Your First Breathwork Practice Will Be Eye-Opening — Here Are 5 Tips to Guide the Way

Put simply, breathwork is any kind of breathing exercise or technique, or any type of intentional change you make to your breathing rhythm. "It starts with the conscious changing with the pattern of your breath," said Millana Snow, an energy healer, breathwork teacher, and founder of Wellness Official. All of us are breathing, all the time, every day, but when you do breathwork, "You're choosing a specific pattern that you repeat over and over again," Snow told POPSUGAR. "You can ultimately alter the state of not just your body, but also your mind, your emotions, and your energetic and spiritual state."

It sounds like a tall order for something as simple as breathing, but the science is there to back it up: studies have shown evidence of the positive mental and physical effects of breathwork, even recommending it to college students in need of a mental boost. "It's kind of having a new resurgence, with people recognizing how powerful it is," Snow said. "It's an ancient, ancient form of altering your state."

There are multiple approaches to breathwork and practices to try, with some focused on specific goals like relieving stress or anxiety, but whatever approach you try, you're in for a valuable and revelatory experience, Snow said. Ahead, read up on her four tips for approaching your first breathwork practice, including what to expect and a simple, effective technique you can try right now.

Prepare For an "Eye-Opening" Experience
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Prepare For an "Eye-Opening" Experience

The first time you try breathwork "is often a really eye-opening experience," Snow said. "Some people would even say mystical, spiritual, or psychedelic." You're encouraging your body to go into a deeper state of consciousness, she described, comparing it to the flow state you can get into while you're running.

It's OK to Have Doubts
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It's OK to Have Doubts

If you're feeling skeptical already, don't worry. "You don't have to believe in it for it to work," Snow explained. "You just have to be open to trying it." Allow yourself to explore your curiosity. "If I just change the pattern of my breath, what could happen? What is possible?" Snow said. "You'll allow yourself to go from a more resistant, protective, defensive state to a more inviting, open, and receptive state."

Know That Buried Emotions May Surface
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Know That Buried Emotions May Surface

Doing breathwork involves accessing deeper parts of your consciousness; Snow described it as guiding you to be more of yourself. When you do that, experiences and emotions that you've been suppressing may rise to the surface: trauma, memories, or even joy or inner bliss. "You can use the breathwork to really move through those things," Snow explained. "Anything that you swallowed down or don't want to face, that's the kind of stuff that comes up within minutes."

Get Expert Help If You're Distracted
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Get Expert Help If You're Distracted

Expert facilitation for breathwork isn't strictly necessary. "Everyone should absolutely try breathwork on their own," Snow said. (Ahead is a technique she recommends trying.) That said, it's easy to get distracted or even prevent yourself from confronting difficult things. If that's the case for you, Snow said it can be helpful to have a facilitator in the beginning to help you recognize your habits of distraction or avoidance, which is why she teaches her own seven-day course. You can also use breathwork apps or guided videos.

Start Simple: Holotropic Breathing
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Start Simple: Holotropic Breathing

Snow highly recommends holotropic breathing, a technique developed in the 1970s that she uses as her own approach. Try the practice for yourself with the steps ahead.

  • Lie down if possible. (This technique can also be done sitting up.)
  • Breathe through your mouth into your lower belly. Your belly should expand.
  • Take a second breath into your heart and your chest.
  • Exhale.
  • Repeat for two-to-five minutes.

After a few minutes of this, Snow said, "you will start to notice an altering of your state of consciousness and your body."