Yoga was not always the series of postures you see now, but actually a breath practice, holding one pose and breathing into areas of the body to open it up. It’s only in the last 100 years that modern yoga has begun incorporating postures into the practice.
There are literally hundreds of different types of breath practices. In yogic tradition alone, there are over 400. Most yogic breathing is about breath retention and control. You may have heard of Wim Hof’s for example, his method is a form of Pranayama, or ‘breath control’ method.
There are breath methods to enable your body to relax and others to heighten your state, or ‘stress’ your body — both are hugely beneficial for you. The idea that stressing your body is good for you may seem surprising, but it works in a similar way that ‘stressing’ your body does during sea swimming or a cold shower (often known as cold-water immersion). Positive stressors, or ‘eustress’, are actually good for your body. Eustress is a product of the nerves, and can emerge from experiencing exciting things, such as receiving a promotion at work, starting a new job, or taking a trip that you’re really excited about. It generates feelings of excitement, wellbeing, and satisfaction. When you challenge yourself, eustress makes you feel confident and motivated — one more reason to keep challenging yourself throughout life.
Breathwork and better breathing helps with so many different ailments and conditions — both mental and physical. It helps hugely with anxiety and depression and I experience this personally on a daily basis. Whilst I don’t suffer with depression as such, two weeks solo quarantine, a lockdown, a total annihilation of my travel business during 2020 and the general collective fear in the air this year would suggest a mental struggle of some significance. But I’ve been able to operate almost as normal throughout this time and I put this 100% down to my Breathwork practice.
Lowering blood pressure, boosting the autoimmune system, improving circulation. You name it, most types of Breathwork will help in a variety of positive ways. I suffered from Raynaud’s Disease (a type of vascular disorder which for me meant very poor circulation and often alarming blue fingers when I got cold) which did not go well with my love of sea swimming. Yet since having a regular breath practice each morning, in the same way people might build meditation into their early morning routine, it has totally disappeared.