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NEWS Sep 14, 2022

10 reasons why a breathwork session is worth trying out

Aurelie Favresse

Breathwork is on the rise. More and more people are discovering the effect of breathing on their health and well-being. Expert Liesbeth Vander Elst conducts breathwork sessions for colleagues at the Gumption office in Kontich. Is breathwork something for you? Find out in this article.

Breathwork is on the rise. More and more people are discovering the effect of breathing on their health and well-being. Expert Liesbeth Vander Elst conducts breathwork sessions for colleagues at the Gumption office in Kontich. Is breathwork something for you? Find out in this article.

Both Hillary Clinton and Beyoncé are fans: breathwork has definitely broken through. With a breathwork expert in our ranks, we at Gumption have been aware of the merits of this technique for some time now. Our very own Liesbeth Vander Elst is Talent Xcelerator at Brightest by day and breath coach by night. Liesbeth has already organised several sessions for colleagues.

Breathwork in practice

How exactly does such a session work? “With a group of up to 10 colleagues, we focus on our breathing for one hour”, says Liesbeth. “First, I explain what happens in your body when you start breathing differently. After that, we apply various breathing techniques. The way you breathe has a huge impact on everything you do. A session may be aimed at improving your immunity or your athletic performance. The course of the session is never fixed, I adjust it according to the participants.”

Are you ready for better breathwork? Or still a bit hesitant about it? We asked Liesbeth 10 pertinent questions about her expertise.

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Q1: What is the biggest misconception about breathwork?

People think it’s about relaxation, but that’s a side effect. Breathwork focuses on improving the functioning of your nervous system, resulting in better health and immunity. A lot of things happen in your body when you breath consciously, and it can be quite intense. It’s not called breathwork for nothing. Chances are that it will make you feel relaxed, but that’s not the goal.

Q2: Could breathwork be considered a bit airy-fairy?

It doesn’t have to be. The merits of breathwork have been scientifically proven countless times. There are coaches who love the spiritual aspect and include certain elements in their classes that outsiders may find airy-fairy. I tailor my sessions to the target group - during my retreats, I usually focus more on spirituality, while at Gumption I put greater emphasis on the scientific aspects. Although we do also burn aromatic palo santo wood sticks (laughs).

Q3: Is there a difference between men and women in how they apply or experience breathwork?

Anyone can do breathwork. Young, old, male, female: it’s not a competition and it’s not about ‘becoming the best’ but ‘becoming better’. So I don’t really notice any difference in how men and women experience breathwork. But I do notice that men engage in breathwork more often than women. While yoga tends to attract a female audience, there are more men in the breathwork sessions, including in the training programmes.

Q4: Are there people for whom it doesn’t work?

It’s effective for everyone because breathing is something we all do. By controlling the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body, you’re working on your entire constitution. The effect is primarily physiological, but for many it also has an effect on their mental well-being. Breathwork is body-centred. Because of the tension stored in your body, the effect will be most intense in people who are very tense, whether consciously or unconsciously. This may be due to stress, but it may also be caused by a trauma. It’s well known that traumas can get trapped within your body.

Q5: Why is it good to do breathwork with colleagues?

Breathwork is about letting go and being yourself, and that’s easier to do with people you know. So it’s nice to be able to practise it with colleagues. It strengthens our trust in one another. Doing these exercises together creates a bond.

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Q6: When do you apply the techniques yourself?

I start the day with breathing exercises. Sometimes it’s a lengthy session, but it’s also possible to feel the effect within a few minutes. This gives me an instant boost of energy. I also set aside a few minutes for this before a job interview. Then I’m fully focused and can give the applicant my undivided attention.

Q7: What is the link between breathwork and ice baths?

In the case of ice baths, breathing is extremely important. By breathing correctly, you prepare yourself for the ice. Overbreathing leads to the release of adrenaline, which makes you feel the cold less. Once you’re in the ice, you start exhaling deep and long, which has a relaxing effect. This is how you calm your body and extinguish the stress response.

Q8: Is breathwork a hype?

It’s becoming more and more popular, that’s true. Wim Hof, the pioneer of ice bathing, is a prominent promoter. Thanks to Covid-19, there was a lot of attention for his method, and for health in general. People started looking for ways to boost their immunity and discovered the benefits of breathwork. The trend is now breaking through in the workplace.

Q9: How did you get started with it yourself?

I have spondyloarthritis, an inflammatory disease, and for years I’d been looking for methods to relieve the symptoms. After attending a workshop based on the Wim Hof Method, I immediately noticed that my body responded well to the ice baths and breathwork, and so I looked into it more closely. Through self-study, I learned the techniques, and last year I obtained my certificate as trainer from the Hale Breathwork Institute in Stockholm. This year, I attended a five-day training programme with Kasper van der Meulen, an authority in the area of breathwork and biohacking. During those five days, I learned more about human beings than during the five years I spent studying psychology. I’m eagerly looking forward to continuing my training with Kasper later this year.

Q10: Can you give us an easy beginner’s exercise?

Do the 1-breath-brake! A really simple exercise that helps you reduce stress. Inhale through your nose and hold your breath for 2-3 seconds. Then exhale deeply, as if with a sigh, and hold your breath for a moment before breathing again. This instantly relaxes you and gives you energy, at the same time. That’s the beauty of breathwork: you don’t need anything for it, and you can do it anytime, anywhere.

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Pictures: Livio Potenza

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