Just like the practice she’s popularized, no one could have predicted that Ashley Neese would become the darling of the wellness world in the early ’20’s. With her growing roster of celebrity clients, waitlist of corporate clients, and devoted base of book lovers (How To Breathe was one of our top picks for wellness reads last year), Neese is on her way to change the course of healthy history — one breath at a time.
Breathwork can be hard to understand until you practice it with a good pro just once. I remember taking a fresh crew of TCM editors to a breathwork class hosted by Ashley and watching each one melt to near tears as they sank into the potent transformation that a good breathwork session can bring. A deep breathwork session can be transformative — to the astonishment of even the most resistant participant.
Ashley is our go-to pro on all things breathwork and her newly launched online offering called, The Practice couldn’t come at a better time.
While most of us feel that the worst is behind us in 2020, 2021 is still fraught with uncertainty. There are so many benefits of breathwork, but our favorite is the sense of personal strength, resilience and calm that comes after just a few minutes of devoted practice.
How To Breathe: The Practice is a monthly guided breathwork session for anyone who wants to connect to their body and learn to harness the power of their breath as a catalyst for transformation. According to Ashley, each session is thematic and includes her signature blend of guided breathwork, somatic inquiry, and journal prompts. Each session is released on the new moon each month and costs $26 per session.
We asked Ashley to talk to us about the holistic benefits she most often sees in her clients. Here’s what she told us…
5 Surprising Benefits of A Regular Breathwork Practice
+Reduces clinical stress + anxiety. In this randomized, controlled 4 week trial of the Bhastrika pranayama (an ancient breathwork practice) it was found that participants had lower levels of anxiety and stress. Through MRI’s it was found that these changes are associated with the modulation of activity and connectivity in brain areas involved in emotion processing, attention, and awareness.
+ Supports emotional intelligence + regulation. These fascinating studies illustrate the way our breath and emotions are intimately connected.
In the first study, participants were told to bring up feelings of joy, anger, fear, or sadness and then share what breathing pattern they associated with that particular emotion. During the debriefing it was discovered that the emotional states corresponded with a specific breathing pattern across participants. For example, when one participant felt joy, their breath was full and slow and when they felt afraid their breath was fast and shallow.
Interestingly, when the participants were asked to breathe in certain ways — fully and slowly for example — those same feelings of joy returned.
+Triggers the relaxation response. It is well documented that slow, deep breathing with emphasis on the exhale works wonders to ‘down shift’ our nervous system. Commonly referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, research shows that this simple breathing practice relaxes the body lowering heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and cortisol.
+Reduces PTSD symptoms. Breathing practices offer a potent way to calibrate the autonomic nervous system which is often out of balance with PTSD. These practices also support the relaxation response which supports individuals with hyper-aroused nervous systems as a result of trauma.
This breathing study of U.S. military veterans showed a reduction in anxiety, fast respiration and the startle response with consistent breathing practice.
+Improves sleep. There is often a correlation between autonomic dysfunction and insomnia. This study shows that 20 minutes of slow breathing exercises (six respiration cycles per minute) before going to bed greatly improves sleep. Participants were able to fall asleep faster, wake up less frequently during the night and when they did wake up fell back asleep with more ease.
Try Ashley’s The Practice for one month at the new moon and see how you feel.
Breathwork is one of the most critical wellness practices we can recommend for overall health — especially if you find yourself in stressful circumstances.