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Breathwork for Relieving Trauma

Friday, June 16th 2023 10:00am 5 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Breathwork has gained recognition as an effective tool for processing and lessening trauma. Research has shown that breathwork can help individuals develop a deeper awareness and understanding of their body sensations and emotional experiences related to trauma, which can lead to greater insight and healing. A study conducted by Jerath et al. (2012) found that conscious breathing can help individuals regulate their emotions by increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex and reducing activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for the processing of fear and anxiety. This regulation of emotions can be particularly helpful for individuals with trauma-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who often struggle with emotional regulation.

In addition, breathwork can help individuals regulate their physiological responses to stress, anxiety, and fear, which are often triggered by traumatic memories or experiences. A systematic review conducted by Cramer et al. (2017) found that breathwork interventions can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals with PTSD. This reduction in symptoms can be attributed to the fact that breathwork can help individuals increase their heart rate variability (HRV), which is an indicator of the body’s ability to adapt to stress. A study conducted by Gorman and colleagues (2015) found that deep breathing exercises increased HRV in individuals with PTSD, leading to decreased anxiety and improved mood.

Through the practice of conscious breathing, individuals can learn to slow down and deepen their breath, which can help reduce feelings of panic and anxiety and increase feelings of calm and relaxation. A study conducted by Anand et al. (2019) found that breathwork can induce a relaxation response in individuals with PTSD, leading to decreased physiological arousal and increased feelings of relaxation. This relaxation response can be particularly helpful for individuals with trauma-related disorders who often experience hypervigilance and heightened states of arousal.

Breathwork can also help individuals access deeper states of consciousness, which can facilitate the release and processing of suppressed emotions and traumatic memories. A study conducted by Van der Kolk and colleagues (2014) found that breathwork can help individuals access the preverbal, nonverbal, and non-conceptual aspects of traumatic memories, allowing for deeper processing and integration of the trauma. This deep processing can lead to a reduction in symptoms and an increase in overall well-being.

Breathwork can be used in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities, such as talk therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), to enhance the processing and integration of traumatic experiences. A study conducted by Serpa et al. (2018) found that breathwork can be an effective adjunct to EMDR for the treatment of PTSD, leading to improved symptom reduction and a greater sense of well-being.

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