Summer is right around the corner! With longer days and rising temperatures on the horizon, you may find yourself longing for a bit of cooling comfort.
Staying well hydrated with lots of crisp, clean water, wearing light, porous clothing, and avoiding the midday sun can help keep our bodies stay chill, but there’s also another technique that can help soothe us during the summer months.
The HBM wants you to take a deep breath — a few deep breaths, actually. Not only can breathing exercises help calm you down mentally, but they can also help naturally decrease your body temperature so you feel cooler too.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is the ancient practice of moving energy in your body through breathing exercises. Unlike meditation, which may require you to be aware of your thoughts, you’re only focusing on your breath in breathwork. Because of this, many people who find meditation challenging may find breathwork much easier to practice.
In an interview for The HBM’s podcast Role Models with founder Jennifer Norman, Giselle talks about all things breathwork. According to Giselle, breathing techniques can help bring you back to nature and life; it’s a sort of recharge for your mind, body, and soul.
“We are always breathing; however, most of the time we are only taking shallow breaths. Our breath will mimic whatever it is we are going through at the time,” Giselle states. “That’s why when you get out in nature and see a beautiful scene, you’ll let out a deep breath before saying, ‘That’s so beautiful.’”
Breathwork helps connect you to your subconscious, and unlike hypnosis, it completely happens within. “During a breathwork session, I’m guiding the breath while watching the person sift through emotions,” Giselle tells The HBM. “Sometimes I’ll touch different parts of the body if I get the sense that energy is stuck.”
“While honing into the subconscious, you’ll see people expressing all kinds of emotions during breathwork sessions. They might be really vocal when they’re breathing, or they might cry,” Giselle says. “There are all kinds of emotions because the work that’s happening in the subconscious takes us to a different place.”
The place that breathwork can take you is one that we typically don’t reside in. After all, as Giselle mentions, you can’t walk around doing breathwork and still have conversations with people. However, you can be aware of your breaths and pause to do a little breathing technique at any moment.
“When you need to reset or re-energize, you can try doing a few techniques throughout the day,” Giselle says. “It even helps heal the body. You’re obviously getting more oxygen and you’re connecting your mind to your body. You definitely start with that in the beginning, and then zoom! You sink into the subconscious.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Giselle and breathwork, you can find her full interview with The HBM here.
Breathwork Today and Yesterday
Breathing hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves. We’ve always known that it keeps us alive, but now, pandemic conscientious, we are living in a time when breath has never felt more sacred.
But almost concurrent with the spread of COVID-19, the practice of breathwork has gained momentum and entered the realm of pop culture. The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, debuted on Netflix in late January 2020.
In a popular episode highlighting Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof’s soft belly breathing and cold-resistance training for physical and psychological healing, viewers watched as Goop employees plunged into a freezing-cold lake.
By the time Justin Bieber called him a “G” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in December 2020 and reported chatting with him on Instagram, the self-proclaimed “crazy Dutch man” was practically a household name.
However, breathwork is not a new practice. The word “breath” and “spirit” even share the same origin in many languages. A particular reverence for the breath as a conduit of life force energy goes back thousands of years in spiritual traditions and Eastern practices.
Breathwork can be found in many breath-centered meditations in Buddhism and Pranayamas in Yogic practices. Additionally, it was used in Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Qigong, Shamanism, Sufism, and martial arts.
In the 1970s, the popularity of breathwork waned, but in the past five years, it has begun to resurface with a bang. Today, there are more than 50 types of breathwork, all distinct from each other.
Some types last 2 minutes, while others last 2 hours. However, they all have one thing in common: the focus on conscious breathing in a non-regular pattern to alter the mind-body emotional state.
Pictured: Wim Hof Source: Renea’s World
Breathwork Can Keep You Healthy, Grounded, and Cool
During the Busy Summer Months
The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathwork activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows your body to rest and remain calm. Many will find that breathwork reduces anxiety, stress, and frustration and brings relaxation, peace, and more.
Breathwork can boost your overall health by alkalizing your blood pH. It does this by causing a shift in blood pH following hyperventilation, which is called respiratory alkalosis. We take in oxygen with every inhale, and we release acidic carbon dioxide (CO2) with every exhale. Hyperventilation reduces acid levels in the blood, resulting in a higher, more alkaline pH.
Breathwork can increase muscle tone due to blood alkalinity. Calcium ions that are floating in the blood bind onto large proteins known as albumin. This starts an increased firing in sensory and motor neurons due to the low-calcium state. This state presents itself in the neurological system as tingling sensations, smooth muscle contractions, and increased muscle tone.
Breathwork can elevate your mood through hyperventilation. One minute of hyperventilation causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict, which reduces blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain by 40%. This triggers the Bohr Effect, which could be responsible for the deep feeling of well-being, or “high,” you experience during breathwork.
Breathwork has an anti-inflammatory effect due to neurons in the nervous system firing more often during hyperventilation, which releases adrenaline. In a 2014 study, it was found that the adrenaline surge causes the innate immune system to increase its anti-inflammatory activity and dampen its proinflammatory activity.
According to science, breathwork may even keep you cool. A study by the National University of Singapore that focused on breathing techniques found that core body temperature increases can be achieved using certain meditation techniques, which could help in boosting immunity to fight infectious diseases or immunodeficiency.
