29 Jun Power Up Your Health with Breath
Lauren Chelec Cafritz discovered the power of breath work in her 20s, when she was experiencing anxiety and other health conditions.
During her first breathwork session, “I could feel a panic attack coming on. My breath worker said, ‘Emotions are just energy in motion. It’s okay to relax and feel energies.’ So I breathed through what would probably have been a powerful panic attack. I kept relaxing my body and feeling it and breathing with it, and I rode right through it. It was amazing.”
Chelec Cafritz experienced what scientists have learned about the power of conscious breath. In 2020, researchers from Yale, Stanford, Cambridge, and Leipzig universities discovered that certain conscious breathing techniques could reduce stress levels and depression and release positive emotions.
Through breath work, Chelec Cafritz also became more in tune with her emotions and even previous traumas that she had not processed thoroughly. When you do conscious breathing, “you’re creating the time and space for your body to feel all the things that you keep suppressing,” she says.
Chelec Cafritz learned that she, like many people, typically breathed through her chest rather than her belly. Taking a diaphragmatic breath—a deep breath that comes from the belly—allows more oxygen to enter your body, which can slow your heartbeat and even lower your blood pressure.
When Chelec Cafritz started diaphragmatic breathing, “it brought me a ton of energy, and I even walked differently when I opened up my breath.” It also led her to eventually start her own business, as the founder and director of Vitality Breath, an organization in metropolitan Washington, DC, that teaches breath work to individuals and organizations.
Diaphragmatic breathing can help workday stress. When we are tense from being on conference calls, rushing to meet deadlines, or simply tuning in to the news of the day, our bodies can lock up.
Start by placing both hands on your belly. When you breathe in, feel your hands push away from your body. Then slowly let your breath out. As you do, feel your hands come closer to your spine.
“In a meeting, a woman could fold her arms onto her stomach,” Chelec Cafritz says. “No one needs to know what she’s doing. She’s listening to the meeting while she’s doing some belly breathing. It’s going to calm her right down.”
Conscious breathing can also be used to calm you down before anxiety leads you down a never-ending rabbit hole.
“The minute you feel out of sorts, pause and take a breath,” Chelec Cafritz says. “Notice where in the body you feel tight and then breathe into that area. By the time you take four or five breaths, you’re likely going to start feeling better. So breathwork helps us be in this body-mind awareness where we can catch things before they spiral out.”
You may find that some breathing techniques calm you, some increase your energy, and others help you release emotions from old traumas. “Use your intuition to see which feel right for you,” Chelec Cafritz says. “Try some. See what your own secret sauce is.”
This popular technique recommended by some doctors and practiced by Navy SEALS can help relieve stress. Repeat the steps several times.
- Breathe in through the nose to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for four seconds.
- Exhale throughyour mouth to a count of four.
- Pause for four seconds.