From ancient meditation and yogi practices, modern day ice man Whim Hoff to the SAS and Olympians, everyone is talking about breathwork (particularly our resident coach). But what is Breathwork exactly? Why should we bring it into our regular wellbeing practices and how can it benefit our dancing?
What is Breathwork?
In short breathwork is an all-encompassing term used to cover any intentional/ controlled use of our breath.
The basic idea behind breathwork is that the way we breathe can affect our emotional, physical and spiritual state. By controlling our breath, we can access deep states of relaxation, reduce stress, and even help alleviate symptoms of certain medical conditions. (Please note we never endorse the sole use of holistic practices to managing medical ailments. We encourage and integrative approach with the use of modern medicine being the primary treatment as prescribed by trained healthcare professionals)
The techniques range from simple exercises that can be done anywhere, and at any time, to more in-depth guided sessions to reach heightened states of consciousness and heal deep trauma.
Types of Breathwork
There are many different types of breathwork, each with its own unique benefits. Here are a few examples:
Breathing in, holding, breathing out and holding again to the same count, normally of 4 or 5 but it can be longer if you need. Practicing this daily for a quick pause throughout the day, even for 60 seconds can help you stay calm, relaxed, alert and in control of your emotions.
Deep, slow breaths that are taken from the diaphragm, rather than the chest. Diaphragmatic breathing can help to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve overall lung function.
Alternate nostril breathing:
Alternating between breathing through the right and left nostrils. Alternate nostril breathing is said to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which is suggested to lead to a more balanced state of mind.
A more intense form of breathwork involving rapid, deep breathing, sometimes to music and or a guided journey. Holotropic breathwork can be used to access deep states of consciousness and can be used for spiritual growth and self-discovery. This type of breathwork should not be practiced alone as it can make you a little dizzy and feeling very elated or cathartic afterwards.
If you’re new to breathwork, it’s best to start with a simple technique like box or diaphragmatic breathing. Once you’ve mastered that, you can move on to more advanced techniques like holotropic breathwork with the guidance of train breathwork practitioners. Feel free to reach out to us for help finding sessions in your local area.
How can Breathwork improve my dancing?
So asides from the obvious benefits listed above, how can breathwork be specifically applied to help improve our dancing?
We all know even on a gentle day to a slow song, dancing is a physically demanding activity. Whether you want to get in that new trick, complex footwork or lift, or simply be able to last longer on the social floor we require our bodies to have a high level of endurance, flexibility, and fine motor control. Deep controlled breathing and increasing oxygen levels in the blood to allow us all of these.
Just a few seconds of box breathing between dancers or pre-performance allows the body to gain the additional oxygen it needs to sustain and control movement, balance, and coordination, concentration and focus.
Regular breathwork practice can increase our overall lung capacity for those more intense dances as well.
Certain breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, can help to increase blood flow to the muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia, which can help to increase flexibility and release tension in the body. This will also help to improve overall movement and control both in proprioception and nociception.
By learning to control the breath, we can increase our lung capacity and endurance. Breath control also can be used to help us focus before a performance and to maintain focus and concentration during performances. By using breath to focus on the moment and our bodies, we can dispel the unwanted chatter in our minds, allowing us to fully immerse in our expression of the music and the movements.
Extend our dancing journey
By using breathwork to increase blood flow to the muscles, we can aid in recovery and help to prevent further injuries. Breathwork can also help to release tension and tightness in the body, which can help to improve overall movement and control to prevent injuries from occurring.
Not forgetting of course, that by using the breath to become more aware of our bodies, ahead of classes or social dancing, we can tune in to any areas of our bodies that might need a little extra looking after today and thus understand when to rest, when to push and how best to look after our bodies so that we can continue dancing our whole lives, not just our earlier decades.
You know that moment, at the end of the perfect dance. The one where you and you partner totally got what the other wanted in the dance and it felt like the song flowed through you? Ever had it? Ever noticed how your breath synced with your partner and the song? Or the moment at the end where you both are holding your breath, hoping the extend that magical moment before the song ends?
That moment is held in our breaths.
By becoming aware of and relaxing our bodies and our minds through our breath, we can be more open to the connection we are offering and the one we are receiving from our partners. Through this awareness, we can increase the chance for those beautiful flow moments that we all so deeply seek.
Last thoughts (for now):
In short, our breath is our dance, and our dance is our breath, if we do not become aware of it and how to use this incredibly powerful part of us, we are limiting our potential.
We encourage you to play with and find what works best for you. No one technique will suit everyone.
And if you are a little uncertain about plunging right into any of the above, maybe just take a movement before you enter the dance floor and try just one or two deep deep breaths. If nothing else, it gives you a little moment for you, before connecting to you partner, the dance floor and the music.
And on that note, we’ll leave you with one of our favourite lyrics on breath in a westie song so far:
Breathe in, breathe out
Walk with me, tell me a story, let it all out
Breathe in, breathe out
Everything that makes you worry, just forget about
Daddy Was A Milkman – “Breathe In”