Breath therapy is an umbrella term covering a broad range of therapeutic approaches that emphasize the importance of breathing and its potential to affect human health. Most breath therapies employ specific types of breathing exercises, often done in conjunction with other practices. In addition to the ones mentioned here, other yoga-like breath therapies include qigong and t'ai chi ch'uan.
How Does Breath Therapy Work?
Most breath therapies are commonly used both to promote general well-being and to address specific psychological, physical, and/or spiritual conditions.
Health Benefits of Breath Therapy?
General benefits may include reduced stress, enhanced energy and vitality, and (in the case of yoga and other similar practices) increased flexibility. Breath therapies have also been used to treat a wide range of specific complaints, such as asthma, high blood pressure, headaches, and rheumatoid arthritis. Breathing exercises have helped some children avoid asthma attacks and improve lung function. Breathing therapy has been used to help reduce anger, exhaustion, hostility, and risk of new heart problems in some people who have had heart surgery. Yoga, in particular, is increasingly being used as a companion therapy to conventional treatment for such critical illnesses as cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
Used as a form of psychotherapy, both breathwork and meditation are said to help practitioners address old conflicts, enhance their self-esteem, and achieve greater peace of mind.
In addition to these benefits, spiritual seekers may explore these therapies to achieve higher consciousness.
What Can I Expect From Breath Therapy?
- Peace of mind
- More relaxed mucles
- Better focus and better oxygen flow
- Cautions about Breath Therapy
Many breath therapies are intended to be practiced in a safe, controlled environment, under the guidance of a trained facilitator or teacher. As a general rule, it is wise to ask about the training, qualifications, and experience of such facilitators, especially before beginning a rigorous or costly program based on a little-known therapy.
Although breathing is a natural process that is essential to maintaining human life, and breathing exercises are generally taken to be beneficial, some precautions may be advisable. People suffering from asthma or other breathing-related disorders should notify their doctor about any alternative therapy they are exploring. They should also notify their guide in the therapy of choice about their condition and any medication currently required. People suffering from mental disturbances or disorders should be cautious about experimenting with practices designed to induce altered states of consciousness.
Prolonged, intensive breathing can sometimes create dizziness, or the person may even faint. Related techniques used in some of the various breath therapies may have other side effects that should be considered before starting a therapeutic program.