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April 09, 2020 7 min read

Breathing is a constant in life, conscious or not. Inhalation and exhalation cannot be taken for granted in light of the fragility of life. More people are turning to breathwork to find stress relief in the pattern of breath. 

Ohana interviewed Nora Logan, a breathwork healer, to understand the facts and effects about breathwork. She will be hosting a breathwork workshop with us on April 15 at 5 PM GMT on zoom. Register here to join the class (by donation)!

What is breathwork?

    Breathwork is a three-part pranayama, which we do lying down. It is a powerful active meditation technique, extremely effective to:

    • Connecting you to your emotions
    • Increase creativity
    • Cultivate intuition and feeling into the heart

    This particular technique is used to safely release buried emotional energy and build your connection to the self and bring clarity of mind. Sessions help to move our stagnant energy and clean out the nervous system of stuck emotions.

    There are lots of different breathwork practices, all worth exploring. I only teach a three-part pranayama, which I learned from my teachers Erin Telford and David Elliott. As a yoga teacher, I bring different types of pranayama into my classes too.

    What are the benefits of breathwork? 

    The benefits are truly endless, but they’re also different for everyone. Breathwork has a way of unearthing what it is you need and helping you to resurface it and bring it to the light. If you need to let go of something (like a long-held resentment or frustration), it can help you do that. If you want to bring something into your life (like more joy or creativity), it can help you do that too!

    What is the difference between breathwork and meditation?

    Breathwork is a meditation, but it’s active – meaning you’re working during it. I practice and teach both breathwork and sitting meditation, and I would say that sitting meditation is much subtler in its effects, and the nectar in the practice comes after sustained practice. Breathwork cuts right into the heart of where we need to heal and helps us to light up where it may have felt dark. It can help us to use our voices where we may have previously been quiet. 

      How can you maximize a breathwork session?

      Keep breathing! The more you really commit to the breath and breathe deeply into your body, the more you will get out of it. Usually, I have people breathe for about 20 minutes, which is not that long in the scheme of things. If you can remember that this is for you, it will end, and you’ll get more out of it if you just keep breathing, you’ll get a lot out of it. You get out of it as much as you put in.

      It’s a self-healing modality so sometimes we can experience resistance, which is completely natural. The sweet spot is where we can push past the resistance and really dig into what we need.

      How can you get out of your head and into the moment of breathing?

      My number one tip for this is to just keep breathing. Surrender to the breath. Your mind will not always want you to let go, but the more you can breathe a little deeper, the more benefit you can get.

      What sort of feelings may you experience during a session? 

      You may experience any number of sensations in a breathwork session, and it is really different for everyone. You may experience:

      • Tingling in your hands or other places in your body 
      • Fluctuations in temperature (both hot and cold)
      • Spontaneous movement
      • Emotions come up like joy or sadness (or anything else!)

      There’s a lot that can come up in a session and I always take it as it comes when working with people. I’m always available for questions about what people might experience in a given session.

       

      Why might the experience differ? For being intense for some, calming for others or even stress-relieving?

      Everyone comes to the healing room with a different story, with different lived experience in their body so it’s always going to be different for everyone. This is what keeps life interesting. Some days, one person could walk into a session and experience total calm and serenity, and then come see me the next week and have a really intense session.

      Our bodies are always responding to the circumstances of our lives and so what we show up with is always going to be different.

      What's happening inside the body during a breathwork session?

      The deep breath we do carries a lot of oxygen to the brain, and it can release more carbon dioxide from the body than usual. This causes the blood to become more alkaline and retain more oxygen. That’s the basic explanation! Although there are a lot more layers to it on an energetic level – this is what happens on a physical level.

      What sort of science/evidence have you come across in relation to breathwork?

        There are two great studies that I refer people to. The first from The Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy which suggests breathwork can be an additional treatment for depression and anxiety. The next is a Danish study that set out to investigate whether breathwork can assist in developing self-awareness. The conclusion they came to was that breathwork “can induce very beneficial temperament changes, which can have positive effects on development of character, measured as an increase in self-awareness.”

        Who can practice breathwork? Any precautions to take?

        Everyone can practice breathwork, it is a safe and effective practice. If someone has a medical condition or is pregnant, I suggest they always speak to a medical professional if they have any concerns.

