Breathwork Meditation: Proven Benefits + Top 8 Techniques

Practice
October 17, 2021

Many are turning to mindfulness practices to help improve their overall wellness. However, there is a bit of a debate over whether breathwork or meditation is better. What many might not realize is that there are several breathwork techniques that can be combined with meditation to get the best of both worlds.

If combining meditation and breathwork sounds ideal to you, this article will tell you everything you need to know about the following:

  • What is breathwork meditation?
  • 13 science-backed breathwork meditation benefits for improved health & well-being
  • Top 8 meditation breathwork techniques 
  • 5 resources to learn more about breathwork meditation

Let’s start by answering the question “What is breathwork meditation?'' before diving into our discussion of breathwork meditation benefits and techniques.

If you want to start learning breathwork techniques now, check out 13 breathwork exercises to practice daily for improved wellness.

What is breathwork meditation?

Breathwork meditation is simply any breathwork exercise or technique that can be practiced while in a meditative state. Breathwork, on its own, refers to controlled breathing exercises. Meditation involves becoming fully aware of yourself and your surroundings.

Both meditation and breathwork are considered to be popular mindfulness exercises. When combined together, they can give you even greater benefits for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

13 Science-Backed Breathwork Meditation Benefits for Improved Health & Well-Being

There are many breathwork meditation benefits that can be gained from either a single session or regular practice – beyond it being a trendy way to relax. These are some of the top scientifically-proven benefits of breathwork meditation.

1. Relieves stress, anxiety, and depression

A closeup of three people hugging and smiling

One of the most common uses of breathwork meditation is for managing stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2018 study backed previous claims that deep, slow breathing is able to reduce stress levels. The results of the study showed enhancement of the autonomic nervous system, which helps the body to complete a stress cycle. Participants saw improvements in emotional control and well-being as a result of the exercises practiced.

An additional 2020 study showed that SKY Breathwork Meditation helped university students reduce their symptoms of depression and stress, among other benefits. Students placed in the study's control group saw no improvements in their mental health, whereas students in the SKY program saw a significant impact on their happiness scores and levels of depression. The study concluded that a breathwork meditation program would greatly benefit the mental health of university students.

Try these techniques: Diaphragmatic breathing, breath focus technique, Lion's Breath, alternate nostril breathing, equal breathing, box breathing, Sitali breath, humming bee breath, 4-7-8 breathing, and SKY Breathwork Meditation.

For additional calming breathing exercises, check out breathwork for anxiety.

2. Helps connect to one’s intuition

Breathwork meditation is also seen as a highly-spiritual practice, with many claiming that it improves their intuition and helps them gain clarity. A woman who participated in a 2015 study was documented as having greater intuition after practicing breathwork meditation. She claimed that the controlled breathing exercises helped her to become more intuitive and trusting. The study concluded that this was due to an increase in her spiritual awareness and faith as a result of the exercises she performed.

Try these techniques: Breath focus technique, numbered breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and humming bee breath.

3. Boosts the immune system and releases toxins

A person crouched down with their fingers and toes in a puddle

Overall health also benefits greatly from regular practice. A 2016 article was able to demonstrate that stress has a direct impact on the human immune system. There is clear evidence that experiencing stress regularly weighs on the immune system and can cause it to weaken if a person is unable to exit fight-or-flight mode. Since breathwork mediation is a scientifically-proven stress aid, it naturally also helps to maintain the immune system.

Additionally, a 2011 article explains that proper breathing is important for balancing the amount of CO2 in the body. Breathwork meditation is proven to improve and regulate breathing by placing conscious attention on it, allowing a person to release a proper amount of CO2 and inhale an ideal amount of oxygen.

Try these techniques: Box breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, Skull Shining Breath, humming bee breath, Bellows Breath, and Wim Hof method.

4. Improves breathing and alkalizes blood pH

Another popular reason for developing a regular practice is to improve breathing abilities. A 2017 study determined that diaphragmatic breathing can be used to improve lung function. The results showed there were major differences in vital capacity after the breathwork exercises were practiced regularly. These results support breathwork meditation as an aid for improving one's breathing.

Years earlier, a 1985 study found that breathwork therapy helped participants with hyperventilation syndrome improve their breathing abilities and symptoms. Those who received the treatment showed greater improvements in ventilatory dimensions and central respiratory control mechanisms than the control group. Since hyperventilation leads to a decrease in gas in one's blood, the study suggested that breathwork would help to improve the pH level of the blood.

