The Alchemy of Breathwork is something that is impossible to fully describe and there are a multitude of factors that combine to create the deep healing and transformations that occur. Although we will never be able to completely explain the “how’s” behind the magic that happens, we have outlined below some of the key observed positive effects of Breathwork.
One explanation for the transformative and insightful power of Breathwork is its ability to shift brainwaves from beta to alpha and theta. Beta brainwaves are where most people spend most of their waking lives, and they are associated with goal oriented analytical thinking, anxiety and stress. Alpha brainwaves are associated with a relaxed, meditative state, positive thinking, accelerated learning, comfort and pleasure. Theta waves are associated with deep meditation, deep sleep, hypnotic states, and creativity. Profound intuitive insights and ‘ah hah’ moments occur in theta, and the subconscious mind can be reprogrammed while in theta as well (more on this later).
As an interesting aside, neuroscientists have recently discovered that brainwaves are contagious thanks to a process called brain-to-brain synchrony, and as a result your brainwaves can sync up with someone else’s who is in the same room as you., This could explain in-part why group Breathworks can create a deeper experience for some people than individual sessions – if one person goes deep into theta it can help other breathers reach theta as well.
Energetic and Emotional Effects
Our breath is the single most source of energy we take in on a moment to moment basis and the energy that Breathwork provides fuels our body’s innate healing mechanism. Breathwork helps to move out stuck energy and to restore our energy bodys to a higher vibration. The slightly faster continuous breathing and the energy/prana it brings changes the chemistry of the body in a way that allows blocked energy associated with various traumatic memories suppressed in the subconscious to be activated and released. Breathwork also helps us to feel our feelings and emotions fully, to release emotional baggage, and overtime, to come back into wholeness as we re-pair lost and broken parts of ourselves.
The psycho-spiritual and consciousness altering effects that occur during Breathwork cannot be fully explained within the confines of language. However, the ego can be transcended and the subconscious, conscious, and highest realms of the superconscious aligned in Breathwork, which helps explain why many Breathers experience not only a deep healing, but also a spiritual awakening.
Breathwork allows us to access and reprogram the subconscious mind. This is beneficial because the subconscious dictates most of your thoughts, beliefs, decisions, and behaviors, and when it comes to creating lasting change it’s the subconscious mind that is in the driver’s seat. During a Breathwork any insights, new perspective, resolutions, or messages you receive are readily accepted by the subconscious mind and this helps explain why Breathwork can lead to such rapid and profound healing and transformations.
This also helps explains why Breathwork can be more beneficial to some than talk therapy on it’s own. Talk therapy is wonderful for cultivating awareness, however it is a conscious process, and the conscious mind accounts for approximately 5% of your brain power. Because of this, understanding consciously for instance that you are lovable and worthy, or that a traumatic event is over and you are safe is unlikely to create lasting shifts, until your subconscious mind has accepted these truths.
Physical and Biochemical Effects
During a Breathwork session you consume a lot of oxygen, your blood pH levels rise and become more alkaline, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels drop, and your ratio of oxygen to CO2 shifts. It is a little known fact, but the ratio of CO2 to oxygen influences several critical functions in the body including the autonomic nervous system’s (ANS) balancing of its sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. This in turn influences Heart Rate Variability (HRV), stress hormone levels and muscle tension levels. Because the oxygen/CO2 ratio shifts in Breathwork all of these internal processes can be influenced during a session.
Worth noting, because Breathwork reduces CO2 levels it can cause similar symptoms as hyperventilation, including lightheadedness, rapid heart beat, numbness, tingling, and spasms in hands or feet (also known as tetany which manifests as a claw-like shape of the hands). However there is a big difference between hyperventilation and what happens in a Breathwork session. During Breathwork you are breathing a deep, connected abdominal breath and this type of breathing allows the nervous system to stay out of the anxiety/survival or fight/flight mode characterized by hyperventilation.
Breahtwork is also detoxifying. The upward and downward movement of the diaphragm during deep breathing helps to enhance blood flow and remove toxins. Deep breathing also releases endorphins, which are the feel good hormones which act as natural pain killers.
Vagus Nerve & Anti-Anxiety Effects
Breathwork activates the nervous system and stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve acts as your body’s superhighway, carrying vital information between the brain, body and all your organs, and controlling how your body responds in times of relaxation and rest. Repeated Breathwork sessions can help to tone the vagus nerve, which can notably reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and may also enhance immune, brain and gut function!
The breath meets you where you are and takes you where you need to go, and no matter where you are on your journey of healing or evolution, the Breath can be your greatest ally. If you would like to experience the innumerable positive effects of Breathwork or continue your journey with the breath then we invite you to join us at one of our free Sunday #BreathetheWorld gatherings or Tuesday Ceremonial Breathwork sessions. If you’re interested in diving even deeper we have monthly two and three day online events and regular in-person BreathCamps and you can find out more about our upcoming events here: https://alchemyofbreath.com/breathwork-events-3/