It’s been said that breathwork is “meditation on steroids” because it’s a more intense and active mindfulness practice. But what exactly is breathwork? According to Neelou Malekpour, breathwork practitioner and author of The Art Of Sacred Smoke, “breathwork is an experience based in wholeness.”
“It is a powerful healing modality utilizing the breath to heal old patterns, dislodge stuck energy, and balance the chakras,” she continues. “Practicing in a group setting (in person or on Zoom) has a powerful collective healing energy that facilitates deep release.”
While there are many types of breathwork, the style that Malekpour teaches incorporates a two-part breath and an exhale. “It’s as simple as it is transformational and works to restore the healthy flow of Qi in our bodies,” the practitioner explains.
And while breathwork feels a bit like any other new wellness craze, it’s actually an ancient practice. Malekpour tells me breathwork dates back to BCE. “[While it’s] rooted in Eastern religions and practices like Buddhism, yoga [and] Thai chi, the more recent styles of breathwork date back to the 1960s.”
Benefits of breathwork
Breathwork can benefit the body and mind in a variety of ways. “By breathing deeply you oxygenate the areas of your body that need extra attention, releasing any blockages, or stuckness, in order to release the energy to flow freely. The health benefits are truly transformational,” Malekpour says.
The practice offers a host of benefits including boosting circulation, reducing stress, alleviating anxiety, depression, and connecting you to feelings of love, peace, gratitude, and clarity. This practice can also help release mental and physical trauma as well as help heal grief.
Breathwork vs meditation
Breathwork can be considered a form of meditation. “Meditation is a really broad term,” says Malekpour. “It encompasses a myriad of ways to calm the mind. A meditation practice means different things to different people. Vacuuming, running, swimming laps, and so many other activities can be considered meditation. It’s whatever activity invites a shift in perspective, clarity of mind, and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.”
This practice can be lifechanging
When media personality Ali Levine gave birth to her first daughter, Amelia, she went through a difficult emotional period. “After becoming a mama, I went through heavy postpartum depression with my first daughter, and after seeing how meditation truly saved my life. I went through my own transformation and evolvement in my own journey,” she says.
When the pandemic happened, Levine (like many of us) was thrown yet again. Meditation just wasn’t giving her the relief she needed. So she tried breathwork and found the results exceeded her expectations.
“I saw the deeper level of healing for me from it and it was something I could connect to without meditating or doing any other spiritual work, just myself and my breath. I’ve learned that the breath is so powerful and it’s truly our own natural drug within us,” she explains.
Levine’s life was so changed by breathwork that she decided to become a certified practitioner. She’s currently in the middle of becoming certified as a facilitator.
Now a mother of two, she uses the practice with both her girls.
“Anytime they are having trouble with their emotions or melting down, especially my four year-old, I’ve taught her how to access simple breathwork to move through an emotion. All emotions are energy and when we can allow the energy to move and release, we can flow much easier in all situations. Our breath lets us do that. So I teach my children simple breathing techniques out of their nose and mouth with fun flower, candle, etc visualizations. Teaching my girls that emotions are totally normal and are healthy to release and to lean into their breath.”
How to start practicing breathwork
If you’ve never tried breathwork before, YouTube is a great free resource for exercises and information. Wim Hof, who is a major figure in the breathwork world has a channel with lots of options, but Levine likes this guided breathwork session in particular. If you prefer a female instructor, the Samantha Skelly is another great resource. Levine also has a 21-Day Breathwork program she created for the Soaak app for those who want something more structured. And lastly, aSweatLife has partnered with Breathwrk for workouts in the past – and we love their visual approach to breathwork. You can try Breathwrk for 30 days free right here.