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Breathing Through the Shadows: Using Breathwork for Trauma Relief

Updated: Mar 6


The Connection Between Trauma and Breath

Trauma is a complex force that effects not only the mind but also the very essence of our physical being. A deeper understanding of the connection between trauma and breath reveals an almost symbiotic relationship. The body's response to threat, fight-or-flight, often results in shallow, rapid breathing or breath-holding. This altered breathing pattern, in turn, causes our brain and nervous systems to believe that we are, in fact, in danger.

The breath is a reflection of our internal state. However, trauma distorts this reflection, causing the breath to mirror the disarray within. Our lungs bear witness to the emotional storm, holding onto tension and anxiety. Haven't you ever felt your chest tighten when feeling anxious or scared? This connection between trauma and breath goes beyond a mere physiological response; it becomes an embodied testimony to the profound impact of trauma on our entire being.

The breath, however, is not merely a passive witness to trauma but also a potential ally in the healing process. As survivors begin to explore intentional breathwork, they can embark on a journey of reclaiming agency. The deliberate act of deep breathing becomes a conscious rebellion against the breath-holding tendencies ingrained by trauma. In this deliberate breathing, survivors find a means to soothe the nervous system, unravel the knots of tension, and create a space for emotional release.

Benefits of Deep Breathing

  1. Calming the Nervous System: The impact of deep breathing on the nervous system is profound. By activating the body's relaxation response, deep breathing helps lessen heightened states of arousal and anxiety commonly experienced from past trauma.

  2. Grounding in the present: Deep breathing serves as a powerful anchor to the present moment. In creating a mindful connection with the breath, individuals can find a pathway to detach from distressing memories or overwhelming emotions, fostering a sense of grounding.

  3. Emotional Regulation: Consciously engaging in deep breathing creates a valuable space between feeling something and responding, promoting emotional regulation. By enhancing self-awareness and mindfulness, individuals can navigate their emotions with increased effectiveness.


Different Types of Deep Breathing To Try:

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing (Belly Breathing): Begin by finding a comfortable seated or lying position. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen fall. Repeat this process, gradually increasing the duration of inhalation and exhalation.

  2. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: Inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle, gradually adjusting the counts based on comfort and proficiency.

  3. Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and pause for a count of 4 before repeating. This structured technique provides a rhythmic and balanced approach to deep breathing.

  4. Yoga: Incorporate deep breathing into your yoga practice by synchronizing your breath with each movement. Inhale during expansive postures, allowing your lungs to fill with air, and exhale during contractive movements, releasing tension and fostering a harmonious connection between breath and body.

  5. Butterfly Breathing: Practice butterfly breathing by sitting comfortably and placing your opposite hand on your opposite shoulder, crossing your arms in a hug. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, tap gently on your shoulders with alternate hands, creating a soothing rhythm that enhances relaxation and mindfulness.

In the intricate dance of healing from trauma, the gentle rhythm of deep breathing emerges as a steadfast partner. By understanding the connection between trauma and breath, embracing the multifaceted benefits of intentional breathing, and integrating a variety of deep-breathing strategies into daily life, we can embark on a transformative journey toward presence and emotional well-being. Breath becomes a sanctuary, offering solace and strength on the path to healing.


Feel free to reach out for a free 15-minute consultation.

Feelings Forward Wellness provides holistic treatment for trauma that supports the healing of mind, body, spirit, and community. Through offerings of trauma psychotherapy, psychedelic-assisted therapy, and somatic healing, FFW aims to provide effective and culturally-responsive mental health treatment for those continuing to struggle with the after-effects of trauma and PTSD.


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