A Beginner's Guide to Breathwork

A Beginner's Guide to Breathwork


Breathwork practices are something you can do anytime, anywhere, with no special equipment. 

They’re also great for improving your mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual well-being.

The breathwork guide below is intended to help out beginners and those seeking to learn new techniques. 

Read on to learn more about how to optimize your well-being with breathwork techniques!

If you’re into lifestyle optimization, it may be worth checking out the BIOMAX Series, the most advanced red light therapy panels on the consumer market. These are also perfect for treatment during 15-20 minute breathwork sessions. 

Meanwhile, the SaunaMAX Pro panels have all the tech of the BIOMAX Series, but can also be used for treatment during home sauna use. 

What is Breathwork?

Breathwork techniques focus attention on the physical experience of breathing and on control of the breath to achieve a desired physiological state. 

Breathwork is a key part of yoga and meditation, but it can be done independently. 

Some breathing patterns involve deliberately slowing the breathing pattern while others, like the ’breath of fire,’ are rapid and forceful.

The Benefits of Breathwork

With so many modern breathwork techniques, it can be challenging to find a good place to start. 

We breathe unconsciously just as easily as we operate any of the body’s other autonomous systems, like digestion or the breathing of the heart. 

However, breath control has a wide range of benefits ranging from a calmer nervous system and the oxygenation of the bloodstream to far better moods. 

It helps to set aside time to consciously change our breathing patterns, resulting in various mental and physiological changes. 



Mental Health Benefits of Breathwork

Slow, controlled breathing techniques improve well-being and emotional control

Psychologists sometimes use breathwork sessions to help patients manage emotions. One of the biggest benefits of this is stress relief. When people feel less stressed, they can sometimes think more calmly and rationally. 

They may also improve their ability to manage emotions and choose a better response to stressful situations. This includes consciously breaking or improving harmful behavioral patterns. 



Stress Relief

In a stressful situation, uncontrolled breathing can escalate emotions. Fast, shallow breaths are the body’s way of preparing for the fight-or-flight response. Shallow breathing can also prolong the stress response. 

The breath changes in response to emotions. However, one can use intentional breathing to change emotions. Deep breaths signal relaxation. Controlling your breathing helps reduce anxiety and improve mood

Breathwork can help with the following:

  • Develop self-control and confidence: learn to respond calmly rather than reacting with hostility or aggression to a situation. 
  • Improve mental health through self-awareness, emotional processing, and self-regulation. 
  • Manage anger, anxiety, and depression.
  • Help treat addiction or substance abuse issues.
  • Increase feelings of wellbeing.
  • Release trauma and promote healing of PTSD and grief.



Physical Benefits of Breathwork

Breathwork has many health benefits. 

Most notably, slow breathing relaxes the central nervous system in what's called the relaxation response. 

This term was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

Dr. Benson studied the connection between the mind and body. He found that the mind influences the body, and vice-versa. Breathwork techniques and meditation are central to influencing the body.

By intentionally slowing the breath, you are signaling your body that it may relax, that there’s no need to panic or lash out. This relaxes the stress response faster.



Pain Relief

Focusing attention on the breath can help reduce pain perception, especially when the breathing technique involves longer exhales than inhales. 

Shallow breathing is characteristic of someone in pain. The relaxation response brought on by breathwork reduces negative emotions and shifts attention away from the pain, which dulls its perception.

Improved Lung Health

Smokers and people with asthma or COPD benefit from breathwork. For example, deep breathing helped elderly smokers improve lung capacity and oxygen intake.  



Lower Blood Pressure

One of the fight-or-flight responses is an increase in blood pressure. Breathwork slows the heart rate and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, signaling relaxation, which also lowers blood pressure.  

Toxin Release

Breathing is one way the body releases toxins. Deep breathing allows for more oxygen intake while more efficiently pushing out carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds that are harmful to our health.



Increased Energy

Breathwork isn’t just about relaxation. When you need to increase your energy, for example before an athletic competition, use breathwork to bring more oxygen into the lungs.

Improved Digestion

A breathwork session increases blood flow to the digestive tract. The stress release also activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the body’s digestive and self-repair functions.



Boosted Immunity

Breathwork can influence and change the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and immune system. In one study, breathwork stimulated the release of epinephrine, which has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Better Sleep

Slow, deep breathing can help you get to sleep and fall back asleep should you wake up at night. Breath focus prevents middle-of-the-night ruminating.



Mental Benefits of Breathwork

Breathing is linked to specific mental functions. 

