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What is the science behind breathing practice? » Forge West End

What is the science behind breathing practice?


More and more people are turning to breathwork as a way to improve their physical and mental health. However, you may have a lot of questions, especially around why you should practice it.

Before you start our breath work and meditation classes at Forge, let’s explore breathwork and it’s scientific benefits.


Breathwork refers to a variety of breathing techniques and exercises that you can use to improve your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health. It exists in a variety of forms; there are ancient practices, such as Pranayama, and modern techniques developed by doctors and other practitioners. While more complex practices exist, many easy and quick exercises can be worked into your daily wellness routine. These different types of breathing techniques are discussed in our classes where you can learn which method works best for you.


1. Increases energy and improves immune system

Practicing breathwork exercises allows your body to bring in more oxygen, which fuels the cells that keep you healthy and energised. Shallow breathing can result in the presence of stress, which triggers the sympathetic nervous system and increases our level of systemic inflammation. This all has a negative impact on your immune system. Research by Dr Jeremy Montrose explains in a 2020 article also shows that poor breathing will also send unfiltered air directly into your throat and lungs. This can allow dust, bacteria, and other foreign substances to make us sick.

2. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Many studies have been done over the years to determine how breathwork can affect the body’s stress response. A recent 2016 study introduced a diaphragmatic breathing program to participants with anxiety, who demonstrated a reduction in anxiety scores after practicing the technique daily. Breathwork helps to cancel out the fight-or-flight response following stressful situations. Being a method of mindfulness, it also helps you ground yourself in present moments.

3. Helps manage pain

A 2012 study published with the National Library of Medicine found that participants with chronic pain syndromes that practiced relaxing breathing techniques saw an increased ability to process pain.  Many breathing techniques can act as a method of distraction contributing to a positive change in your mood. 

4. Improves circulation

According to research, various blood and heart issues are caused by frequent activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the trigger for fight-or-flight mode). Practicing slow, deep breathing exercises helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will help decrease your heart rate and dilate your blood vessels. This can be extra beneficial in those with high blood pressure.

5. Improves mood

Under stress your body will release increased levels of cortisol. This can contribute to poor mood and anxiety. Improving your breathing allows you to bring in more oxygen, which helps to reduce your cortisol levels.

6. Releases toxins

According to research, about 50% of the toxins we inhale are meant to be released as we exhale.  Deep breathing allows you to strengthen your diaphragm, allowing you to breathe in more oxygen and clear out more carbon dioxide. It also helps improve your lymphatic system and generate more oxygen-rich blood, which assists in your body’s circulation.

7. Improves sleep

Breathwork is one of the top recommended natural sleep aids, and can also be helpful for those struggling with insomnia.‍ Many exercises can also help you settle down for the night, or quickly fall asleep on nights when you’re having difficulty doing so.

8. Helps manage depression

Breathwork has been proven to be effective, when paired with other treatments, at helping people manage their depression. Its ability to alter your mood is incredibly helpful in working to improve emotional well-being. A 2016 study conducted by the School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that participants with severe depression saw improvements after practicing Pranayama breathwork. These participants had not been fully responding to their prescribed antidepressants, and they found that this type of activity was effective as an add-on for their treatment plans. The study concluded that there was enough evidence to support the idea that yogic breathwork techniques like Pranayama could be used to help manage symptoms of depression.

9. Helps heal trauma and manage PTSD

Breathwork’s ability to help you relax makes it great for dealing with trauma triggers or highly stressful emotions. Longitudinal studies of veterans with PTSD have shown that breathwork stimulates the vagus nerve and helps to calm and decrease racing thoughts. 

10. Improves digestion

If you’re dealing with digestive problems – including constipation, diarrhea, and IBS – breathing exercises can help. Not only does breath work increase oxygen levels in the digestive tract, the results of reduced stress and cortisol levels with breath work help decrease your levels of gut inflammation.


If you are just starting your breath work journey our breathwork and meditation classes are the best place to start. Every person is different and therefore a technique that works for one person may not work for another. Our Yoga instructor and trained Physiotherapist Alice identifies which technique is best for you. You can also see Alice in one on one sessions for a more thorough and individualised breathwork experience. Get in touch with us here.

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