Illustration of lungs with plants sprouting

Can Breathwork Improve My Health?

Participants report physical and emotional benefits from the trendy therapy.

June Allan Corrigan Health & Wellness

Illustration of lungs with plants sprouting

We breathe in and out instinctively, mostly without thinking. But what if you mindfully concentrated on the process or even took instruction? You might find yourself engaging in specialized breathwork — exercises and techniques that improve overall well-being.

Breathwork is hardly a new phenomenon, but it is experiencing a resurgence in therapeutic circles. It primarily involves breathing in a conscious and systematic way, and its purported benefits run the gamut from lower stress and anxiety levels to an elevated emotional state and even relief from chronic pain. For some people, breathwork improves energy and focus.

There are several techniques. One of the most popular is circular breathwork, or conscious connected breathwork (CCB). It’s the method through which Susan Dunn, a certified breathwork facilitator, leads participants in twice-monthly sessions at Gather La Quinta in Old Town La Quinta. The practice involves lying down in a comfortable position and breathing continuously and deeply for approximately 45 minutes, mainly through the mouth.

“Typically, you go through your day breathing through your nose,” she says, “but often, because of stress, we tend to hold our breath.” CCB involves inhaling two breaths with a surrendering exhale breath. In Dunn’s sessions, participants wear headphones to silence all but her instructions and soothing music that helps create an immersive healing experience.

The continuous circular pattern of deep breathing facilitates the release of trapped emotions and opens blocked energy channels in the body. Ten to 15 minutes into a session, participants reach what Dunn calls “cruising altitude” — where most people’s inner critic begins to hush. Everyone’s experience differs, depending on what they need to release, such as lingering emotions from significant life events.

“Sometimes people will laugh or cry or feel like they’re kind of floating,” she says. In other words, they reach “flow state” — the same zone that high-functioning professionals and athletes often reference. “You can manifest whatever abundance you want to bring into your life,” Dunn adds, emphasizing that participants always remain in full control and are free to return to a normal breathing pattern at any time.

“When you do this type of breathwork,” she says, “you’re creating space within yourself for more positive things. You become more accepting of the environment and the people around you.”

Sounds like a reason to consider this wellness trend for yourself.