Here Are a Few Cooling Breathing Techniques
This technique not only cools down the body, but it cools down the mind as well. It has a calming effect on blood pressure, while also stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system by triggering a Rest and Digest reaction.
To start, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Stick out your tongue as far as possible without straining it and roll it so that the sides are facing upwards. Inhale for four counts through the rolled tongue, like sipping air with a straw. Then close your mouth and exhale for six counts through your nostrils. You can continue for 10 rounds.
If you find it difficult to roll your tongue while practicing Sitali, not to worry. An alternative for the Sitali technique is called Sitkari, or teeth hissing. Sitkari can be used to soothe the body, along with balancing and regulating your body temperature after high-intensity exercise or yoga.
To start, bring the upper and lower front teeth together, and pull your cheeks into a smile. Fold the tongue and press the tip of the folded tongue onto the back of your teeth. When you inhale through your teeth, you will make a hissing sound while the cool air is entering your body. Exhale through your nostrils and keep your mouth closed. Repeat for 10 rounds.
Using Breathwork for a Relaxing and Calm Summer
The following practices can be combined with meditation and yoga, or be performed on their own to help relieve excess heat or stress for a more enjoyable summer. Some of these techniques may lead to slight lightheadedness, so always make sure you’re in a comfortable, safe place, preferably seated on a couch or cushion.
During summer, the last thing we want to dwell on is work or school stress. Alternate Nostril Breathing can help lower anxiety and bring forth a sense of calmness. Using the hands to alternate the opening and closing of the nostrils gives the mind something to think about, helps us focus, and prevents the mind from wandering toward worries and to-dos.
To begin, find a comfortable place to sit. Exhale completely, and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, and then close the left nostril with your ring finger and pinky. Open the right nostril, and exhale through it. Inhale through the right nostril, and then close this nostril. Open the left nostril, and exhale through the left side.
Continue the same pattern for up to five minutes.
Summer brings gardening and lawn care. If you’re anything like me (and my allergies), I love experiencing the fruits of my labor, but dislike actually mowing and taking care of my lawn. The 5-5 breathwork technique can help give you a sense of calm by slowing down your breathing to four seconds and then five seconds.
To begin, focus on the natural rhythm of your breathing to measure how long your inhales and exhales are. For one minute, breathe in for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat for five seconds, then six seconds. Begin with practicing this technique for five minutes. However, you can gradually increase this time to around 20 minutes.
Hiking and washing your car may seem like polar opposites, but they have two things in common: both are more fun to do during summer and usually, a burst of energy would greatly benefit the cause. The 4-4-4-4 provides just that by slowing the heart rate and deepening concentration.
Start by releasing all of the air from your lungs, hold your breath for four seconds, then breathe through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath again for four seconds, and exhale once again for four seconds. Repeat these steps for five minutes.
Attending and organizing summer parties can wreak havoc on your mind and body. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, give the 4-7-8 breathwork technique a shot. It’ll slow your heart rate, bring your consciousness to the present moment, and bring forth a feeling of peace.
To begin, empty the lungs of air, inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, exhale out of your mouth for eight seconds, and repeat four times. As you put this technique to action, try envisioning your chakras at the center of your body pulling any energy or thoughts that do not serve you well.
Nothing says summer like grilling hamburgers and hotdogs while experimenting with cocktails to find the perfect mix. To get your creative juices flowing, try the Lion’s Breath technique; it’s rooted in the fifth chakra energy around the throat, which involves communication, creativity, and self-expression.
To begin, sit in a comfortable position, ensuring your head, neck, and spine are aligned. Lean forward slightly and brace your hands on your knees or the floor. Inhale through your nose, open your mouth wide, and stick your tongue down toward your chin. Exhale forcefully, making a “ha” sound that comes from deep within your abdomen. Repeat up to seven times.
The beach is the prime place to be during summer. However, sometimes the afternoon crash hits you, and your energy levels have completely zeroed out. Circular breathing, a breathwork technique Giselle recommends to beginners, can instill you with more energy to retake your summer day.
To begin, bring your energy back in by becoming aware of your body and your surroundings. Breathing in from your belly, taking it up to your chest with no pauses in between. Then breathe in from your nose, taking it down to your belly, inhaling again. As you get more comfortable, you can close your eyes. This technique can be practiced for as long as you like.
To have a small breathing session with Giselle where you’ll practice circular breathing, click here.
The HBM Invites You to Breathe With Us
On May 23rd, The HBM is hosting a powerful virtual Breathwork and Journaling Discovery event featuring Intuitive Life Coach / HBM Community Manager Giselle Baumet and Inner Outer Beauty queens Petra Hui and Amy Hui. During this event, we’ll present methods for you to connect to the Mother Archetype and practice breathwork techniques alongside Giselle.
During the session, we invite you to create a space around you that feels safe and comfortable. This could include your yoga mat, a journal, or even aromatherapy and crystals, and a dimly lighted atmosphere. It’s up to you. The HBM wants you to attend whichever way you feel more at home.
If you’re suffering from a respiratory problem, such as asthma or bronchitis, it’s best to consult your doctor before taking part in breathwork. It’s also not advised to practice breathwork if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have physical injuries, or have recently undergone surgery. Your safety means the world to us!
The event fee is $33. You can RSVP to the event here. Happy breathing!