Coherent Breathing, Alternate Nostril Breathing and Breath of Love work
How therapeutic breathwork has changed my life.
At the beginning of the first lockdown a friend connected me to an online Breath Summit which, in many ways, has changed my life and has certainly changed my outlook on breath. Therapeutic Breathwork was not something I knew very much about. Of course, from breath work for voice, I knew the benefits of breathing in the way the body was designed: releasing tension, enabling grounding and connection, building easeful strength in the breathing muscles. But Therapeutic Breathwork goes much deeper than that and I feel I have only just began to scratch the surface.
There are many types of therapeutic Breathwork - Rebirthing, Holotropic, Clarity, Biodynamic, Integrative, Shamanic, Transformational and I’m sure many more. I’m not going to write about these because I don’t have personal experience but you can find out more about them online.
What I am going to talk about is Coherent Breathing, Alternate Nostril Breathing and Breath of Love work.
Coherent Breathing® was developed by Stephen Elliott. https://coherentbreathing.com. He found that breathing in and out rhythmically for a count of six “increases circulatory effectiveness and autonomic nervous system balance” As we breathe in the sympathetic nervous system, which activates us, is stimulated and as we breathe out the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us into a restful state, is stimulated. When we balance the in and out breath, we balance these two systems so neither dominates.
I have found practising Coherent Breathing for periods of 5 to 20 minutes deeply calming. Firstly, it gently brings me into the present, as I need to focus on the breath to keep the in and out breath equal in length. Secondly, it brings my whole body and mind into a state of calm and balance. You can practice Coherent Breathing lying down or sitting up, even moving around breathing through the mouth or through the nose. I choose to breathe through the nose when doing Coherent Breathing. You can read more about the benefits of Nose Breathing in my previous blog. This link https://youtu.be/E2qCSu75cOk will take you to a visual and aural guide that allows you to easily stay in the balanced rhythm of in for 6 and out for 6.
Another breathing practice, which calms and rebalances the nervous system, and, apparently, among other benefits, helps to balance hormones, is Nadi Shodhana - Alternate Nostril Breathing. This is one of many powerful Yoga Breathing practices. You can find plenty of You Tube Videos demonstrating this type of breathing. This one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l11qFpRqhIQ is a favourite because it gives a clear explanation and a warm up before going into the practice. Although Alternate Nostril Breathing is usually done sitting cross legged or kneeling there is no reason why you can’t do it sitting on a chair. It is important, however, that you are sitting upright rather than lying down.
With all breath work it’s important to let go of any wish to achieve a certain state as this leads the mind to push towards that goal which causes the muscles in the body to over work, creating tension rather than release or easeful engagement.
Julia Mikk, the founder of Breath of Love, https://www.breathoflove.org, a wonderful type of Breathwork that I am training in, talks of three pillars - Breath, Relaxation and Allowing. I’m sure many of us are used to working with these concepts but putting them together brings such ease. Thinking of relaxing and allowing as you breathe in takes away effort so the in breath muscles work with ease and efficiency.
I have worked for many years with the concept of Receiving the Breath - a concept I learned when training as a Healing-Shiatsu Practitioner - and I have found that immensely helpful. But thinking of Relaxation and Allowing somehow goes even deeper - enabling the breath to move through physical and mental holding with gentleness rather than force.
There are many other wonderful practices within Breath of Love that I will share at a later date. But even if you just took the three pillars of Breath, Relaxation and Allowing, and applied them to as many moments as possible in life, a great deal of ease can flow into your life.
NOTE Coherent Breathing is a registered trademark of Coherence LLC. This article describes a general technique and not the specific protocol or products developed by Coherence LLC.