Scientific Benefits of Breathwork

17.01.2021 |

Episode #2 of the course Breathwork: Science and practice by David Urbansky


Breathwork has so many proven health benefits, it is perhaps the lowest hanging fruit you can pick for your health and wellbeing!

Let’s start with the health benefits everybody can enjoy, like better sleep [1]. Not being able to rest well is often caused by racing minds and negative thoughts. Focusing on your breath while falling asleep calms the mind and reduces anxiety [1, 2]. If you want to test it out, try the 4-7-8 technique, that is, breath slowly in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and slowly exhale for another 8 seconds. Since you need to count and focus on your slow breathing pattern, your mind won’t have much of a chance to annoy you with sleep-preventing thoughts.

While we’re talking about sleep: Breathwork can improve the depth of your sleep by lengthening the phase responsible for dreams, memory, and learning [3]. Furthermore, proper breathing has been shown to help with sleep apnea, snoring, and daytime sleepiness [4]. So learning breathwork can not only help you catch better z’s but your partner too when your snoring is decreased.

Breath-holding and breathing into your tummy also strengthen your body’s immune response [5, 6], making you better prepared to fight viruses—nothing to sneeze at!

And if all that’s not enough, breathwork has been shown to significantly improve your mood and fight depression [2, 8, 9, 15].


Additional Benefits for Athletes

Pulmonary function—the healthiness of your lungs—is the best indicator for longevity, more important than diet and exercise [1]. That means improving your lungs has benefits for everyone, but especially athletes looking for an edge over their competition will be happy to learn that Vo2 max increases with the right breathing exercises, meaning your muscles won’t get sore so quickly and you can keep jogging longer. Additionally, if you play a sport that requires fast reflexes, the right kind of breathing can improve your reaction times [10, 11] so you kick the ball a millisecond before your opponent reaches it.


Additional Benefits for People with Specific Symptoms

Multiple studies have shown that breathwork can be a positive complementary addition to standard treatment for certain conditions. For example, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was significantly reduced following a breathing protocol [12, 13]. While depression and PTSD are psychological phenomena, breathwork also helps on the physiological side of things. Especially patients with respiratory problems such as asthma can benefit from breathwork exercises to reduce symptoms significantly [1].

In general, breathwork’s benefits strengthen your core health. It lowers blood pressure [14], increases antioxidants [7], and lowers cortisol [16]. Many symptoms of diseases are improved once the basics of health are taken care of.

In this lesson, you have learned important proven health benefits that can be obtained with the right breathing protocol. So many reasons to incorporate breathwork into your life! Tomorrow we’ll have a look at the respiratory system and discover how breathing actually works.


Recommended book

Breathing for Warriors by Belisa Vranich



[1] Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing): A Systematic Review

[2] Self-Regulation of Breathing as a Primary Treatment for Anxiety

[3] Evaluation of sleep architecture in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya yoga and Vipassana meditation

[4] Effect of oropharyngeal exercises and Pranayama on snoring, daytime sleepiness and quality of sleep in patients with moderate obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

[5] What the immune system is up to while you’re holding your breath 

[6] Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways 

[7] Sudarshan kriya yoga for Improving Antioxidant status and Reducing Anxiety in Adults

[8] Breathwork: An Additional Treatment Option for Depression and Anxiety?

[9] Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model

[10] Effect of Pranayama training on Audio-Visual Reaction Time

[11] Effect of slow and fast pranayama on reaction time and cardiorespiratory variables

[12] Meditation and Yoga for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

[13] Controlled Rhythmic Yogic Breathing as Complementary Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Military Veterans: A Case Series

[14] A randomized controlled trial on effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping in young adults

[15] Sudarshan Kriya Yoga improves cardiac autonomic control in patients with anxiety-depression disorders

[16] Antidepressant efficacy and hormonal effects of Sudarshana Kriya Yoga (SKY) in alcohol dependent individuals


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