What is Breathwork

17.01.2021 |

Episode #1 of the course Breathwork: Science and practice by David Urbansky


Imagine you are back in school. You wake up, peel your face from your textbook, and realize you fell asleep while cramming for your final exam. Not only are you running late—you barely studied. You rush to school, plop in your seat, and feel your heart pounding in your chest when your teacher slides your test on to your desk. What do you think your breathing sounds like at that moment? Are you taking slow, full breaths from your belly or quick, shallow breaths with your chest heaving? Unless you are already familiar with breathwork, the answer is almost certainly the latter.

Rapid, shallow breathing is a symptom of stress. In fact, it is part of our flight or fight response that the sympathetic nervous system triggers when we are faced with a threat [1]. Your exam probably isn’t a matter of life or death, so it would be beneficial for you to take several deep breaths and calm yourself down. It is better for your health and you will probably have better test results too [2].

Most of us don’t give much thought to how we breathe. In today’s fast-paced world with widespread chronic stress, you may be surprised to learn how often you fall into suboptimal breathing habits. Breathwork can help you improve your breathing and manage your stress, which is known to provide a variety of benefits to your health. Best of all, breathwork can be done anytime, anywhere at no cost with no special equipment, so the numerous benefits to mind and body are open to everyone who wants to try it.

So, what is breathwork exactly? Simply put, breathwork consists of controlled breathing exercises. There are several kinds of breathwork exercises, many of which can be traced back to yoga. While most Westerners are now familiar with the yoga poses known as asanas, the breathing exercises known as pranayama may have been even more significant in ancient yoga texts. The word pranayama is derived from “prana”, meaning life or life force, and “ayama” meaning control. Thus, pranayama involves controlling the life force that is our breath. Controlling that life force is quite important considering that you breathe 20,000-30,000 times every single day.

In this course, you will learn:

1. Scientific benefits of breathwork

2. Mechanics of breathing

3. How to test your current breathing fitness

4. How slow, fast, and no-breathing exercises work

5. How to fit breathwork into your life

6. And more!

Lesson 2 will teach you more about the scientific benefits of breathing. I know you’re excited, but don’t wait with bated breath—take a few deep breaths instead. See you tomorrow.


Recommended book

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor



[1] Understanding the Stress Response

[2] The effect of pranayama on test anxiety and test performance


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