Written by: Dr. Stephanie Bathurst, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Of all the ways we can prioritize personal growth and embrace relational health, there is one category in particular that has zero cost, requires minimal time, is accessible to all groups of people, and oﬀers proven beneﬁts to our minds, body, and relationships. Breathwork.
What Breathwork Looks Like
While eating breakfast with my daughter, I intentionally focus on the sensations of breathing. Mindful breathing can be centering and grounding for the day to come.
I prepare for Pilates, where we are taught to chest breathe for core activation. I use breath as a muscle to enhance my practice.
Then, I step into clinical sessions with clients where I model deep, diaphragmatic breathing for relaxation and mood regulation. This holds space for the heaviness that sometimes accompanies therapy.
The day ends in reconnection with my husband. Our breathing becomes synchronized as we breathe into one another, attuning and attending to the importance of us through tantric breathwork.
What is Purposeful Breathing?
There are many breathing styles (check some out here). All of them show high rates of return (Jewell, 2022). It's important to listen to what speciﬁc needs your body is communicating at any given moment so that you can choose a breathing technique that is most suitable for your needs. For example:
Pranayama singular nostril breathing through the left nostril can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, leaving you relaxed and settled.
Pranayama singular nostril breathing through the right nostril activates the sympathetic nervous system. This ﬂoods you with energy and is helpful if you are about to run that Tough Mudder!
Studies show that with just 5 minutes of alternative nostril breathing (holding one nostril closed with deep inhalations through the open nostril and alternating sides), the central nervous system is known to "decrease in the sympathetic activity and an increase in the parasympathetic activity" (Sinha, Deepak, Gusain, 2013). What does this mean exactly? It means that in 5 minutes of practicing this breathing technique, you can go from the ﬁght-ﬂight-freeze response(the sympathetic nervous response) to emotional and physical calmness with a more regulated mood (the parasympathetic nervous system).
While practicing alternate nostril breathing is safe for most people, it's best to consult with your doctor if you have medical conditions such as asthma, COPD, or any lung or heart concerns before engaging in the practice.
Implications of Disrupted Breathing
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman runs Huberman Laboratory at Stanford University Medical School, studying how the brain works, how it becomes damaged, and how to repair it. Huberman oﬀers insights and resources on various methods of breathwork, their eﬀects on the body, and why it's so important for our quality of life. In particular, Huberman discusses how sleep apnea and mouth breathing can signiﬁcantly disrupt our mood state and general physical health.
Long-term sleep disturbance and mouth breathing can elicit mood disorders, cardiovascular disease, childhood developmental issues, tooth decay, brain fog, and more. The potential eﬀects of these implications on each partner(s), in turn, aﬀect their relationships. Overall, improved immunity and cardiovascular health is linked to lower stress levels.
If you receive complaints of loud snoring or frequently wake up with a dry mouth, consider the last time your body felt fully rested. Here are some next steps if you feel like your sleep suﬀers:
Elevate your head while sleeping to reduce bodily pressure on your chest.
Schedule a sleep study to rule out disorders like sleep apnea
Assess pelvic ﬂoor strength that may be creating disturbances during the night from frequent trips to the bathroom
Mouth tape at night to train your body to breathe through your nostrils.
Everyone's body is unique and should be personally evaluated to provide the right-ﬁt support. If you feel that you have been suﬀering from long-term sleep disturbance, please contact your trusted medical provider to discuss the best options for your body.
Techniques to Deepen Relationships
Anxiety is a predominant disruption of satisfying sexual experiences and a reinforcer of negative feedback loop in romantic partnerships. Breathing techniques can naturally treat both of these problem areas in the following ways:
Breathwork improves mood, eliminates body cramps during play, enhances quality sleep, increases alertness, and creates a baseline mood of calm.
Mindfulness practice increases gratitude and counteracts our brain's tendency to ﬁxate on negativity.
Intentional breathing can also help enhance fulﬁllment in life moments.
Regulated breathing techniques help to manage emotional overwhelm, reducing impulsive behavior (like inﬁdelity) or reactions (like name-calling) that can signiﬁcantly harm attachment bonds.
With mood improvement and physical health stabilized, we can expect lower levels of conﬂict with our signiﬁcant other(s). For other resources to deepen your relationship(s), check out my article on the Flow and Block of Intimacy.
Using Breath to Improve Sexual Experience
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, weightlifting, running, pilates, and yoga all use the breath to amplify strength and performance mid-exercise. How can we apply this mechanism toward sexual ﬁtness? Breathing techniques that activate a speciﬁc hemisphere of your brain may allow you to be better engaged in an experience headspace with your partner. The more present you are, the higher the amount of fulﬁllment you can absorb from the moment. This concept of presence, purposeful headspace, and genuine connections are the core concepts of tantric sex. Here'swhy breath is so ingrained in the teachings of sexual intimacy:
Improved blood circulation oﬀers stronger, longer erections and orgasms for all sexes.
Increased oxygen levels in the brain can improve cognitive function and focus, allowing you to deﬂect distractions and remain fully engaged in the moment.
Increased oxygen also reduces muscle cramps (say goodbye to awkward mid-sex charley horses)!
The Power of Breathwork
We breathe to connect, we breathe to hear, we breathe to de-escalate, and we breathe to heal. Breath is as fundamental to our life as deep, relational connections are. When we harness the power of our breath, we regain agency over our minds, bodies, and connections with others. I empower you to weave breathwork into your daily routine. It's free, invaluable, and just may change the way you experience life.
A note of thanks to line editor Kellie Supplee
Dr. Stephanie Bathurst, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr. Stephanie Bathurst is an expert Clinical Sexologist, Relationship Therapist, and Holistic Healer who applies evidence-based techniques that blend holistic and traditional therapies. As a provider, she aims to energize relationships, unblock barriers in the 8 forms of intimacy, and treat the whole system for clients to see long-lasting effects. Acknowledging the heaviness in our world, Dr. Bathurst strives to lead unhappy partners toward better sex, effective communication, and release of resentment so that together we can create a more loving, more stable connection. With her primary office in Oahu, HI, Dr. Bathurst offers coaching to clients across the globe, couples retreats, and hybrid relationship programs for immersive healing. Dr. Bathurst is the CEO of Bathurst Family Therapy, LLC., and has won numerous awards of excellence in her fields. Her integration of degrees in counseling and sexology combined with certifications as an Integrative Medicine Specialist for Mental Health and Pelvic Floor PFilates instructor makes Dr. Bathurst a truly unparalleled provider.
Fincham, G. W., Strauss, C., Montero-Marin, J., & Cavanagh,K. (2023). Eﬀect of breathwork on stress and mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials. Scientiﬁc Reports, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-27247-y
Jewell, T. (2022, December 2). Diaphragmatic breathing: Exercises, techniques, and more.Healthline. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#beneﬁts
Penn State. (2019, December 4). Respiration key to increase oxygen in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191204090817.htm
Sinha, A. N., Deepak, D., & Gusain, V. S. (2013). Assessment of the eﬀects of pranayama/alternate nostril breathing on the parasympathetic nervous system in young adults. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 7(5), 821–823. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2013/4750.2948