The Art of Breathwork

I really struggled to pick my last challenge for the catch-up, but since one of the elements I seem to be always out of touch with is air, I decided to hop into this topic…well, slowly. (This is my catch-up challenge entry for :wind_face: Weekly Witchy CHALLENGE - Of the Element Air)

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I have always had trouble connecting with the Air element on a physical level. Even on a spiritual level, I do not see air as being related to intellect or wisdom as many people do. One phrase that pops into my head when thinking about the element Air and being intelligent is actually quite the opposite – do you know what it means to call someone an airhead?

Urban Dictionary defines an airhead as follows:

Absent-minded, stupid, nothing up top, does simple tasks incorrectly, forgetful, oblivious to every day procedures – Urban Dictionary

I’m not sure, but that is where my mind goes any time I think of the Air element.

So, rather than getting stuck on the element’s connection to intellect and creativity, I went a different route – the element Air as a representation of Life through breathwork.

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Breathing is something we do automatically, without giving it much thought. It is part of our autonomous nervous system, meaning we don’t have to tell ourselves to breathe – it just happens. While breathing regularly is something we don’t usually control, so is breathing abnormally during stressful situations. When we take control of our breathing, we can greatly affect our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Breathwork is something new to me. I have only used breathwork a few times, usually to calm down a dysregulated nervous system in the middle of an anxiety attack or almost-meltdown. There are many different benefits of breathwork for both physical and mental health, but breathwork can be practiced in a spiritual sense, too. I will talk about a few different benefits and how you can practice breathwork in your spiritual, religious, or witchcraft practices.

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Increased Oxygen in the Body

One of the main benefits of breathwork is increased oxygenation in the body. When we breathe deeply and consciously, we take in more air and oxygen. This helps to improve our circulation, boost energy levels, and enhance our mental clarity. Deep breathing exercises can also help to release tension in the muscles and promote a feeling of relaxation.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a major contributor to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and anxiety. Breathwork has been shown to be an effective tool for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. By focusing on the breath and slowing down the pace of breathing, we can activate the body’s relaxation response, which can help to reduce stress hormones and calm the mind.

Breathwork in this regard is also a good way to calm a dysregulated nervous system and sort of push the reset button. In an article written in Psychology Today, they state that “Using diaphragmatic breathing techniques to kickstart the calming ‘rest and digest’ influence of the parasympathetic nervous system is referred to as respiratory vagus nerve stimulation (rVNS).” The vagus nerve is responsible for a lot in the body, and when it is dysregulated, so are we.

Improved Mental Health

Breathwork can also be an effective tool for improving mental health. By focusing on the breath and practicing mindfulness, we can learn to observe our thoughts without judgment and cultivate a more positive outlook on life. Breathwork has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, breathwork is a key factor in most styles of meditation. When we take deep inhales with a long, slow exhale, we are activating our parasympathetic nervous system to immediately promote a sense of relaxation. When we are relaxed, we are better able to focus on things that matter and not be affected by stress.

Holotropic Breathing

Developed by psychiatrists in the 1970s, holotropic breathing involves using controlled and increasing speeds of breathing to enter an altered state of consciousness. Many people use this type of breathing for healing work as it may promote relaxation, stress relief, and self-awareness. However, others say that this type of breathwork is trance-inducing and can be used for spiritual growth, spirit connections, and hedge-riding. This type of breathwork can be dangerous to those that have underlying conditions or that increase the speed of breathing too quickly, so if you practice this, please do so carefully or with a professional.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sometimes called Shamanic Breathing, alternate nostril breathing is exactly as it sounds. You breathe in through one nostril and breathe out through another. It has been around for hundreds of years and comes from Eastern philosophy.

Known in Sanskrit as Nadī Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing is also sometimes called channel-cleaning breath — and actually, those two names tell you a lot about what it can do.

Nadī refers to the energy that circulates throughout your body, while Shodhana refers to purifying or cleansing. Nadī Shodhana, then, is said to help clear your energy channels and bring about inner balance.

“You do it by isolating each nostril, breathing in through only one of them at a time and then exhaling through the other,” Dr. Young says. Before sharing a step-by-step guide to doing it yourself, though, she explains some of the health benefits.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: How & Why To Practice – Cleveland Clinic


Personally, I partake in a small form of breathwork regularly, though it didn’t occur to me until just now that that’s what I was doing. Every time I approach my altar to light Brigid’s candle, I take three long, slow, deep breaths to help focus and center myself. This aligns me with my purpose at that moment, a physical reminder of the religious act I am about to do.

Pictured is my altar space for Brigid with her lit candle.

I do want to explore breathwork more deeply to help my connection with Air, but maybe I have been more connected to Air than I thought.

