Breathing correctly is just as much a part of freediving as breath-holding. While the benefits of breathwork in freediving include increased lung volume, longer breath-holds, and breathing muscle flexibility, did you know that incorporating breathwork in your daily life has plenty of non-freediving benefits?
The benefits of incorporating breathwork in your daily life include a higher VO₂ max (the maximum volume or amount of oxygen your body consumes during exercise), stress relief, lower blood pressure, natural pain management, and an improved mood. Keep reading for more details on what exactly breathwork is and how it can help you in your daily life.
Breathwork is the concentrated practice of directing your inhale and exhale patterns. While breathing seems automatic and simple, it is often the most neglected part of our daily lives. In fact, the way you breathe has an immediate effect on your nervous system. Inhalation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the body’s “fight or flight” response, while exhalation stimulates the part of the parasympathetic nervous system that is associated with your body’s rest and digestive response. When we control our breathing and learn how to breathe mindfully and properly, we make both our cardiovascular and respiratory systems stronger. Take a look at the benefits of daily breathwork below.
Benefits of breathwork
Higher VO₂ max
Whether you want to be more cardiovascularly fit for freediving or other sports such as swimming, running, cycling, etc., having a high VO₂ max is helpful. VO₂ max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise; “V” stands for volume and “O₂” stands for oxygen. Becoming aware of your breathing and how you breathe can help you perform at higher levels (while also potentially improving your overall health). Breathwork teaches you to breathe more efficiently with your diaphragm, increases awareness of your breathing muscles, and strengthens your respiratory muscles.
When you feel stressed, your breath unconsciously begins to become fast and shallow. Since breathing is what expels 70% of the stress hormone cortisol from your body, your stress response becomes heightened when you don’t breathe “correctly.” Breathwork techniques with proper, controlled exhalations get your brain to signal to your body it’s time to relax and reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, naturally relieving stress and bringing you into a deep state of relaxation.
Lowered blood pressure
There is a reason doctors ask patients to breathe deeply before getting their blood pressure taken. Breathwork techniques, such as slow, deep breathing, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases the heart rate and dilates the blood vessels dilate. This, in turn, reduces your overall blood pressure and can ease hypertension, which also reduces the risk of future heart attacks and strokes.
Studies have shown that slow, deep breathing can reduce how we perceive chronic pain and help us cope with physical discomfort. Even expectant mothers are taught to perform slow, focused breathing to reduce labor pains. Slow breathing activates the vagus nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our body’s relaxation processes. Diaphragmatic breathing and nostril breathing, both elements of breathwork, can help reduce feelings of physical pain.
Maria Zosa, Molchanovs Instructor Trainer and Philippine National Record Holder, shared how breathwork helped her in a time of depression. “Grounding myself back into my breathing and yoga practice helped me get out of depression,” Maria told Molchanovs. “I did a lot of mindful breathing exercises at night to help me sleep and get off the sleeping pills. Just by doing different breathing exercises each day, I found myself crawling out of the dark hole I've allowed myself to drown in and started to regain my sense of self and snapped out of depression.”
If you face a lot of stress in your life, you probably have a sympathetic nervous system that is a little bit active a lot of the time. But when we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, it puts our bodies back into rest mode. Since breathwork does just this, stress relief, improved quality of sleep, balanced blood pressure, natural pain management, and feelings of deep relaxation result in an overall improved mood. There are even reported results that show breathing-based meditation can ease severe depression in people who didn’t respond well to antidepressants.
Foundational Breathwork with Alexey Molchanov
Alexey Molchanov, world champion freediver and co-founder of Molchanovs International, put together a program of breathwork exercises he has used since the beginning of his career that helped him progress with his own record-breaking dives. While the benefits of his program, Foundational Breathwork, give all levels of freedivers benefits such as increased lung volume, improved upper body mobility, and improved awareness of breathing muscles, the everyday benefits for non-freedivers are undeniable.
Foundational Breathwork is part of Base Training +, a collection of paid programs taught by top freedivers to achieve specific freediving goals. Molchanovs Movement members are able to purchase all BT+ programs with a 20% discount on Dashboard, while non-Movement members are able purchase the program here. Not a Movement member yet? Sign up for a BTIO today.