Breathwork: A Modality of Mindfulness
Breathing. It’s the rhythm of our lives . . . literally.
Written by Sofia Deeb
Most of the time, breathing is the last thing on our minds, and understandably so. With it being an instinctive part of our everyday lives, we don’t always take notice when our rhythm becomes offbeat. That’s where experts like Elsa Unenge come in. As a coach at Los Angeles’ premiere mindfulness studio, Open, and owner of her own studio, Andetag, Elsa has built a career on helping people restore rhythm to their breath cycle.
According to Elsa, breathing is the forgotten pillar of health. When first introduced to the benefits of breathwork, she was shocked by how little she knew about her own breath cycle, and moreover, how little about the topic is taught. Breathwork is a factor that impacts our entire body– “everything from our immune system, our energy levels, and our sports performance to pain, injury, stress, and anxiety,” and yet, over 80% of the adult population engages in dysfunctional breathing patterns without even knowing it. Some signs that you could be a part of this population include snoring, frequent yawning and sighing, mouth breathing, rapid breathing during rest, and upper chest breathing that causes your shoulders to rise.
Andetag–Swedish for “breath”–was founded to help shed light on this science.
Elsa shares, “By understanding how our breath works and by practicing breathwork you can increase oxygen uptake by 10-20%, increase blood circulation and create balance in your nervous system–all necessary for optimal health.”
A typical session with Elsa starts out with a few tests to determine a client's breathing capacity. She then sets up a program specific to their needs. The exercises taught by Elsa in a session can be carried into the client’s everyday lives. At Open, these breathwork exercises are paired with a number of other wellness practices, such as yoga and meditation. What all of these exercises have in common is the basis of mindfulness and awareness. No matter the session, the goal is to learn how to check in with yourself and notice the changes that occur to your body each day.
To help practice mindfulness with their breathing, Elsa encourages clients to walk through these four points each day:
Nose: am I breathing through my nose or mouth? If you are breathing through your mouth–close it and continue breathing through your nose.
Belly: am I breathing down in my belly or up in my chest? If your chest and shoulders are moving, relax them and move your breath deeper down into your belly.
Fast: am I breathing fast and can I hear my breath? Often the faster we breathe the louder it gets. If you can hear your breath, slow it down until it’s quiet.
Less: am I taking big breaths? Big breaths don’t give you more oxygen, they actually decrease the amount of oxygen you can utilize. Try to breathe less. Less air in and fewer breaths per minute.
Elsa’s goal as a breathwork coach is to help people connect their mind to their body. By being intentional about the way we breathe, we can set off on a path towards holistic health. With benefits such as less anxiety and more energy each day, there’s no time better than right now to begin your journey.