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7 Ways Breathwork Can Ease Stress and Improve Your Health

This trending practice is all the rage for a good reason: It works! Here's how to do it, according to experts.

Breathing is something we do every second of the day without much thought, but with certain techniques, the practice can be utilized as a helpful tool to relax and improve the body, mind, and mood. "Breathwork is amazing as it grounds us to one of our most basic, primal processes: breathing in its purest form," says Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies. "In breathwork, we can cut the noise and distractions from our busy worlds and let our bodies do what they were built to do: restore and build our stressed bodies." Keep reading to find out more about why breathwork can be so transformative and the steps to practice it correctly.

RELATED: Top Stretches for Stress Relief and Mental Clarity.

How to Practice Breathwork

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Breathwork activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the fight-or-flight response. Techniques like deep diaphragmatic breathing can lower cortisol levels, promoting a state of calm and relaxation."

Proper techniques are necessary for breathwork to be effective. Here, Dr. Imran Sharief, a Pulmonologist at Dignity Health Northridge Hospital, shares a few tips on how to get the most out of breathwork:

  1. Choose a comfortable seated position.
  2. Breathe in and out through your nose.
  3. Count during each inhale and exhale to ensure they're in an even duration.
  4. You can hold your breath for a moment after each inhale and exhale if you feel comfortable.
  5. Continue practicing this breathing sequence for at least five minutes.

Why Breathwork Is Great for Your Health

1. Breathwork Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Young and stress-free american woman enjoy some time in her house in Los Angeles, California.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it can cause a slew of problems such as depression, headaches, changes in sex drive, fatigue, chest pain, digestive issues, and more. Managing stress is important for our well-being, and breathwork can be soothing.

"When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax," Dr. Sharief says. "The brain then sends messages to your body. During stress, increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure will all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax."

2. It Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Measuring blood pressure with blood pressure manometer, sphygmomanometer.

High blood pressure, which affects many Americans, can be harmful to the heart and increase the chance of serious health risks such as a heart attack or stroke if left untreated. However, breathwork can help decrease your blood pressure, according to Dr. Sharief.

"Breathwork can reduce muscle tension and allow blood vessels to open up, which will improve the circulation of oxygen," he says. "Breathing exercises have a modest but significant effect on decreasing systolic and diastolic blood pressure."

RELATED: New Study Uncovers a Supplement That Can Lower Blood Pressure.

3. It Can Improve Your Posture

Woman at her desk practicing her posture.
fizkes / Shutterstock

Poor posture doesn't just look bad; it's unhealthy and can lead to back pain, spinal issues, rounded shoulders, and even a pot belly.

"Many of us are shallow breathers who slouch and, as a result, we don't maximize our lung capacity," Dr. Mitchell says. "When we practice breathwork, we consciously improve our posture, which improves our diaphragmatic function."

4. Breathwork Boosts Immune Function

Black man walking outdoors taking a deep breath
Pheelings media / Shutterstock

Protecting our immune system is vital for fighting sickness, and luckily, the simple act of breathwork can help strengthen your body's bacteria-fighting functions.

"Deep breathing exercises increase oxygen flow and improve circulation, enhancing our immune system efficiency," Dr. Mitchell says.

RELATED: 5 Best Foods to Fight Inflammation, Doctors Say.

5. It Improves Sleep Quality

Young calm woman wear white shirt pajama she lying in bed hands folded under head rest relax spend time in cosy bedroom lounge home in own room hotel wake up dream be lost in reverie good mood day.

Sleep plays a crucial role in our mental well-being and physical health. "Practicing breathwork before bedtime can help you unwind and prepare for a restful night's sleep," Dr. Mitchell explains.

Without quality sleep, the risk of diabetes and heart disease increases, weight management can become an issue, and the brain doesn't have time to rejuvenate. So practicing breathwork really seems worth it for this benefit alone.

6. Breathwork Enhances Focus and Concentration

man practicing deep breathing in bed

It's easy to be distracted and not concentrate, but breathwork can help you regain your focus.

"The next time you prepare for a major exam or presentation, take a moment to practice breathwork," Dr. Mitchell says. "Techniques like mindful breathing can improve your attention span and mental clarity, making it easier to tackle tasks efficiently."

7. It Can Help You Regulate Your Emotions

Calm Man Outside Smiling
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Breathwork can also be a valuable method for controlling difficult or strong emotions by making you more aware of your responses as they occur, Dr. Mitchell explains.

"The enhanced emotional regulation will help you respond more effectively to life stressors and reduce the chances of potentially overreacting to stress."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more