Try these techniques: Diaphragmatic breathing, equal breathing, humming bee breath, alternate nostril breathing, numbered breath, and Wim Hof method.

For breathwork to improve your lung health, check out breathing exercises to strengthen lungs.

5. Improves sleep

Two women lying down in a field

Whether you need help falling asleep or struggle with insomnia, breathwork meditation can also be a big help. A 2020 study found that regularly practicing breathing exercises helped improve the sleep quality of hospital patients. The majority of patients who participated in the study found that their quality of sleep significantly improved, and they experienced less confusion and delirium as well. This supports breathwork meditation as being a helpful sleep aid.

Try these techniques: 4-7-8 breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, and alternate nostril breathing.

For additional exercises that can help you fall asleep, check out breathwork for sleep.

6. Promotes positivity, happiness, and joy

Breathwork meditation is also a great mood booster. A 2016 study on students with test anxiety found that mindful breathing could help them think positively. Students who practiced the exercises daily were found to have a greater increase in positive automatic thoughts than those who didn't. This was in addition to them experiencing lower levels of anxiety.

An additional 2020 study found that mindfulness exercises, including mindful breathing, helped diabetic patients increase their level of happiness. Those who completed the full mindfulness training had lower glucose levels and a significant increase in happiness. These results led the study to conclude that mindfulness exercises, like breathwork meditation, could greatly benefit those with diabetes.

Try these techniques: Diaphragmatic breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, alternate nostril breathing, Skull Shining Breath, victorious breath, breath focus technique, humming bee breath, SKY Breathwork Meditation, equal breathing, and Bellows Breath.

7. Increases energy

A woman wrapped in a sheet while on a beach

These techniques can also be used for those who need more energy during the day. A 2013 study determined that activities that trigger the relaxation response, including meditation and yoga, increase the production of energy-producing cells. The study showed that the relaxation response was often coupled with greater activity from energy metabolism genes and improved mitochondrial energy production. Since breathwork meditation can be used to complete the stress cycle, it follows that it can help increase energy levels too.

Try these techniques: Victorious breath, Wim Hof method, Sital breath, alternate nostril breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, equal breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, and Bellows Breath.

8. Lowers blood pressure

Another big medical benefit of breathwork meditation is its ability to lower blood pressure. A 2001 study showed that hypertensive patients were able to lower their blood pressure with slow, regular breathing exercises. The majority of participants in the study's active treatment group were able to lower their blood pressure after practicing the guided breathwork. This study concluded that 10 minutes of daily practice was effective for lowering blood pressure.

Try these techniques: Resonant breathing, equal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and 4-7-8 breathing.

9. Helps release trauma

A man meditating while sitting in waves

Those who struggle with past traumas or PTSD might also benefit from regular practice. A 2014 study found that SKY Breath Meditation could be used to help US veterans reduce their PTSD symptoms. Participants in the active group showed reductions in several symptoms, including anxiety, rapid breathing, and ability to be startled. The participants were examined for a year, and their results helped conclude that SKY Breath Meditation is a helpful aid for managing PTSD.

Try these techniques: SKY Breath Meditation, Holotropic Breathwork, Rebirthing Breathwork, SOMA Breath, Shamanic Breathwork, and Vivation.

10. Improves focus

Breathwork meditation can also be helpful for those needing to improve their focus. A 2017 study confirmed that breathing exercises could help improve attention spans. Participants who practiced deep breathing regularly were shown to have significant increases in sustained attention. This study backed previous claims that breathwork meditation could improve cognitive function and mental health.

Try these techniques: SOMA Breath, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, and breath focus technique.

11. Helps manage addictions

A reflection in a puddle of a person traveling across rocks

Breathwork meditation has also been used as a way to help tackle addictions and bad habits. A 2013 study determined that mindfulness exercises could be used to help treat alcohol dependency. The results showed that the mindfulness activities, including mindful breathing, helped participants to reduce stress levels linked to cravings. It also helped them cease behaviours associated with their addiction through increased self-awareness. This supports the efficacy of using breathwork meditation to help manage addictions.

Try these techniques: Holotropic Breathwork, alternate nostril breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, Lion's Breath, victorious breath, Skull Shining Breath, and sitali breath.

12. Helps manage pain

Those who struggle with chronic pain have also turned to breathwork meditation. A 2011 study determined that slow, deep breathing reduced pain perception in participants. The results showed that relaxing breathwork meditation positively impacted pain processing and decreased negative feelings. This shows that regular mindful breathing exercises can help with pain management.

