Breathwork is at the core of every mindfulness practice from meditation to yoga to the ever popular forest bathing. There is now a growing amount of research that proves what ancient yogis have known for centuries, specific breathing patterns can shift the way we sleep, our emotional state, our levels of anxiety, as well as our overall ability to be present in our bodies.
What I love about breathwork is that we have everything we need within us to begin a practice. Our bodies are incredible living organisms and when given just a little attention and support will thrive. It’s astonishing really. The life force within all of us, regardless of how much trauma or hardship we have been through still pulses. Even in those dark far away places, all the way down at the bottom of our defensive patterning lives the desire for connection, healing, repair, and expansion. We were literally born to bloom.
Despite the evidence that proves breathwork can deeply support our lives and the ancient wisdom that breathwork is a powerful tool for many levels of personal and collective transformation, it’s easy to lose motivation and practice inconsistently. Setting aside time to breathe, especially when our bodies are breathing all day and night without our conscious attention can seem like just one more thing on our ever lengthening to-do lists. If you’re new to breathwork or a seasoned student who needs a little practice support I’m going to share a few ways to motivate you to keep your breathwork practice going.
One of the most common questions I often hear from skeptics (and I love skeptics!) is: Can something so simple as slowing down and connecting to my breath each day really change anything? The short and honest answer is yes. Yes it can. The thing is, unlike many of the wellness practices and products that we are sold on a daily basis (especially if you hang out on social media), breathwork, the way I teach it, is not a silver bullet. You’re not going to practice breathwork once or twice or even ten times and completely repattern your subconscious, heal all of your childhood trauma, or start sleeping deeply if you’ve struggled with insomnia all of your life. Breathwork is meant to be practiced daily, with as much consistency as possible. I’ve got an entire section in my book How To Breathe devoted to the importance of consistency. I encourage you to read it or revisit it alongside this post.
I’m not saying that you won’t notice and feel benefits after each time you practice, you will! However, to move toward your larger intentions, setting aside time each day to practice is essential. If you have my book you will know that I say that in a very gentle and realistic way. Trust me. I know how busy we all are and how many responsibilities one can have in a day. It’s wild. It’s also totally possible to have a daily practice, I know because I am practicing daily myself. I’m never going to share or suggest anything to you that I haven’t proven is possible with myself and in my client practice.
Here’s the deal: if we want our lives, our outdated beliefs and our emotional frequencies to shift we have to work with the nervous system. There isn’t a way around that. Furthermore, we cannot expect our lives to change if we keep doing what we’ve always done. Our nervous systems are built on repetition and chances are many of the patterns that we’re in aren’t going to get us where we want to go. Committing to a regular breathwork practice is one of the most effective ways to work directly with our nervous systems thus creating new patterns that support us to expand, create, connect, and thrive – what we are all here to do.
Let’s get motivated! Below are three of my tried and true suggestions for staying motivated when you’re new to breathwork or needing a practice boost!
First you’ve got to overcome your obstacles to breathwork. Are you avoiding practice? Why? Knowing what is getting in the way of your practice is a huge step toward creating the practice rituals that you want and in turn receiving the benefits of a regular breathing practice:
Write down a list of all of the reasons you aren’t practicing. Get honest. Dig deep. Instead of writing that you don’t have time, look under that and see if the actual reason is that you aren’t sure where to begin, are feeling bored with the current practice that you’re doing or don’t want to feel the grief that’s up for you right now.
I’ll bet that once you get to the core of your list there are only a couple of reasons that are holding you back. Once you’ve got them on paper write out what changes you can make to breakthrough those obstacles and start your practice one breath at a time.
YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME
A huge part of staying motivated to practice breathwork is to remember that you don’t need to practice for hours a day. Unlike many forms of meditation, breathwork is an excellent practice for modern day wellness because you can receive huge benefits in a short amount of time.
Breathwork is easily customizable to suit your needs and lifestyle. If you have five minutes that’s great. If you have ten or fifteen that’s great too! It’s best to choose a length of time to practice that is easy for you to have some consistency with. If you already know a twenty minute practice is too much of a stretch, start with five minutes and build from there.
I have all of my clients start with 5-7 minutes depending on what we’re working on together. You have this much time. That’s just 5-7 minutes less of being on social media, checking email, or watching TV. Just a few minutes of conscious breathing is worth more than any of those activities I just mentioned because it’s generative – it’s giving you something rather than taking from you.
Lastly, try a morning or evening practice depending on what you need more of during the week. If you want to cultivate focus, practice first thing in the morning. If you want support unwinding before bed, practice in the evening in your bed – how much easier could it get?
YOU AREN’T DOING IT WRONG
Years ago when I first started teaching a question I got every class was, am I breathing wrong? I assured every student that they couldn’t get the breathing practice I was teaching them wrong, it simply wasn’t possible! I know that underneath each question was a desire to get it right, to do a good job, to receive the benefits of the practice.
Starting any new body centered practice can be challenging at first. It can feel awkward to spend time with yourself in silence. It can be difficult to be still without distractions. You might also notice certain feelings show up that you have been avoiding or particular thoughts that begin ruminating (they usually aren’t positive!). This is all normal, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. Any challenges you face as you start your breathwork practice (or return to it) will level off with consistent practice and support.
Learning how to be with your breath = learning how to be with your body. I’ve met very few people in my life who learned how to walk through the world embodied. Most of us come to breathwork having tried many healing and therapeutic modalities and are seeking a deeper connection to our bodies, the most intimate parts of ourselves, and with each other.
No matter where you start your practice (or restart it), just jump in. Choose one practice from How To Breathe and try it every day for one month. If you miss a step in the practice, trust your process and try again the next day. After a few days you will get the hang of it and the more consistent you are with your practice the more you will have access to it and it’s benefits when you aren’t on the mat so to speak.
Gentleness and patience are necessary. Most of us don’t get enough of those generative qualities – exercise them in your breathwork practice.
CONNECT TO YOUR WHY
In a yoga teacher training years ago my teacher Tony was really focused on having all of his students make a practice of connecting to their why. This was such a powerful tool for me that I’ve incorporated it into my personal and teaching practices as well.
Reminding yourself why you want to practice breathwork and make it part of your life is such a great way to motivate yourself to practice. Another way to say this is, get clear on your intentions for practice. I write about this at length in How To Breathe as well. Take a moment and jot down some of your core reasons for wanting to practice breathwork. What are your intentions? What do you want to gain?
Then take it a little further. How do you want to feel in 1 month? Two months? Three months after practicing? Spending some time feeling into your future intentions is a really powerful way to start to anchor your intentions in the present time and is proven to help rewire your brain, creating the brain that already has what it wants.
Most importantly, the reasons you want to practice breathwork must resonate with you. Anytime we’re trying to do something because we think it’s right, because someone else wants us to do it or because we think we should be doing it, the results will fall flat. We also won’t have the energy to show up and practice when it’s most important because our why isn’t really ours. Connect to your why. Make sure it’s your own. This connection will support you and keep you motivated during those times that it’s more difficult to practice.
How do you stay motivated to practice breathwork? What inspires and supports your practice? Please share in the comments, I’d love to know!
photo x @mariellevchua