Illustration of human lungs that can be helpful in using breath to improve mental health

Hacking Mental Health Through Breath

Key Mechanisms of Action Explained

Freedivers, the U.S. Navy SEALS, professional athletes, actors—they all train their breath to enhance physical and mental endurance. For the rest of us, there’s a “we-told-you-so” echoing in the air. Going back at least 5,000 years, our ancestor healers have emphasized the therapeutic benefits of breathwork practices like Pranayama. With a rediscovery of these methods in recent decades, today’s scientific research community is bridging modern science with ancient wisdom and finding that breathing interventions can alleviate many physical and mental health conditions. 

 But is it necessary to control something as automatic and fundamental to survival as breathing? A bit shallower or deeper, or a bit slower or faster – could variations in how we breathe really make a difference? While the results of scientific studies point to an unequivocal “YES,” breathing retraining doesn’t inspire buy-in quite like a pill does and recommendations to try it for therapeutic benefit often fall on deaf ears (and noses). 

Perhaps understanding the basic neurophysiology behind breathing practice and its benefits is key to giving it an honest try. Research suggests that breathing interventions…

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