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A return to Breathwork: Documenting my reconnection to traditional mindfulness practices after a long hiatus

Updated: Apr 24

Lately I have been finding myself wanting to restart my breathwork practice – something I have not done for a couple of years now – and it is giving me the opportunity to rethink my approach to traditional mindfulness practices.

A brown stick and several branches of dried gyp flowers laid out to look like a pair of lungs. They rest atop a being canvas tablecloth.

This post is a much more personal post although still educational. I have come back to practicing breathwork with a renewed freshness and it has been working wonders for me so I thought I would share my journey so far and talk about why I had stopped practicing it in the first place.


In recent years I have diverged from more traditional practices of mindfulness – with the exception of journaling – in part because I was researching the many ways one can be mindful but mostly because I have not always resonated with them. What do I mean by ‘traditional’? I mean partaking in a practice through their original forms, for example practicing visualization through guided meditations or meditating in the lotus position for a long time. Even practicing embodiment through yoga or ecstatic dancing. I could carry on, but I think you get the picture.


So why did I stop practicing ‘traditionally’? Aside from journaling (which I still very much do in a notebook with a pen), I stopped traditional mindfulness primarily due to its long-standing kinship with spirituality. Not that traditional mindfulness is spiritual in its nature – it isn’t – but many spiritual people include a lot of traditional mindfulness practices in their practice hence why there is a major overlap. Because my personal journey with spirituality has left me feeling extremely at odds with the discipline over the last few years, I have found myself at odds with most traditional mindfulness practices. Journaling has stayed apart from this mostly because of my need to write out my thoughts but it is also not perceived as spiritually as the others.


There are many many reason why I have felt so at odds with spirituality. I think the biggest reason was that a lot of the people I knew within that community turned out to be very ‘unspiritual’ people. It was a massive disappointment. For a discipline that is supposed to encourage you to follow your own path and to set your own guidelines, so many followers I know made it clear that if you didn’t do or say or believe what they did or said or believed then you were not spiritual. There was a lot of gatekeeping. A good many of these people also ended up doing a lot of ‘spiritual bypassing’ – which is where someone talks the talk but does not walk the walk (or walks a tiny bit, enough to make it look like they’ve done the personal development. Spoiler alert: they hadn’t. So not only did a lot of them gatekeep, on top of that a lot of them were big narcissists and bullies, and overall, just not very nice people.


Also, I got major cult vibes from so many of them. That scared me a lot. Essentially I despised a lot of what I saw in others. It felt very phony and very cliquey. I did not like that at all.


Eventually I had to back away and it resulted in me feeling like I had to remove anything that felt remotely ‘spiritual’ from my life and just keep to myself. I should mention that I have not opened up about this yet, so this is a big thing for me to do. Anyways, I really had to go through it all and re-evaluate everything spiritual in my life to see what truly fit and what did not.


The author poses in a comforting way, with her right hand hugging her left shoulder and her head turned inwards as though giving a self-hug. He eyes are closed.

This brings to me to two things I need to make explicitly clear:



It is not to say that I am no longer spiritual: I am but I am in my own way (like it should be). I like my spirituality as much as I like my science. I am a contradictory girlie and I am proud of that.



I have met plenty of spiritually inclined people who are lovely and opening and true to what spirituality means. Unfortunately, I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I found them. I do not intend to diss anyone but for my own sake, I have to be honest about my experiences.


With that said, let’s move onto breathwork because you’re probably wondering what it has to do with my semi-return to traditional mindfulness.


Breathwork is a traditional type of mindfulness. In fact, I am not sure you can even make it a more contemporary one but jury’s still out on that. Breathwork focuses on our breathing cycles, and it is uses to help regulate our parasympathetic nervous system, improving oxygen circulation through the body, calming the mind, re-centring/grounding, improving energy levels and much more. It is worth exploring in more detail in another post, which I shall write up soon.


Lately I have noticed that whenever my anxiety or stress levels go up, I automatically check in with my breathing and make sure to breathe deeper, right into the diaphragm. It helps me curb the rising intrusive thoughts that are brought on by anxiety/stress. It is not something I consciously do either, but rather it is my body’s natural response to a spike in stress. Considering I have not properly practiced breathwork for many moons, I was surprised when I clocked onto this new behaviour of mine.


I am still unsure of why my body came up with that response but I ain’t questioning it! It is working so that is all that matters!  


There is one difference – aha! I found a modern spin on breathwork! – that I have noticed and that is that I am not following any set style of breathwork but rather I am following my own flow. For me this looks like a series of deep breaths that open up my diaphragm and help gush the trapped air out of me. I never practice for very long either; usually for a few breaths. It is the feeling of pure relief I get from these breaths that I find entirely unexpected and all too welcome.


In fact, I daresay that the reason I began coming back to breathwork was because of how trapped I felt within my own body. In my personal life there is a lot going on (out of my control too which makes it worse) that is causing great amounts of stress and anxiety. My body manifests these discomforting situations in more ways than I can count, but recently, it is holding onto a lot of air and constricting my airpipes. I am also asthmatic which does not help. It would seem that a solution around this problem is for my body to create a pause, then focus on deep breathing so that I can clear out the “blocks”. Weirdly, it works. And I tend to feel so much lighter and less stressed after a tiny bit of deep breathing. I tend to spend a minute or two each time practicing breathwork and it is enough for the moment.

A stick of Palo Santo burns, casting thick smoke upwards. It rests on a ceramic hand that is green and grey gradient with speckles.

It never ceases to amaze me just how little mindfulness we actually require in order to reap the benefits of it.


Now that I have become aware of my breathwork practice, I find I have been wanting to incorporate it more fully into my daily routine so that I am actively maintaining it. It is something that I will still intersperse throughout my day as needed, however I have been deciding on whether to set aside 5 minutes each day in the morning upon waking up or at night right before I go to bed. I may even do both. This is something that might require some experimentation, but I am open to doing so if it means I will benefit from it.


One other thing about breathwork is that it very much inspires stillness. As I discussed in last week’s blog post, giving yourself space to pause is incredible for helping boost creativity and right now I am in a very creative era. Another thing I love about it is how I can practice it anytime, anywhere because it is so subtle – it just looks like what it is: breathing! Amazing eh? So, I can do it in a car, on a packed train, as I am walking, lying in bed and so on. It costs nothing too which is another extra little bonus.


So many pluses! It really is a wonderful practice to include into your routine. I may need to begin vlogging this sort of stuff but until I boost my confidence being on screen and learning how to edit videos decently enough, my writing will have to suffice! With that said, I hope that this foray into my personal practice has been fun, useful and fascinating. I am glad to have shared more about this and I hope to continue doing so in the near future.


As for the other traditional practices – I cannot yet tell you if I will come back to them, but I shall keep the door open to it. For now, it would seem that there are still a few scars left to heal, such is life.


Until next time,



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