Try these techniques: Diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, equal breathing, humming bee breath, alternate nostril breath, and 4-7-8 breathing.

13. Improves digestion

A closeup of a person with their hands placed over their stomach

Since breathing can improve oxygen intake and circulation, it’s also able to help with digestive issues. A 2020 article explains that breathwork can help digestion, as it helps to improve blood flow. This helps to improve function in the digestive tract and reduce gut inflammation. Since breathwork helps reduce stress levels, it also helps to prevent emotional eating and relax digestive-related symptoms that some experience while stressed.

Try these techniques: Diaphragmatic breathing, Skull Shining Breath, alternate nostril breathing, and 4-7-8 breathing.

Top 8 meditation breathwork techniques 

If you’re ready to get the best of breathwork and meditation, you’ll need to know your options. These are some options for meditation breathwork techniques and exercises that you can begin to explore.

1. SOMA breathwork meditation

SOMA Breath refers to several therapeutic breathwork techniques based on pranayama. They were created by Niraj Naik as a method of holistic healing, and can be used to tackle a variety of issues related to breathing, sleep, and spirituality. Those interested can attend online sessions, or find a practitioner virtually anywhere in the world.

A study from the NeuroMeditation Institute determined that SOMA breathwork meditation had the same impact on treating mental health concerns as psychedelics. Those who participated in the study were shown to have decreased negative mood states and increased positive mood states. The therapeutic qualities found were comparable to those observed in psychedelic therapy.

Benefits

  • Improves mental and physical resilience
  • Balances the nervous system
  • Aids emotional processing and release
  • Fosters a calmer, clearer mind

How to do it: Visit SOMA Breath’s website to try it for free, or find a class or instructor.

Try it now: Watch this 30-minute guided breathwork meditation.

2. Holotropic Breathwork Meditation

A circle of people lying in the grass

Holotropic Breathwork is a modern breathwork practice with a focus on healing and self-discovery. It was developed by Christina and Stanislav Grof based on influences from consciousness research, psychology, Eastern spiritual practices, and more. It's considered a highly-advanced form of breathwork, and should only be practiced at retreats or workshops that are led by trained professionals. However, Neurodynamic Breathwork is a more easily-accessible alternative that can be learned online.

A 2015 study determined that practicing Holotropic Breathwork could help participants make positive changes to their temperament. Those who participated in this study saw both significant reductions in negative emotions and increased self-awareness around their personality. This suggests that Holotropic Breathwork is effective at assisting with positive temperament changes.

Benefits

  • Helps manage trauma symptoms
  • Relieves anxiety
  • Improves self-awareness
  • Increases mental clarity

How to do it: See their Events schedule to find workshops and retreats.

Try it now: Watch this Holotropic Breathwork guided meditation.

3. Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation

Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation is a dynamic breathing meditation that allows you to practice physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. It was founded by Kris and Savanna Cassidy for the purposes of stress relief, relaxation, and peace of mind. It's an ideal breathwork meditation for those working on self-improvement and wanting to gain more mental clarity.

A 2015 study found that dynamic meditation was able to help improve mental health. Participants who practiced the exercises for 21 days were shown to have greater improvements than the control group. This suggests that dynamic meditations, like Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation, have the ability to aid in mental health treatment.

Benefits

  • Relieves stress
  • Increases mental clarity
  • Helps heal grief and trauma
  • Increases feelings of love and happiness

How to do it: Visit Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation’s website for events and practitioners.

Try it now: Watch this demonstration.

4. Yoga breathwork meditation

A woman within a group of people practicing alternate nostril breathing

Pranayama, or yoga breathwork meditation, refers to a wide variety of ancient techniques that are practiced for many different benefits. The techniques falling under this umbrella range from easy beginner’s exercises to more advanced techniques. Many widely-popular breathing exercises have pranayama origins, from box breathing to alternate nostril breathing.

A 2020 study found that the pranayama technique Bellows Breath was effective at helping treat anxiety. Participants who completed the study were found to have decreased levels of anxiety, and appeared to have significant improvements in their emotional processing. This backs the idea that breathwork can be used to reduce anxiety and increase positive emotions.

Benefits

  • Relieves stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Strengthens lungs

How to do it:

  • Research pranayama techniques for beginners
  • Attend a local workshop or event
  • Download a breathwork app

Try it now: Watch this guided breathwork session on alternate nostril breathing.

