We Tried It: Breathwork
WE EXPLORE THE DEEP HEALTH BENEFITS OF A PURPOSEFUL BREATH IN A CITY-MADE SALT CAVE
Breathing is natural so breathwork is easy, right? As it turns out, it is something quite different. Similar to meditation, breathwork requires focus, discipline, and consistency to see results. "The practice of breathwork is made up of a series of controlled breathing exercises that teach you how to manipulate your breathing rate and depth," says, Dr. Alexandra Palma, a physician with a background in Functional Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Anesthesiology. The goal is to bring awareness to your breath and much like meditation, it aims to relax the body and mind. Practiced regularly, breathwork is linked to boosting your immune system, increasing alertness, reducing stress, and much more.
While breathwork can be done anywhere, the practice in a Himalayan salt room is believed to make breathwork more potent. How? Breathing in salt particles improves our breathing, detoxifies our lungs, and treats skin conditions. Since I’ve taken a breathwork class and I’ve sat in a Himalayan salt room before, it was time to combine the two at Modrn Sanctuary to see how the two parts could make me a more whole self.
Modrn Sanctuary was founded by Alexandra Janelli, a certified Hypnotherapist and Life Coach; considered an expert in stress management and relaxation who has worked with Academy Award nominees, world-renowned photographers, singers, and top executives. My goals were simple. I wanted to relax, experience breathwork, and help detoxify my body. So I booked an appointment, excited to experience something new.
Modrn’s Flatiron location is a serene interior dressed in shades of grey, accented with natural woods and punctuated with purple orchids, a promising sign I could shake some city stress and grit off. I sipped a crystal quartz-infused water in a cocooning hanging chair as I flipped through a crystal encyclopedia before the breathwork class began
Parking my shoes in a cubby outside the salt room, I entered in an outfit I deemed comfortable and relaxing, track pants and a roll-neck sweater. You’re encouraged to go barefoot here to feel the salt on the bottom of your feet and in between your toes. It was as pleasing as walking barefoot on the beach.
Alexandra explained that the space is lined with ten thousand pounds of salt bricks from top to bottom and the floor is heated to release negative ions and covered with crumbled salt pieces. A halo (Greek for salt) generator dispenses tiny particulates of medical grade salt, the inhaling of this helps to detoxify our bodies and calm our mood. Salt particulates are drying agents—pulled into the body through breath—drying mucus, healing skin conditions, and cleansing internally and externally. Salt is a natural antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-fungal agent with a myriad of healing benefits for mind and body; balancing from the inside out by triggering and releasing impurities. The peachy-pink color from the salt blocks create an ethereal glow—they also change color to promote different energies found within our seven chakras. Papasan chairs and ottomans fill the room for comfort, or you can choose to sit or lie directly on the salt. I sat cross-legged utilizing a floor-chair, which offered back support and helped me get the correct posture for breathing exercises.
Rebeca Brau, who has been teaching breathwork for nearly four years led the session. She trained in India with a Vedic Yogi and continued her training in New York City with Kundalini Yoga. Dressed in white and wearing a crystal-quartz-and-white-agate necklace, her energy instantly warmed and calmed the space.
Before we began, Brau explained that breathwork is known as Pranayam in yogic language, which translates to Prana–the breath of life—not just breath, but life energy itself. With conscious control of Prana we can increase lung capacity, focus, and concentration. Oxygen levels in the blood begin to rise increasing our immune capacity, purifying and strengthening the blood and circulatory system and relieving anxiety so the mind feels at peace. A higher state of consciousness can be experienced through breathwork as well. All of these benefits promise plentiful, life-changing results.
Understanding I was a bit intimidated by the practice, Brau was patient and put my breathwork anxieties at ease. She explained her Pranayam technique that is combined with Vedic and Kundalini traditions to alter our mindset and open and release any creative and negative energy blocks within us.
Starting in a seated position, Mantra music is played in the background matched to each breathing exercise. Brau says the sound is vibrational, absorbed through our bodies, which adds to the breathwork formula making the energy release more specific, intentional, and ultimately, a more potent experience. We go through a series of Kundalini exercises, in which you breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. Breathwork is extremely cleansing using this technique—much like blowing your nose. (Keep tissues nearby.) Brau encouraged me to find my own rhythm, “It’s your experience….what works and feels best for your mindset and body.” Midway through, I moved from a seated position to lying on my back comfortably above a sheepskin throw.
During the practice, I felt energy points releasing throughout my body, which to be honest can be tiring at times. While lying down, I returned to a normal breathing pattern. This time is used to visualize your intentions set at the beginning of class. You see intentions moving through your body beginning from the first chakra, finding their way to your heart energy. (This breathwork class is designed to promote relaxation and inspire creative energy, located in the first chakra.) The class ends much like a yoga session—in prayer pose with a head bow and “Namaste.”
The After Effect
After class, I felt blissfully relaxed but at the same time energized. It was exciting to understand your energy more deeply, knowing how to identify it and release it to live the life we desire. I will admit it was a challenge for me to keep my energy consistent throughout the breathwork exercises. But just like meditation, breathwork takes practice. Consistency is key for long-term benefits and if unblocking energy is the main goal, regular practice is a must.
The most immediate benefit was a deep sense of relaxation. And I started to think I opened the door to releasing negative energy blocks and accessing my creative energy. The next day, I felt more energized and my creative mindset was on fire. It has been a few weeks since the breathwork and I am more clear-minded and motivated in my work, helping my productivity levels throughout the day.
Since the class, I’ve even incorporated a few of the breathwork exercises into my daily morning meditation routine. The exercises are easy to remember so you can incorporate them into your day. You can take it wherever you go, making it helpful when you travel or find yourself in a stressful situation. For me, I will go back to the beauty of breathwork at Modrn or in my own home, remembering I am the one who is in control of what feels good for me and my body.
WHERE TO FIND IT: More destinations where you can breathe in the benefits.
California: Santa Barbara Salt Caves.
Colorado: Five Star Salt Caves Wellness Center.
Florida: The Salt Grotto.
North Carolina: Asheville Salt Cave.
New York: Modrn Sanctuary.
Virginia: Williamsburg Salt Spa.