with pain as well as my own particular health worries. I have very much felt the myriad of breathwork benefits first hand.
However, to many, the concept of breathwork might sound mysterious – after all, breathing is something we do every minute of our lives, without even thinking. But the reality is, most of the time, we are not breathing fully, or properly.
So what? You may ask. Well. Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, author of Finding Inner Safety and wellbeing, sleep and energy expert, explains the problem here, “When we don’t breathe fully, we don’t inhabit our bodies fully. We become dissociated and numb. At some point in our lives we may have learnt that this was a helpful thing to do, that it would stop us feeling a pain or trauma at that time that we didn’t have the resources to deal with. Maybe we were young so learning how to not feel, to block out (in) uncomfortable feelings was preferable to feeling them.”
The good news is is that this is pretty easy to reverse, and if you are curious about breathwork benefits, then here is your chance to experience them right here, right now as we share three breathwork exercises taken from Dr Nerina’s book, so you can try along with us today, to experience what can be truly profound breathwork benefits.
Practice 1: Notice the Breath
Notice your breathing. What is it doing right now? Don’t try to change it, simply allow it to do what it has been doing all along until you paid attention to it.
Have you been holding your breath while reading or listening to my words? Are your shoulders tight? And what about your jaw?
Have you been gripping it? Is your breathing deep? Do you feel it in your belly or does it feel stuck in your chest, shallow and tight?
If you find that your breathing is shallow and restricted in your chest, lie down comfortably. Don’t get into bed if you might be in danger of falling asleep! Using blankets and cushions, make yourself comfortable and warm.
Notice your breathing. Place your left hand on your chest and over your heart. Place your right hand on your belly. Allow your breathing to settle and deepen, feeling the weight of your hands on your body. Can you allow your breath to reach deeper into your belly?
Start to gently prolong your exhalation but don’t force it. Imagine you are breathing roots out through your lower body – belly, hips, legs, and feet. Don’t worry about your exhalation – it will take care of itself. Simply, gently making the exhalations longer OOOOUUUUUUTTTTTTT as if you are breathing roots out through your feet and deep into the earth.
Send those roots deep down into the earth. As you breathe out your roots of safety, repeat to yourself:
IT IS SAFE FOR ME TO BREATHE.
IT IS SAFE FOR ME TO BREATHE DEEPLY.
I AM SAFE.
I AM SAFE IN MY BODY.
I AM SAFE IN MY LIFE.
Practice 2: Take 5 a Day/Morning Practice
This simple practice is one that I do most days. On days that I don’t I might find myself rushing around, feeling ungrounded and even overwhelmed with everything I feel I have to do.
When you wake in the morning, avoid rushing to open your eyes. With your eyes closed, simply check in with your breathing. What is it doing right now?
Simply follow five exhalations. Doing this might make you want to breathe in a different way – your breath might deepen so you feel your belly expand. Alternatively, let it do whatever it wants to do. Simply follow it.
As you notice your breathing, ask yourself ‘How am I feeling right now?’ Just a simple check-in to start your day.
It would be good if you could repeat this exercise as you go about your day. Perhaps find three other times when you simply notice five exhalations at three other times in the day. Maybe before you have your lunch or while you make a cup of tea. And then, last thing in the day when you turn your light out, follow five exhalations to help you to slide effortlessly into velvety sleep.
This simple practice helps you to become acquainted with yourself and how you are feeling rather than being constantly caught up in the mental realm – always thinking, often over-thinking.
Come back into your body.
Come back to yourself.
Practice 3: Sigh it Out
This is a really effective practice for letting go of emotions or stuck energy as you go about your day. We tend to sigh spontaneously as we go about our day but if we bring intention to our sighing it becomes a powerful therapeutic practice in its own right.
When we sigh, it drops us into feelings of calm and contentment. Try it right now. Take a big, exaggerated breath in, hold it in for a second or two and then sigh it out through your mouth. Make a sound as you do so. Make a sound of relief as you sigh.
Try this again, this time exaggerating the exhalation and making it longer.
Imagine sending this exaggerated sigh out of the soles of your feet, as if you are breathing out roots, so this prolonged out-breath makes you feel safe, grounded, and connected to the earth.
Notice if you start to feel softening anywhere in your body. Maybe your shoulders drop and relax, or your eyes and jaw soften.
Have you tried breathwork before? Or is this your first time encountering the benefits of breathwork? Do let us know in a comment below.
This is an edited extract from Finding Inner Safety: The Key to Healing, Thriving and Overcoming Burnout, by Dr Nerina Ramlakhan (published by Capstone, April 2022)