Focus and Attention

Breathing exercises that activate your parasympathetic nervous system help you develop the ability to focus and concentrate by calming a busy mind. They also help increase focus and bring your attention to a task rather than letting it wander.

Creativity and Problem-Solving

Breathwork quickly relaxes the mind and body. Relaxation is characterized by alpha brain waves which are associated with enhanced creativity and the ‘flow state,’ where you’re so immersed in an activity that all distractions fall away and you feel energized and happy.

Problem-solving is closely related to creativity. When you are relaxed, you don't let your perception of ‘how things are and how things work’ interfere with creativity. One is more likely to explore novel solutions while in this state.



Spiritual Benefits of Breathwork

Breathwork is an important spiritual practice across the world. Breathing is said to have transformational powers.

Meditation isn’t always a religious practice, although some element of meditation echoes in nearly every religious tradition. Breath-focus is the traditional way to promote a meditative state. In some cases, you simply breathe normally and observe the breath. In other cases, one can control the rhythm and timing of the breath.

In the Indian tradition, the breath is called ‘prana.’ This word means breath, but also ‘energy’ as in ‘the field of intelligent consciousness.’ ‘Pranayama’ practices are used to achieve a state of oneness. 



Types of Breathwork

There are a number of types of breathwork techniques that have widespread popularity. We recommend that readers explore the list to find one or more that work for them. 

Beginner Breathwork Techniques

If you’re new to breathwork, start with these beginner-friendly breathwork techniques. 


In this breathing pattern, you don’t change the rhythm or depth of the breath. You simply observe the physical sensations: how it feels as air moves in through your nose, the rise of your chest and abdomen, and the pauses between breaths, etc. This is often used to enter into a state of meditation.



Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique is also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing as opposed to upper chest shallow breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing helps oxygenate the body and it's a powerful signal to the brain that it can relax.

Here are some steps for doing diaphragmatic breathing. First, place one hand on your stomach. Then, slowly inhale through the nose. Your belly will rise as your lungs fill to capacity. Then, as you exhale, try to use your abdominal muscles to breathe out through the mouth. 

Laughter Yoga (Hasya Yoga)

This could be the most fun breathwork exercise of all. It’s simple, and as follows. Just start laughing, and keep laughing. Often, the laughter starts off ‘fake,’ especially if you’re stressed. But soon, you’ll be laughing in earnest. 

It’s much easier to do this in a group setting, but you can do it alone while looking in the mirror. 

There are few better exercises to put you in a better mood and relieve stress and anxiety simultaneously.



Pursed Lip Breathing

This technique involves slowly inhaling and exhaling through pursed lips as if you’re snorkeling. This method is said to be more efficient at removing carbon dioxide. Inhalations are typically done quicker in this exercise. It involves breathing in for two bears and breathing out for four beats, with an emphasis on breathing deeply from your diaphragm.   

This technique relieves shortness of breath. It can treat chronic lung diseases like asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, or COPD. It also helps while doing strenuous physical activities such as climbing stairs, because it reduces the physical effort required to breathe.



Box Breathing

Box breathing is also known as square breathing or sometimes 4-4-4-4. This breathing pattern is used by Navy SEALs and professional athletes to relieve stress and anxiety and to improve focus and performance. 

To ‘box breathe,’ try the following. First, inhale through the nose for four beats. Then, hold your breath for another four beats. Exhale through the mouth for four beats, then hold for four beats and repeat. 

This rhythmic breathing shuts off the fight-or-flight mode, which is why the Navy SEALs use it in high-pressure situations. It's a powerful yet simple technique that is incredible for distracting the mind and building self-mastery in adverse situations.



Equal Breathing

This technique makes your inhale and exhale the same length and depth. This has a powerful calming effect on the body, also making it a wonderful sleep aid. 

We recommend first counting while inhaling naturally. Then, focus on using that same count as you breathe out. You may notice that your inhales and exhales want to have a different rhythm. Try focusing on your breathing to make sure you spend the same amount of time inhaling and exhaling to complete an equal breathing exercise successfully.  



Advanced Breathing Techniques

Try these slightly more advanced breathing patterns once you're comfortable with the different techniques that are perfect for beginners.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing will definitely keep your mind engaged. Sit with your legs crossed or in a chair. Place your left hand on your left knee. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril, then close it with your index (pointer) finger. Release your right thumb and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, then close it with your thumb. Release your index finger and exhale through the left nostril. 

This is one complete cycle. This exercise is more challenging than some others but it has additional benefits. Breathing through the left nostril increases activity in the right brain hemisphere. Breathing through the right nostril increases activity in the left brain hemisphere. This helps stimulate both hemispheres which can help with cognitive function. 



