Breathwork and meditation are very similar, in fact you’ll often hear people talk about a ‘breathwork meditation’. But there are subtle differences between the two.
Meditation is more mentally focused, you are observing your thoughts, your body, or your breathing. What are you experiencing in this present moment? You observe your breath just as it is without trying to change it.
Breathwork is more physical, an active or mindful form of meditation – where you consciously adjust your breathing rhythm. An example might be box breathing, also known as four-square breathing, where you count for four seconds on your in-breath, then hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds and hold your breath for four seconds again and so on.
Both essentially try to achieve the same thing – triggering your parasympathetic nervous system – which decreases respiration and heart rate, encourages relaxation and brings a sense of calmness to your body.
I often get little mindful reminders and one of them is:
Breathe in. Know you are breathing in.
Breathe out. Know you are breathing out.
It might sound a bit strange – but how often do you actually pay attention to your breathing?
Usually we only notice it when we are ‘out of breath’ after running for a bus, or rushing up a flight of stairs. Or we might try to ‘catch our breath’.
But generally, on a day to day basis, we breathe without thinking about it or paying any attention to it. So what the reminder is saying is:
Stop! Follow your breath for a moment or two and actually observe the process of breathing.
From a meditation point of view and to help you focus, you might even like to say in your head “I am breathing in’ as you inhale, and ‘I am breathing out’ as you exhale.
Whenever you notice your mind wandering, just gently bring your focus, awareness, attention back to your breath, and say this quietly to yourself on each in-breath and out-breath.