Breathe in, breathe out. It’s a subconscious rhythm our bodies have followed since our first seconds on Earth. When harnessed, the pattern can also reap major health and wellness rewards. The concept, known as breath work, involves paying attention to how we inhale and exhale. Intentional slow, deep breaths can curb stress and anxiety, and improve fitness.
“I describe breathwork as an act of meditation that helps to quiet busy minds and brings us into the present moment,” says Chauna Bryant, a California breathwork meditation facilitator and founder of the Breath Liberation Society. “It helps us stay more focused.”
Breathing sustains us, and any breath is better than none. Yet quick, shallow breaths—typically a by-product of fear or nervousness, triggered by our innate fight-or-flight response—can increase anxiety and lead to even more stress.
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can slow the heartbeat and lower or maintain blood pressure, according to Harvard University’s medical school. This could lead to a strong immune system and a decreased risk of heart disease, not to mention improving one’s ability to perform on the job or in the gym.
“Your breath is the power behind your movement,” says Bryant, who’s also a Pilates instructor. “When you can pair those things together, you not only become more powerful, but you’re also able to move more effectively in terms of getting stronger faster.”
There’s also a low barrier to entry. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing,” says Bryant. Her tips for intentional breathing? “Turn on a favorite song or just sit in silence for a couple of minutes and start to take really deep breaths, focusing on the air coming into the body.” While doing this, imagine the air moving down into your belly, “filling out the lower back and rib cage, then exhale,” she says. Bryant recommends about 10 big, focused breaths, then more if you need it.
One big breathwork question: Should you breathe through your mouth or nose? Nasal breathing has increased in popularity in recent years, but Bryant says your method largely depends on what’s most comfortable for you and your desired outcome. “Nasal breathing can be a little more soothing,” she says, noting she often promotes breathing through the mouth. “It’s just different enough than normal breathing to help get the person out of their brain and into their body.”
To get started, try breathwork practices of approximately 10 minutes per day, Bryant says. You can also find classes online or in person for a more extensive and guided training session.
For jet-setters, there’s another way to hone this stress-management technique: Learn on the go. Wellness hotels around the world offer breathwork-centered experiences to help you harness the power of your lungs for overall health and wellness. Here’s where to try it:
Rancho La Puerta, a lush wellness-centric resort set among the rock-strewn peaks and canyons of Tecate, Mexico, runs regular breathing classes to help guests unwind. The backdrop only adds to the relaxation: Its 4,000 mountain-flanked private acres are like a desert mirage, with vibrant gardens and an on-site organic farm. The sessions range from meditation-style breathing to classes with breathwork experts. Other Rancho La Puerta offerings include sound healing and holistic spa therapies such as Reiki.
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is another place to hone your breathing. The oceanfront property sits along 13 miles of North Florida’s sandy shoreline. It offers deep meditation via yoga nidra, an ancient practice that requires no body movement, just a focus on breath work and visualization. The 45-minute class has you slip between consciousness levels, largely through inhalation and exhalation. It leaves you feeling refreshed and internally aligned—and ready for even more unwinding by the sea.
The Aegean-adjacent Six Senses Kaplankaya, located in Bodrum, Turkey, makes wellness a priority—starting with a 100,000-square-foot spa complete with hammams, fitness equipment and a host of meditation and breathing classes. The property runs breathwork sessions with visiting practitioners, either in one-on-one or group settings. The goal: Help guests heal, transform and overcome negative energy, while learning stress-reduction strategies they can replicate back home.