Conscious breathing

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Conscious breathing is an umbrella term for different medical and therapeutic methods to improve the breathing function. These methods work with directing the awareness to one’s breathing and with changing habits, which impair the optimal functioning of the breath system. The human respiration is controlled consciously and unconsciously. The different schools of conscious breathing use this for stress reduction, improving breath related diseases, and training in mindfulness.

Methods of training the breathing function[edit]

The Buteyko method focuses on nasal breathing, relaxation, and reduced breathing. According to the theory, these techniques of conscious breathing should provide the lungs with more NO and thus dilate the airways and should prevent the excessive exhalation of CO2 and thus improve the oxygen metabolism.

Coherent Breathing is designed for balancing the autonomic nervous system and increasing the heart rate variability respiratory sinus arrhythmia. By breathing in a regular sinusoidal rhythm at the nominal rate of 5 breaths per minute, the heart rate synchronizes with diaphragm movement resulting in a blood wave in the circulation that rises with exhalation and falls with inhalation when measured at the capillary circulation, e.g. earlobe.

Pranayama is part of the Yoga tradition and mainly deals with educating the respiration with many different exercises, mostly aimed at controlling the breathing (prolonging in- and outbreaths, holding pauses on the in- or outbreath or both, alternate nostril breathing, or breathing with the glottis slightly engaged etc.).

Methods for conscious breathing in meditation[edit]

Conscious breathing methods in meditation usually do not change the depth or rhythm of breathing but use breathing as an anchor for concentration and awareness of the moment.

Mindfulness and Awareness Trainings often use conscious breathing for training inner awareness and body consciousness.

Vipassana Meditation uses focusing on the breathing in and around the nose to calm the mind (anapanasati).

Methods of conscious breathing for psychological and psycho-therapeutic purposes[edit]

Accelerating and deepening the breathing can be used to access and integrate suppressed nonverbal memories in a therapeutic framework.

Rebirthing was devised by Leonard Orr. He claimed that conscious connected breathing could be used to purge birth memories and traumatic childhood memories that had been repressed.

Holotropic Breathing was developed by Stanislav Grof and uses deepened breathing to allow access to non-ordinary states of consciousness.

Transformational Breath was developed by Judith Kravitz. The technique utilizes a full relaxed breath that originates in the lower abdomen and repeats the inhalation and exhalation without pausing. It integrates other healing modalities and breath analysis. One of the key features of Transformational Breath is intensive personal coaching and the use of 'bodymapping' (accupressure points').

Integrative Breathing was developed by several teachers and therapists to combine the specific benefits of various schools of conscious breathing according to the needs of clients.

Scientific research has shown that therapeutic breathwork alleviates depression [1] and improves the recovery after cancer treatment[2]). Further research is on drug abuse disorders,[3] post traumatic stress disorder,[4] alcoholism[5] and quitting smoking.[6]


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-27. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
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  3. ^ Brewerton, Timothy D.; Eyerman, James E.; Cappetta, Pamela; Mithoefer, Michael C. (2011). "Long-Term Abstinence Following Holotropic Breathwork as Adjunctive Treatment of Substance Use Disorders and Related Psychiatric Comorbidity". International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. 10 (3): 453–459. doi:10.1007/s11469-011-9352-3.
  4. ^ Descilo, T; Vedamurtachar, A; Gerbarg, PL; Nagaraja, D; Gangadhar, BN; Damodaran, B; Adelson, B; Braslow, LH; Marcus, S; Brown, RP (2010). "Effects of a yoga breath intervention alone and in combination with an exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in survivors of the 2004 South-East Asia tsunami". Acta Psychiatr Scand. 121 (4): 289–300. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2009.01466.x. PMID 19694633.
  5. ^ Rajski, P. (2002). International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling. 24 (2): 123–136. doi:10.1023/A:1020963817447 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^