by: Jomel Bajar, PT,DPT, MS
The coronavirus outbreak did more than spread sickness to a lot of people. This pandemic has filled the world with fear and anxiety. With hundreds of people getting infected by the day and with several hundreds of thousands of people dying, it is no surprise that it can be overwhelming.
In times of distress like this, people could use an active meditation practice called breathwork. Unlike other forms of meditation, breathwork focuses on the connection between emotions, and the physical body rather than focusing on the mind where people usually get themselves stuck into. It has only been gaining attention for a few years, but in fact, it has been helping people manage their stress and anxiety for centuries in other cultures. Also, unknown to many is that breathwork takes in many forms and is done in more than one way.
Breathwork, in its most basic form, refers to any form of breathing technique that involves guided breathing inhaled and exhaled out of the mouth consciously and systematically. Usually when a person is in fear or stressed, they take increased shallow breaths which affect clarity and concentration. Through deep intentional breathing, it counters the parts in the body that produces fear and stress which suppresses immunity and can make the person more susceptible to illness. Intentional breathing regulates stress response and relieves anxiety. It also regulates the nervous system and balances oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH levels in the blood. As said by doctors Patricia L. Gerbarg and Richard P. Brown in their book The Healing Power of Breath - "by changing the patterns of breathing, it is possible to restore balance to the stress response systems, calm an agitated mind, relieve symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), improve physical health and endurance, elevate performance, and enhance relationships.” Breathwork may sound like any form of guided meditation technique but what makes breathwork different is that it is more personal as it also focuses on the emotion and experience. Instead of disregarding them, breathwork faces the problems at hand and honors the emotions that come with them.
As breathwork is more intimate than other types of active meditation, likely, people will not feel the same way about their experiences. Another thing to consider is that there are various kinds of breathwork that people can choose from to cater to their needs. It can range from the most basic breathing exercise to the most intense breathing experiences. A commonly practiced type of breathwork is Pranayama which uses controlled breathing to create positive effects on the brain and the body. Another type of commonly practiced breathwork is Holotropic which uses intense breathing exercises that lead into a hazy state of consciousness. At Fe-SiO, we teach our clients mindful breathing and other type of breathwork that would be comfortable and easy for them. For those who are still weary about going to public, there are a lot of online literature and apps that can be easily access by anyone interested.
Prior to pandemic, a lot of us associated our “self-worth” with how productive we are, how we accomplish our deadlines, and how we collaborate with our associates at work. Through these years, our society demanded a lot of time from each one of us. It is a routine to wake up in the morning, go to work and ready to conquer our world. Then suddenly, everything stopped. A change of pace; an unexpected change. We are now requested to “slow-down”, and majority of us are requested to “stay-at-home”. A new demand has been given to all of us to do our part to flatten the curve. This very nature of change, uncertainties, and social obligations puts a lot of fear and anxiety to each one of us for the past year. Intentional breathing is another approach that we can practice while we are asked to live a life that we are not used to. By doing so, we are re-connecting deeper to our own self to find a moment of peace. We are pursuing to be in a state of being rather than state of doing.
There has never been a time better than now to get into mindful breathing. Breathwork reminds people that in these scary times, it is okay to be more anxious in handling this pandemic as compared to others. Recognizing that we need to do something to address our negative thoughts and feelings is a good start. Mindful intentional breathing is just one of the many ways that we can use inside our own home to cope during this unprecedented time in our history. Finding creative ways to manage our physical health, emotional health, and mental health during this pandemic is paramount to each one of us.
So, take it easy and most importantly, BREATH.