.Breathing Your Way to Health and Wellness

Pages to Practice

Recently a local magazine published a feature titled “Breathing your Way to Happiness.” The subtitle read “breath work, an ancient discipline becomes mainstream.”

Calling breathwork mainstream may be a stretch, but interest in the subject as a stress reduction practice emerged from relative obscurity in 2020, thanks to two unlikely New York Times bestsellers. James Nestor’s Breath; The New Science of a Lost Art and The Wim Hof Method, describing the Ice Man’s daily routine for superhuman achievement.

The timing for DIY reduction mid-pandemic was perfect, inspiring interest among wellness professionals in need of more robust tools and resources. In 2022, my book Breathe into Breakthrough hit the shelves, based on my own transformative experience and research into these practices. It also prompted an email to Valerie Moselle, former owner of Luma Yoga, after learning she authored a book on the subject before it gained widespread attention.

Moselle’s Breathwork: A Three-Week Breathing Program to Gain Clarity, Calm, and Better Health was published by Simon & Schuster in 2019, offering invaluable insights into the practice. In exploring the Santa Cruz breathwork scene, I once again sought her expertise. But first, let’s lay the groundwork by exploring the basics of breathwork.

At its core, breathwork is simply intentional breathing, where practitioners focus on the rate, depth and rhythm of their breath to influence their state of being consciously. By scrutinizing default breathing patterns and their impact on mood and sleep, individuals gain invaluable insights into their holistic well-being.

Despite its mystical allure, breathwork is firmly rooted in scientific research. However, the abundance of techniques available can be overwhelming for newcomers. To navigate this diverse terrain, let’s explore some local styles of breathwork and the practitioners who guide enthusiasts on their transformative journey.

The most common and ancient breathwork practice is pranayama. Originating from the earliest yoga traditions, this series of controlled breathing exercises is used to regulate the flow of prana, or life force energy, in the body. Techniques such as breath retention, rapid, shallow breathing and alternate nostril breathing are commonly used to calm the mind and balance the nervous system. This method is commonly taught in local yoga studios either as a short segment or throughout the class.

Inner Axis Breathing is a series of standing techniques followed by one of two seated transformational breathwork techniques developed by international expert Max Strom. Valerie describes the hour-long sessions as quite stimulating: “It tends to help us access emotions we may need to process such as anger and grief, and is always followed with a reclined guided visualization and rest for post-practice integration.”

Valerie teaches pranayama along with Inner Axis breathing and ReSourcing Breathwork, which she explains is “a set of simple breathwork and visualization techniques that cultivate what might be referred to as a ‘resourced’ state of being—calm, clear, alert, sensitive, empathetic, easeful.”

Naomi Wilder teaches Kundalini, an ancient practice stemming from the yoga tradition. This technique uses conscious control and manipulation of the breath to awaken the Kundalini energy believed to reside at the base of the spine.

Kundalini breathwork is often accompanied by movement, mantra chanting and meditation. These techniques are designed to activate and balance the flow of energy within the body, clearing blockages and facilitating a deeper connection to the self.

Naomi has also developed a method she calls Infinity Breath, which she teaches as an online course with students from all over the world. Each session consists of a curated 9-minute breathwork sequence Wilder says is enough to set awareness each morning to boost energy and set the day’s focus.

Whether one is seeking stress relief, spiritual growth or physical health improvement, breathwork beckons individuals to embark on a transformative journey toward holistic well-being.

Valerie Moselle, valeriemoselle.com

Naomi Wilder, breathandoneness.com


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