A breath work class teaches you how to manipulate your breathing rate and depth to reset the nervous system, which can alleviate stress, boost positive feelings, and promote healing on multiple levels. The most effective breathwork techniques involve breathing through the nose to efficiently inhale oxygen, diaphragmatically (inflating the belly when inhaling to get air into the deepest lungs), and rhythmically.

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You can learn to do breathwork on your own or with the help of a breathwork coach, who’s typically an experienced practitioner who also guides clients in breathwork sessions. Classes can last 20 to an hour or more and can be offered in person or online. Some sessions include a ritual, such as a mandala drawing or immersion in ice water. Others, such as the Wim Hof method (named after the Dutch extreme athlete who popularized it) and holotropic breathwork, are accompanied by an emotional release.

Breathwork classes can help with a range of issues, from physical pain to depression, anxiety, and even PTSD. Some people find it helpful to breathe more deeply when they’re feeling overwhelmed, while others use it to get in touch with a traumatic experience or memory and let go of any negative emotions that come up.

As a beginner, your instructor will likely introduce you to what’s known as conscious connected circular breathing, which is a method of relaxing and inhaling and exhaling through the mouth with continuous breaths without any pauses. This type of breathwork may trigger a physiological or emotional response, so your instructor will make sure to keep you within what’s called a “window of tolerance.” This means that they won’t push you into discomfort beyond what you can handle.

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