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“My skin didn't start to change until I changed the energy around me.” - Alicia Keys
“Let me explain what it looks like: You’re lying on the ground, and you’re doing a very active breath. It’s two breaths — one into the belly, one into the high heart — and the third breath is an exhale,” says Katherine Abegg, a NYC-based healer and Reiki master, describing a typical breathwork session. “It’s a steady rhythm, and it’s loud. You’re getting a huge amount of oxygen, and you’re stimulating your vagus nerve. It often takes us into deep emotional states.”
This experience may sound intense for a beginner, but don’t let that deter you — there are tremendous benefits to practicing breathwork no matter your skill level. Our bodies and brains tend to hold onto daily stress and fear, and accessing breathwork allows us to let go some of that.
“Think about how many things we dream of doing but don’t, because we’re scared of feeling shame or anger or sadness,” says Abegg. “What if you were able to feel it and not run away from it? All of a sudden you’re free to shift into this headspace where you can make decisions not from a place of fear but a place of love.” Honestly, we’re sold.
Ahead, Abegg walks us through six tips on how to improve your breathwork whether you’re a novice or expert.
“My teacher, who was David Elliott, has some videos on YouTube where he’s showing people how to do breathwork. He also has free guided meditations with breathing on Apple iTunes. If somebody just wants to dip their toe in breathwork, and they’re not yet feeling comfortable with going to a group or a one-on-one session, YouTube resources are a really great way to go.”
“A practitioner holds the space and is guiding and offering you support. It’s deeply empowering. Once you have a practitioner teach you the method, it’s quite literally a very simple practice that you can do at home by yourself for as little as 10 minutes or as much as 30, 40 minutes. That to me is really fundamental to being able to unlock your own healing power instead of just being passive and relying on a second person.”
“Show up for yourself. Say ‘I’m going to do this every day for 30 days in the same vein as you would a 30-day challenge. As far as time of the day goes, first thing in the morning, amazing; end of the day, amazing; right before a creative project is great; right before a difficult conversation that you’re nervous about having is great. There’s not a time that’s better than any other. Don’t overthink it. Ask yourself what feels good. Doing breathwork is kind of like going to the gym for your emotions. You’ll get stronger.”
“If you have the ability, time, and resources, a group session is beneficial. You get that amplified group energy that happens in any kind of healing setting. There’s a lot to be said for sitting in a circle and joining a bunch of people in a community to do a particular modality together. And if you don’t have the resources, myself and a lot of other practitioners offer sliding scale work.”
“It is very common for people to scream, cry, and feel a lot of physical sensations. There are people who have had full-body orgasms during practice. There are people who have just laid there feeling an overwhelming sense of peace for half an hour. The full gamut of human experiences is represented in breathwork. And by doing this deep, intentional breathwork, you’re simply inviting your body to express. I compare the experience to a seltzer bottle. Whenever you do breathwork, you’re kind of opening the bottle and letting some of those bubbles out.”
“If you’re concerned about people hearing you, get a pillow to scream or cry into. Make sure you’ve got tissues, get a glass of water, make sure the room is comfortable and conducive to doing the work.”