Breathwork has gained tremendous popularity in recent years in the health and wellness community. If you have ever practiced yoga, you have likely engaged in some form of focused breathing. But what exactly is it, what benefits does it carry, and how can it be combined with CBD for even greater effects?
What is Breathwork?
“Breathwork” refers to an array of practices that involve consciously manipulating the breath for therapeutic, meditative, or healing purposes. It can involve using different breathing techniques, exercises, and patterns to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. In yoga, the word pranayama comes from the words prana (life force or energy) and yama (control.)
Our breathing is intimately connected to our physiological and psychological states. By changing how we breathe, we can influence our nervous system, reduce stress, boost physical health, and release physical and emotional tension.
Breath exercises can be performed individually or in a group setting, and with guidance or in a more freeform manner. They can be integrated with mindfulness or meditation practices, or with physical movements such as yoga poses.
What Are the Benefits of Breathwork?
There is an extensive and growing body of medical and scientific literature supporting the effectiveness of controlling and manipulating the breath for physical, mental, and emotional health.
Breathing exercises can help to regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls involuntary but essential bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for relaxation. It can also help to reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. This can lead to a reduction in stress, anxiety, and tension.
Studies have shown that intentional breathing exercises can increase the amount of oxygen in the body, which is critical for the optimal functioning of the brain, heart, lungs, and many other organs. It can also release physical and emotional tension, improve sleep, enhance mindfulness and self-awareness, boost the immune system, and even reduce pain.
More research is still needed to further our understanding of working with the breath and its effects on the body and mind, but all available evidence shows that it is highly effective and provides numerous health benefits.
What Are Some of the Main Techniques and Types of Breathwork?
There are countless techniques to choose from, and they vary in difficulty and complexity. You can start learning on your own at home. For more advanced techniques, check out instructional breathwork videos online or consider attending a class. These exercises are very safe and should have no adverse effects. However, if you feel short of breath at any time, pause breathwork and breathe normally until it passes.
If you are brand new to working with your breath, here are a few simple techniques you can begin with.
Inhale through your nose for a slow count of 4, hold for 2, then exhale through your mouth for 6. The goal of 4-2-6 breathing is to pause after each inhale and make your exhale longer than your inhale.
Lie on your back or choose a comfortable sitting position. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Inhale deeply for a count of 10, pause briefly, then exhale for another 10. Pay attention to how your belly and chest move as you breathe.
In Sanskrit, equal breathing is known as sama vritti and it is a great way to invite a sense of greater balance in your life. Pick a comfortable length of breath (a count of 4 or 6 is ideal for many people) and aim to make all your inhalations and exhalations the same length.
Ocean breath, or ujjayi breath, is one of the first pranayama techniques that new yoga practitioners learn. It’s named after the sound it makes and is also known as “victorious breath.” Inhale deeply through your nose and then, as you exhale, keep your mouth closed and restrict your throat slightly to create a gentle whispering sound as the breath escapes. Other yoga-related breathing techniques include kundalini breathwork, nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), and brahmari (humming breath).
How Can CBD and Breathwork Work Together?
Cannabidiol, or CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and therefore cannot get you “high.” CBD has been shown to have a range of potential health benefits, from reducing anxiety and assisting with sleep to relieving pain and inflammation.
When combined with the breathing techniques we have explored, CBD can have a powerful impact and greatly enhance its benefits. Here are some ways that CBD and breathwork can function together to boost your health and wellbeing.
Evidence suggests that CBD can have a profound calming effect on the body and mind, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. Breathwork, too, is known for its calming and soothing effects.
Using CBD while practicing breathing exercises can be particularly helpful if you struggle with anxiety or have difficulty relaxing sufficiently to get the full benefits from them. A small amount of CBD can help to ease your mind and allow your body to more fully engage in the practice.
Reducing Stress and Promoting Mental Wellness
We live in a fast-paced and stress-inducing world, and most people struggle with stress at least some of the time. As we have mentioned, working with your breath can be an effective tool for reducing stress, and evidence suggests that CBD can enhance this effect by reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
By lowering cortisol levels, CBD can help to further reduce feelings of stress and anxiety during your practice, increasing the effectiveness of your exercises and creating an overall sense of lower stress and greater wellbeing.
CBD may increase focus, improve cognitive function, support the memory, and help users to feel more alert.
Many people who might find breathwork helpful shy away from it, or struggle to reap its benefits, due to intrusive or distracting thoughts. If this sounds familiar, combining CBD with an intentional breath practice can help you to remain more focused throughout and enjoy more of its benefits.
Many of us struggle to sleep for a variety of reasons, from stress and anxiety through to physical health issues. A combination of CBD and your breath may be one key to unlocking more and better sleep and beating insomnia.
CBD promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety, while breath exercises can help you to cultivate a sense of calm and mindfulness before bed. All of this promotes the kind of restful sleep that is truly restorative.
For many people, physical pain or discomfort can be a barrier to exploring working with breath or gaining the full range of benefits from this practice. CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, meaning that it can help to decrease inflammation and reduce pain.
The Last Word
In conclusion, it is clear that using CBD can help to provide a greater sense of bodily comfort and wellbeing, making it simpler and more comfortable to engage with breathwork and enjoy its many benefits.