Sources and Further Reading

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Through or over :thinking: the last moreso year & a couple of months… but starting July 2020… between meditation :woman_in_lotus_position: & different breathwork… it has helped me immensely.

It’s become a regular part of my day honestly. Literally every night when I lay down to go to sleep (I more recently can’t say in bed :bed: because my pupper is upset with me right now & literally… pushed me out of bed last night :rofl: Side note: He’s upset at me for wrapping a boo-boo on his paw he won’t leave alone with pink wrap…I’m certain its because it’s pink :pink_heart: :joy:)

Anyway… I lay down & I use breathing techniques & 1 of 2 mantras & drift off to sleep. Actually, the mantras started years ago to keep my mind from racing, the breathing with the mantras… works significantly faster.

I also use it throughout the day depending on situations that arise. Each day is a new set of unknown & I use it to just keep me from knee-jerk reactions or to continue listening instead of interjecting or really a multitude of reasons… but they really help.

I use different techniques for different types of things & I’m getting back to at least one 5-minute meditation per day. Longer or more if I can or need to…

My son, who is… definitely spontaneous but also, very good at reading when something is up… recently was on the back porch with me. He set up a small table & 2 chairs. We sat down & we were talking, as we do a lot of times… & he said, “You know what, since you have actively started working in therapy & with your psychiatrist, you seem a lot more happy & genuinely at ease.”

Which, prior to actively doing this… breathwork, meditation… wasn’t even a thought I would entertain. I am so grateful that I did though & started working on these techniques. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Thank you for this comprehensive study Megan :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Breathwork used to scare me, as I had connected it to something like holotropic breathing, which I would still be very careful about trying, and definitely would not attempt alone. But the deep, calming breaths, and making the exhale a little bit longer than inhale, have been lovely and helpful in coping with my anxiety and PTSD, and are some of my go-to’s whenever I start feeling like dissociating or starting to tense up and breathe heavily.

I meditate and do guided yoga nidra, and both also involve breathwork as an integral part. In our yoga group we’ve sometimes done the alternate nostril breathing, and it’s often mentioned in my tantra books too. There’s no distress involved at all, like I would imagine could be with more rapid breathing breathwork. It’s important to do these things at our personal comfort level, and often helpful when there’s someone who can instruct you in person and be there for you when you’re trying something new you’re not sure about.

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Thanks for this. I have low oxygen so this is quite helpful!

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Thank you for your insight :thinking: @MeganB
You have inspired me!
Big hugs :hugs:

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@Susurrus – I was doing some meditation every day and then, well, life happens as you know :sweat_smile: It’s on my list of things to start bringing back into my days when I get around to actually waking up in time again. But the breathwork, you’re right, it’s something that can be done basically whenever. I find myself doing it when I’m out and getting overwhelmed or overstimulated. It definitely helps!

@CelestiaMoon – Breathwork used to scare me, too! I always associated it with the rapid breathing which seems very distressing to me, so it’s always been something I just stayed away from. It never really occurred to me, though I don’t know why, that the deep breathing and long exhales also counts as breathwork :sweat_smile:

@Amethyst – I hope it helps you!

@marsha – Aww you’re welcome, Marsha! :heart: I’m happy to have inspired you!

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@MeganB complete honesty… I did it once all this week at least 5 minutes… today… Breathwork :heavy_check_mark: Meditation for any length of time… :x:

Life definitely happens, I’m still working on balance :balance_scale: after the last 6 weeks… so still a work in progress :footprints:

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I love everything about this :heart: :unicorn: :sparkles:

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Thank you, Nixi! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Thank you, I learn something from pretty much all of your posts :pink_heart: :unicorn: :sparkles:

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True this! :raised_hands:

I can usually tell how stressed I am by seeing how long it takes to be able to breathe deeply again- if it takes me more than a few minutes to be able to breathe deeply and slowly throughout the whole body, I know I’m in a tough spot (with all the more reason to take the time to do breathwork!) :woman_in_lotus_position:

Beautifully written- thank you for allowing us to tag along on your journey into breathwork and the Air Element, @MeganB! This was a really great piece with a lot to think about- and a great reminder for me to make the time for meditative breathing exercises! :grinning: :+1: :heart:

Blessed be!

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I’ve tried to pay more attention to my breath lately when it comes to anxiety and how I feel. It’s a bit difficult for me :laughing: but one thing I notice when I realize I need to breathe is pain in my jaw because I’m clenching my jaw or gritting my teeth :sweat_smile: then I realize like oh…I need to breathe lol

Thank you! It’s amazing how much reflection happens when I start writing :joy: and I know this isn’t the first time it’s happened where I start out like “I don’t really do this thing…” and then by the end I’m like “Oh okay, I guess I was wrong and I do actually do the thing…” :laughing:

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