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Breathwork: what is it and why is it becoming so popular?

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

If you've done Pilates you know how useful our breath is when it comes to facilitating good movement. And you also know that when you're stressed, pausing to take 3 deep breaths can help you relax and reset. But actually, it can do A LOT more than what we use it for on the daily! The reason I know this is because my sister has found her passion in facilitating 1:1 breathwork sessions and group classes. You know when you find a good instructor? Like, one that you know is just good at what they do? One that you trust? Well this is her, but with breathwork! To be honest, I was over the moon when she found it, because it completely interweaves with movement and psychotherapy. Abbi (my sister) has recently moved back to England, from Australia and we've been spending sometime in Cornwall together and having some great discussions about how Breathwork can have a direct impact on physical pain in the body. We were in St Ives a few weeks back where she held an online group class where one of her clients said that her knee pain had improved. This is right up our street, right? Ways we can heal and feel good in our body? Well I asked her to write a piece for the Healers Journal - here it is:

Abbi Coleman Breathwork Facilitator:

What is breath work?

Breathwork is a very ancient practice, that has recently become a tool that we are harnessing in modern well-being to soothe our nervous system and self-heal. Our mind gets in the way sometimes and soothing our nervous system allows us to bypass our analytical mind and tap into our subconscious mind and body (the connection between the two). When we do this, we are able to become aware of past trauma/s that lies deep within our body, that have helped shape our belief system. Often when life isn't quite going the way we want it to, it's past trauma and subsequent beliefs that no longer serve our current life. Breathwork helps us clear all this out and and move forward with new foundations and a healthy sense of self and wholeness.

How do you do it?

I use circular breathing which is done with an open mouth throughout the active breathing time (I'll explain the order of a session below so this makes more sense). We breathe the air into the belly (where emotions are stored) and bring it up to the chest (where we feel in our heart) - exhale - repeat in circular motion without a pause between the end of the exhale and the next inhale.

By circular breathing we move around the amount of oxygen that enters & leaves the body, which results in an activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the one that wakes you up). The body becomes activated and opens to stored experiences/emotions/traumas allowing us to tap in, discover and heal. (Which is why Breathwork is active compared with meditation which is passive.)

Whilst our breath will only deliver us exactly what we are ready to receive on any given day, there really is no limit to what we can experience during a Breathwork session. However, here are a few common results:

  • Healing & completing the loop of stored trauma & emotions (long way of saying that it heals trauma)

  • Nervous system regulation aka helps you live more calmly

  • Improving phycial pain in the body

  • Opening up to deep states of love and wholeness

  • Tapping into creativity, ideas & direction in life

The list goes on could and I could talk about this for hours, however it’s truly something that we need to experience within ourselves in order to fully understand just how powerful our breath is. There is a particular story I’d like to share with you from a recent online class that I guided whilst Alex, our Mum & I were in St. Ives:

A 60/90 minute class usually goes like this:

  1. I explain about circular breath

  2. We slowly slide into a meditative state and from here we begin the breath work

  3. We then integrate this by sharing our experiences and/or writing down the insights & information that arose during the session

It was during the integration phase of this session where a lady shared with us that her 2 year-long knee pain had gone. She said it in such matter-of-fact way and with so much sureness and relief in her voice. One might ask "well how do you know it was the breathwork session that helped the pain?" but it's like "when you know, you know!" It was like a deep sense of inner knowing.

By actively breathing with intention, she was able to access the emotional pain that was causing the physical pain in her knee. As she dropped deeper into her body, her breath became the gateway to heal the emotion, which in turn healed her knee. As Alex talks about often, the brain and body are inextricably linked and we often see these types of results during sessions. This client also shared with us that she spent the final part of the breathwork session sitting on her knees, comfortably and happily, which she has never been able to do before.

This is just one example of how simple and effective our Breath can be when used as a tool to self-heal, and the most beautiful thing is, it comes from within. This is why it is becoming so popular in modern well-being. It’s you, cultivating the wisdom within your body and trusting it will deliver exactly what you need. It a unique experience and one that helps to improve our relationship to self. We are our own best healers and our breath is one powerful and nourishing tool that we have access to. How wonderful is that!?

3 common questions:

What is the difference between breathwork and meditation?

  • Meditation is passive - when meditating we remain in a more receptive, relaxed state with little or no action required.

  • Breath work is active - we work to receive an outcome.

What happens in the body during a Breathwork session?

We play around with the amount of oxygen the enters & leaves the body through the breath, which results in an activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The body becomes activated and opens to stored experiences/emotions/traumas allowing us to heal (hence why Breathwork is active)

How do I integrate a Breathwork session into my life?

Although there are a number of ways, I feel what has worked best with my own expereince and with clients is:

- a day (or two if able) of space from the stressors of daily life to be present with the experience of the class

- spend time in nature

- speak about your experience

- take action on the information received from your body (could range from self care to leaving a job etc)

You can find me at and I'm offering 10% off to Alex's lovely community. I hope to see you in class

With love,

Abbi Coleman


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