Breath control is a key part of many spiritual practices, adapted sequences and exercises found in the work of the Ice Man himself, Wim Hof, as well as a whole new category of self-help literature - with another fascinating study, ‘Breath, A New Study of a Lost Art’, by James Nestor, hitting the shelves.
Advocates of breathwork assert that it can help with anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, reduce blood pressure and even help us manage pain.
So, what evidence is there to show breathwork eases menopause symptoms?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which uses a blend of breathwork techniques as well as mental exercises, is one of the best researched approaches in this field.
Researchers at Kings College London found it to be effective in three clinical trials for women going through the menopause and for breast cancer patients. (2)
In addition, researchers in the USA monitored the impact of CBT on a randomised group of women transitioning through menopause. (3) A promising number of participants across both studies reported improvements in hot flushes and night sweats, as well as other aspects of their lives. The practice is now a recommended by NICE and The British Menopause Society. (4)
Let’s talk technique
How we breathe matters too. Studies that looked at the potential of improved cognitive function have found that our brain responds better when we breathe in through the nose. (5) Guided meditation practice actively uses a mix of nasal breathing and ‘mouth breathing’ to reach a meditative state.
If you’re curious about the potential of breathwork on managing your menopause symptoms, getting started is easy. A search online will give you a range of exercises you can try.
Box breathing, also known as 4-square breathing, is a great introduction. It’s called this because a box or a square has four sides, and this technique involves four counts of breathing in, four counts of holding your breath, four counts of breathing out and and another four counts of holding your breath. It’s even used by Navy SEALS to mitigate highly stressful situations! (6) The technique is very simple:
- Inhale slowly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
- Concentrate on filling your lungs and abdomen with air.
- Let your body feel how air is filling your lungs.
- Hold your breath and mentally count to four again, slowly.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth while mentally counting to four.
- Concentrate on getting all the air out of your lungs at once.
- Hold your breath again for the count of 4
- Repeat the whole process again.
Practice makes perfect
As with all lifestyle practices, consistency is key. Commit to including breathwork in your daily routine for at least a month and track how it makes you feel over time.
Remember, breathwork can result in a powerful physical response. It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before introducing a new practice to your routine if you have concerns. Always practice breathwork in a safe environment with people nearby. And if you feel lightheaded and nauseous, stop.
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