Written by Jill Clingan
Out of all the many things we may do each day—eat, rest, talk, think, laugh, cry—breathing, which we do about 20,000 times a day, is something we likely do quite mindlessly. Our body automatically sends signals to our brain telling us how much oxygen we need at any given point in time to fuel our cells to keep us functioning, but we don’t need to think about this process and remind ourselves 20,000 times a day to take a breath.
Because we don’t have to breathe deeply and mindfully to survive, we often don’t do so. Yet, the benefits of deep, mindful breathing, also known as breathwork, have been recognized for thousands of years. The idea behind breathwork is that how we breathe affects our body, emotions, and spirit, and it is a natural, healthy way to alter our perspective by helping us integrate our bodies with our emotions. According to research, some of the benefits of breathwork include better mood; lower blood pressure; improved focus and memory; healing from trauma; reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress; and help with pain management.
Nancy Jenkins is a therapist and certified breathwork facilitator here at Prairie Wellness Counseling Center, LLC who offers breathwork as part of her counseling practice. She started practicing breathwork in 2005 at the recommendation of her therapist, and she found it so beneficial that she decided to become certified in it so she could also help others.
A traditional breathwork experience is often a half-day or all-day workshop, but Nancy has adapted the breathwork practice to fit into a counseling session. She and her client will plan for the breathwork session beforehand so that the client is prepared. In a typical breathwork session, the client first sets an intention. This could involve an issue the client is dealing with or a question they have. For example, someone may want to focus on pain management, process a traumatic event, or work through feelings about a difficult relationship. After the client sets their intention and dons a headset, Nancy begins music while the client closes their eyes and starts deep breathing—in through the nose and out through the mouth—a continuous cyclical breathing.
Clients are also encouraged to express their feelings, which is especially helpful to help unblock trauma, anger, or sadness. Someone focusing on pain management, for instance, might spend this time visualizing a healing light while breathing in healing and breathing out pain. After 10-15 minutes of practicing breathwork, the client will then spend about 15 minutes drawing about their experience. This drawing exercise is not about creating a work of art but is rather about using words or pictures or colors to express their experience through drawing. Finally, Nancy and the client will spend the remaining minutes of the session processing the breathwork experience.
Using breathwork, Nancy helps her clients process trauma, relieve chronic pain, and manage stress and anxiety. If breathwork sounds like something that might be beneficial to you and you would like more information about breathwork and/or would like to schedule an appointment with Nancy, call or text us at (816)974-7378; you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.