5. Breath focus technique

Breath focus technique is an easy form of breathwork meditation that can be done by anyone. It involves simply focusing on an image, word, or phrase in the mind while breathing deeply. It's great for those who need a quick way to relax and feel happier.

A 2021 study found that focused-attention meditation could be used to physiologically promote relaxation. The results showed that FA meditation facilitated the parasympathetic cardiac modulation, which helped promote feelings of calm and peacefulness. Since the breath focus technique combines FA meditation with deep breathing, this study backs the effectiveness of this technique.

Benefits

  • Improves focus
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Strengthens lungs

How to do it:

  1. Get into a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.
  2. Pay attention to the way you’re breathing. Try not to change it.
  3. Switch between normal and deep breaths, paying attention to the differences between them.
  4. Continue to practice deep breathing for a few minutes.
  5. Place one hand on your belly, paying attention to how it moves as you breathe.
  6. Loudly sigh with each exhale.
  7. Continue to breathe deeply while thinking of your chosen image, word, or phrase.
  8. Imagine peaceful waves entering your body every time you breathe in.
  9. Imagine tension and anxiety being washed away every time you breathe out.
  10. Continue to do this until you feel calm and relaxed.

6. SKY Breath Meditation

A group of people actively stretching

SKY Breath Meditation is a breathwork meditation that helps fully relieve stress and negative emotions. Many who have practiced it have felt many lasting benefits, including increased energy and resilience. It's also great for managing symptoms of depression, PTSD, and other mental health concerns.

A 2013 study found that SKY Breath Meditation was effective at relieving stress and promoting a positive mood. It was also noted that the technique successfully helped reduce symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, and depression, among other disorders and illnesses. The data provided supports the use of SKY Breath Meditation for those looking to improve their overall quality of life.

Benefits

  • Relieves stress
  • Helps manage symptoms of depression
  • Increases positive thinking
  • Increases social connectedness

How to do it: Attend an online workshop.

Try it now: Watch this introductory video.

7. Shamanic Breathwork

Shamanic Breathwork is a highly-advanced method of breathwork meditation that allows practitioners to enter an altered state of consciousness. The main goal of a Shamanic Breathwork session is to reconnect with the self and heal from past negative emotions and traumas. It can help release negative energies and build a better understanding of oneself.

A 2021 study determined that Shamanic Breathwork had the ability to help practitioners enter an altered state of consciousness. The results indicated changes in brain activity that could be comparable to using psychedelic drugs. This backs the claims made by those who've practiced this form of breathwork meditation.

Benefits

  • Relieves pain
  • Helps manage symptoms of depression and PTSD
  • Increases energy
  • Increases creativity

How to do it: Research practitioners, workshops, and retreats.

Try it now: Watch this guided breathing session.

8. Vivation

A woman smiling while sitting in the grass

Vivation is a breathwork meditation technique that focuses on experiencing pleasure while simultaneously removing negativity from the body. It also places emphasis on self-awareness and healing.

A 2020 study found that Vivation was able to help Russian Federation government employees obtain a normal level of subjective vitality. Those who participated were evaluated based on changes in mood and social behavior. The results proved to be favorable for the use of Vivation as a breathwork practice.

Benefits

  • Reduces stress
  • Releases negative thinking
  • Helps manage grief
  • Helps manage bad habits and addictions

How to do it: Visit Vivation International’s website to sign up for sessions.

Try it now: Watch this introductory video.

Try it now: 15 minute meditation primer breathwork video

Anyone who struggles to achieve the proper mindset for meditation can greatly benefit from combining their practice with breathwork. If this sounds like you, follow along with the video below:


5 Resources to Learn More About Breathwork Meditation

Breathwork meditation encompasses a wide range of exercises and techniques that can help improve your wellness. If you want to learn more, you can review the following resources:

  1. History of Breathwork: An article detailing the history of breathwork and its various forms.
  2. Breathe In, Breathe Out: Simple Breathwork Meditation for Beginners: A short article from 2020 on how to begin a breathwork meditation practice.
  3. Breathwork Meditation Will Make You Feel Calm and Collected in Mere Minutes - Here’s How to Practice It: A 2020 article detailing the difference between breathwork meditation and regular meditation. It includes tips to remember when practicing.
  4. Breathwork: How to Tap Into the Incredible Power of Breath: A 2020 article with more information on the power of breathwork.
  5. Just Breathe - Here Are the Four Steps to Start Your Breathwork Practice: A 2018 article with tips for getting started with breathwork.

Want to start practicing breathwork meditation now? Explore the class styles that the Othership app has to offer.