The popularity of breathwork is rapidly spreading, and an increasing number of people are reporting positive – sometimes bewildering – results. This raises the question: why are breathwork techniques so powerful, and what specific benefits do they offer?
In this article, we present an overview of three recent scientific studies that demonstrate the efficacy and effectiveness of breathwork for enhancing physical and mental well-being.
BREATHE BETTER, LIVE BETTER
- 1. Breathwork Techniques Aid in Reducing Anxiety, Stress, and Depression
A scientific article published in February 2023 by a team of researchers from England and Spain has summarised the results of studies on breathwork conducted over the past decade, showcasing the positive effects of breathwork on stress and mental health.
The first of its kind meta-analysis reveals that breathwork techniques appear to help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Furthermore, breathwork has been found to improve overall well-being. According to the researchers:
“Individuals with stress and anxiety disorders tend to breathe more rapidly and erratically. Through breathwork and meditation practice, breathing rates gradually slow down, potentially leading to better health, improved mood, and reduced autopilot living.”
The researchers suggest that breathwork not only calms and balances the nervous system but also triggers the release of endorphins – neurotransmitters that act as natural pain relievers and evoke feelings of joy and euphoria.
BREATHWORK AND MENTAL HEATLH
- 2. Breathwork Enhances Mental Health More Than Mindfulness Meditation
The positive effects of a meditation practice are well documented over the last two decades, this Eastern technique has firmly rooted itself into Western culture. Breathwork however, is still considered a fairly new arrival on the wellness scene. In another study from January 2023, researchers from Stanford University’s departments of Neurobiology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences aimed to determine which is more effective for reducing stress and enhancing mood: breathwork or meditation?
The researchers compared three different breathwork techniques (box breathing, controlled hyperventilation, and physiological sigh) with mindfulness meditation among 108 participants randomly assigned to various techniques. Key findings from the study include:
- Engaging in 5 minutes of daily breathwork exercises or mindfulness meditation improves mental well-being and reduces anxiety.
- Breathwork enhances mental well-being more significantly than mindfulness meditation.
- The “physiological sigh” proves to be the most effective method for improving mental well-being and calming the breath.
One of the researchers involved in the study is Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, who also hosts the popular podcast “Huberman Lab,” exploring the science behind numerous self-applicable “biohacks” for optimising health. Huberman highlights that the “physiological sigh” is the best way to reduce stress even while facing a stressful situation.
For more on this research and how to apply the physiological sigh technique, read this article:
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL SIGH: EXPERTS’ MOST POWERFUL TOOL FOR ACUTE STRESS
- 3. Breathwork is Effective in Treating Anxiety Disorders
Another recent meta-analysis from a team of researchers in Australia and the U.S. investigated the effectiveness of breathwork techniques for adults diagnosed with anxiety disorders based on the DSM-5 classification system*. Breathless Expeditions’ very own Johannes Egberts and Blerida Bleri were two of the researchers on the team.
The researchers reviewed all (an impressive 1081) published scientific studies and articles related to anxiety disorders and breath interventions over the past forty years. The key conclusion of this scoping review is that applying breathwork techniques holds clinical benefits for individuals with anxiety disorders. The review also discusses effective treatment options and accessible breath protocols for anxiety patients. The aim is not only to demonstrate the potency of breathwork but also to mould breath techniques into protocols that can serve as effective treatment methods in mental health care.
” This research article indicates that there is room for a more holistic approach to breathwork, even within mental health care.”Johannes Egberts
Read more about Breathless’ and Johannes’ involvement in a recent study.
Conclusion: Breath Works
It’s something that spiritual leaders, healers, martial artists and yogi’s have known since the dawn of time. However we live in a unique period where science and spiritually can finally walk hand in hand. These studies are essential, not only because they demonstrate that breathwork techniques are powerful tools for reducing anxiety and stress, which affect many of us, but also because these techniques can be easily learned, mastered, and are available free of charge, regardless of who you are!