I Was a Skeptic, but Adding Breathwork to My Routine Really Has Made Me Feel More Energized

Inhale through your nose and fill your belly with air . . . exhale through your nose and let it all out. It sounds like such an insignificant thing to focus on, yet it is one of the most important things that I do every day to cope with, well, 2020. Practicing breathwork has become a nonnegotiable in my life. It helps me feel more energized, stay focused, and experience less stress. It's still amazing to me that all of these benefits come simply by breathing.

I didn't always practice breathwork. In fact, I was a bit of an anti-breathwork person. I didn't understand how intentionally taking mindful deep breaths would have any impact on my well-being. And if I'm being perfectly honest, the sight of people closing their eyes and taking deep breaths in the middle of the day even looked a little silly to me, though I have had opportunities to practice breathwork in the past. On occasion, yoga instructors would try to incorporate a breathwork practice in the beginning of a session. But instead of feeling zen during the process, I would become inpatient. I just wanted to move on to my downward dog as quickly as possible; I didn't see the point. I breathe all day long — why spend time focusing on something that I do involuntarily?

That is until COVID-19 came along and flipped all of our worlds upside down. In my own little world, stresses and pressures were tossed at me constantly. And my typical coping methods like group yoga sessions and girls' nights were unavailable. I was stressed, tired, and impatient, and the 3 p.m. espresso shots and 5 p.m. generous glasses of wine weren't cutting it.

Turns out, I was not the only one feeling fried every day. My normally chipper and energetic husband was frazzled and burnt out, clearly feeling the effects of the global pandemic, too. Then, on a random Tuesday morning, I found him sitting on our couch with his eyes closed, taking deep breaths. He explained that after listening to a podcast, he was convinced that incorporating breathwork into his day would help him feel more energized and calm. He got into a whole scientific explanation that, frankly, I tuned out, but he also displayed something amazing — he was in a better mood and seemed to have more energy after he took some time to just breathe.

Using him as my muse, I gave it a shot. Blocking out any thoughts of how silly I may look, I set a timer for two minutes, shut my eyes, and let him guide me into the best way to practice breath work. I filled my lungs with air and then completely emptied them over and over again. Low and behold, after two minutes, I felt like I just woke up from a restorative nap and I was ready to take on the day. This has now become a practice that I have incorporated into my daily habits, along with other constants like brushing my teeth.

I soon learned that taking full breaths can cause some true effects to a person's body (which I'm pretty sure is what he was trying to explain to me that first day). Namely, it allows the body to experience a full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Since your body depends on oxygen for energy production (during a process called cellular respiration), it makes sense that allowing more oxygen in your body may act like a natural pick-me-up. And as a habitual shallow breather, taking intentional deep breaths seems to give my body just what it needs.

While I have yet to give up my cup of morning coffee, my breathwork practice has had a huge impact on my energy level and overall well-being during COVID-19. I sometimes still can't believe how the simple act of breathing consciously and with intention can leave me feeling both relaxed and energized in a short amount of time. And when I can finally get back to yoga classes, you better believe I won't be rushing through the breathwork.