        How can you incorporate breathwork into a daily practice? 

        I suggest that people start by doing just 7 minutes a day because that feels manageable. But you can incorporate it into your daily practice for up to 35 minutes a day if that feels good. I like to do breathwork in the morning before my meditation practice. I find that when I practice, it brings a different tone to my sitting meditation, which I love.

        Any quick breathwork exercises that people can practice when taking a break?

        Yes! There are so many great ones, and this is a different practice altogether from the breathwork we’ll be doing on April 15th together, but it’s a great practice that I do every day called Savitri Pranayama.

        It’s a good one to help encourage calm and balance.

        • Breathe into your nose on a count of 4
        • Hold the breath for 4 counts
        • Exhale out through your nose for 8 counts
        • Hold your breath out at the bottom of the breath
        • Repeat this process for as long as you need (I recommend starting with 3 minutes and working your way up to 5 minutes)

        How has the movement for yoga, wellness and breathwork changed over time?

        It’s changed so much! It’s difficult to even enumerate all the ways it has all changed over the years. Obviously, if we’re talking about the yoga movement in the west, it’s borrowed all its information from India, which has practiced yoga for thousands of years. We owe a lot in the west to the people and the place these teachings come from, and I think sometimes the modern yoga movement tends to forget that debt. But I think when it first came to the west it was really regarded as this weird fringe movement. I remember even when I was a teenager in the early 2000s I had to travel 40 minutes to get to the Jivamukti Yoga Studio in Kensal Green. Now there’s a yoga studio on every corner all over London. The biggest change I’ve seen is the proliferation of teachers, different kinds of practices and a commodification of yoga and wellness that didn’t exist before. It’s incredible on the one hand, because there is so much access. On the other hand, we have to be responsible yogis and wellness practitioners and make sure we give credit to our lineages, teach with intention, promote inclusivity at all levels, recognize our privilege (I am especially aware of this, as a white woman), and honour where our teachings come from.

        How did you get into the above?

        How long do you have? Ha! I’ve practiced yoga since I was a small child. One of my earliest memories is of being in the yoga room with my mother. Both my parents were early adopters of the practice when it came to the west and were practicing yoga in the 80s, before it was cool! And certainly, before it was as mainstream as it is now. So, it’s something I’ve always been around and always practiced and loved. A few years ago, I fell very ill, and had to change my lifestyle completely. Before I got sick I worked in TV and worked constantly, played constantly and barely took any time to rest. My illness slowed my entire life down and I was set on a different path. I started getting really into my yoga practice, it was my medicine – to help with symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. I then did a meditation training and yoga teacher training, then finding breathwork in 2018. It took me a long time to surrender to the path of a healer, but my life is so much richer now that I get to work with people in the healing space.

        How has the movement for yoga, wellness and breathwork changed over time?

        It’s changed so much! It’s difficult to even enumerate all the ways it has all changed over the years. Obviously, if we’re talking about the yoga movement in the west, it’s borrowed all its information from India, which has practiced yoga for thousands of years. We owe a lot in the west to the people and the place these teachings come from, and I think sometimes the modern yoga movement tends to forget that debt. But I think when it first came to the west it was really regarded as this weird fringe movement. I remember even when I was a teenager in the early 2000s I had to travel 40 minutes to get to the Jivamukti Yoga Studio in Kensal Green. Now there’s a yoga studio on every corner all over London. The biggest change I’ve seen is the proliferation of teachers, different kinds of practices and a commodification of yoga and wellness that didn’t exist before. It’s incredible on the one hand, because there is so much access. On the other hand, we have to be responsible yogis and wellness practitioners and make sure we give credit to our lineages, teach with intention, promote inclusivity at all levels, recognize our privilege (I am especially aware of this, as a white woman), and honour where our teachings come from.

        For more information, please visit Nora Logan at www.noraelogan.com

        Upcoming classes:

        April 15 Breathwork with Ohana (Register Here)

        April 18 Breathwork For Anxiety – Zoom

        April 23 Breathwork For Self-Love – Zoom

        Meditation classes on Instagram Liveon Tuesdays + Thursdays at 1 PM (@noranala)


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