Resonant Breathing

Resonant breathing involves reducing the breath rate to 5 cycles per minute. Each full breath (inhale and exhale) takes 12 seconds. Inhale for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 1 second, then exhale for 5 seconds and hold that state for 1 second. That’s one cycle. Repeat 5 times. 

This method reduces your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves symptoms related to chronic lung disorders. It’s a good technique for insomnia, and it improves focus.



4-7-8 Breathing 

This is another technique that involves focused attention. It has been widely promoted as a sleep aid and stress reliever that soothes the fight-or-flight response. It may also improve migraines. To do 4-7-8, inhale through the nose to the count of 4. Hold your breath for the count of 7. Exhale for the count of 8, focusing on completely emptying your lungs.



Buteyko Breathing Technique 

Developed by Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko in the 1950s, Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT) involves deep nose-only breathing as a way to increase oxygenation of the body. It’s somewhat counterintuitive.

We typically think that breathing deeper and faster will do a better job of oxygenating the body. BBT slows down the breath and uses ‘breath holds’ following an exhale.

Soon, the body will experience ‘air hunger’ to which it responds by improving blood circulation. The technique is used to treat asthma, anxiety, sleep disorders, and panic attacks. 

There are two central themes to this exercise:

  • The ‘control pause’ involves knowing how long you can hold your breath after an exhalation. A control pause of less than 25 seconds is considered poor. The goal is to comfortably hold your breath for 40 seconds after an exhalation.
  • Nose-only breathing means 24/7, even during sleep. At first, you may feel you’re not getting enough air. But as you practice the exercises, this will go away quickly.

The Buteyko method involves several different breathwork exercises with different benefits.

Given the complexity and variety of BBT exercises, it’s best to get instruction on which exercises are best for you, and how to do them. The Buteyko Clinic channel has free instructional videos on some of these breathwork exercises.  

If you don’t want to do a complicated breathwork exercise, it helps to simply practice nose breathing throughout the day.



Breath of Fire

This style of forced exhalation reduces stress and anxiety, boosts brain function, strengthens abdominal muscles, and improves digestion and respiratory health.

To do the Breath of Fire:

  1. Sit up tall, either cross-legged or in a chair.
  2. Place your hands on your knees, palms up.  
  3. Inhale through your nose, feeling your belly expand.
  4. Without pausing, exhale forcefully through your nose while contracting the abdomen.
  5. The inhale and exhale should be of equal length.
  6. Continue inhaling passively and exhaling forcefully. 
  7. Start with slower breaths until you’re comfortable with it and then speed it up.
  8. Continue for 30 seconds.



Find a Breath Work Practice That Resonates With You

When it comes to anything new like breathwork, it’s important to find a method that resonates with you. Otherwise, you probably won’t stick with it long enough to see any meaningful results. 

Read through the benefits of each type of breath and choose one that helps where you need it most. Or, try them all in succession.

Start with the Conscious Breathing. Check-in with yourself throughout the day. Notice how your breathing changes in response to stress, relaxation, and strong emotions and use a calming breathwork session whenever you need it.

Then, add Box Breathing, Pursed Lip Breathing, or other techniques one at a time until you find the one (or several) that you enjoy.

“Breathing techniques can require use of up to five different diaphragms interconnected by fascia to include the pelvic floor complex, respiratory diaphragm muscle, the thoracic outlet, the lingual complex and the tentorium cerebelli within the cranium. Your breathwork practice will be elevated to the next level when this entire diaphragmatic respiratory system is stimulated with PlatinumLEDs powerful full body LED panels.”

Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical Therapy,  

Dr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS



Boost Your Breathwork with Red Light

You may have heard of red light therapy as a natural approach to skincare. Did you know that it also promotes relaxation, improves circulation, reduces inflammation, and helps your cells operate at their peak by stimulating the mitochondria underneath the skin?

Since red light sessions are short and meant to be done daily, it’s the perfect time to de-stress with a breathwork session at the same time. Red light therapy sessions should be between 3 and 20 minutes. 

Red light therapy is an all-natural light-based treatment for conditions from head to toe. Check out the benefits in the Learning Center, and explore the best red light therapy panels on the market, the BIOMAX series.

These offer a spectrum of R+ and NIR+ red wavelengths as well as 480nm blue light traces, which offer synergistic treatment benefits. Individual wavelengths can be turned on and off for targeted treatment. 

Meanwhile, the SaunaMAX Pro is also available, a panel intended for use in the home sauna, to take your health and lifestyle optimization to the next level.




Back to blog