The Difference Between Meditation and Breathwork

Breathwork and meditation are often confused. The two are not, however, the same. Breathwork is the intentional manipulation of the breath for extended periods to induce various effects on the mind and body. Meditation observes the breath and its natural rhythm remains. 

What is breathwork?

While some consider Breathwork a form of meditation, I believe the two very different. Breathwork is more of a journey in which one “drops in” to an altered state of mind, with the breath as the primary instrument guiding one into and out of each state. 

When I have a breathwork session, much of my day typically revolves around the session. Beforehand, it’s helpful to be well hydrated. I always have a blanket, clear space, and yoga mat if I want to integrate light yoga, lay down a journal, and a box of tissues. Breathwork sessions can get emotional. 

After each session, I make sure I carve out time in nature or at the very least a little time to just sit and reflect or meditate. Rarely will I do anything strenuous after a breathwork session. 

What is Meditation?

What is meditation
What is meditation?

Meditation is very different in that it’s an intrinsically simple practice. You don’t need anything to meditate on – just a quiet space and a willingness to be still for a few moments. I often hear people say that they want to meditate but are intimidated and don’t know-how. 

In our ever-moving, fast-paced world, it’s no wonder that the concept of stillness is elusive. This is why it’s that much more crucial and truly a treasure to be cherished once attained. 

Attainment begins with a small but earnest commitment to yourself. Start small. 

When I first started meditating during the day, I started with three minutes. That’s it! It was the best I could commit to without feeling like my always active mind would combust. 

Guided meditation proved extremely helpful early on and is still something I value and rely on when I’m having difficulty transitioning to a quieter state. When I was 10, I began struggling with insomnia. I found a CD – yes, a compact disc – at good ol’ Walmart. The cd contained meditations for sleep. It quickly became my must-have before bedtime. 

If you also struggle with sleep issues, I highly recommend experimenting with different meditations geared towards relaxation. It will start out a little awkward, and you’ll have doubts, but I encourage you to release your inner critic because before you know it, you’ll be fast asleep, and it won’t matter how you got there. 

The main thing I like to emphasize about meditation is that you don’t need to be atop a solitary mountain beneath a Bodhi tree in a lotus position to meditate. Here is what you need to properly meditate:

  • Your bed, a comfortable chair, or the floor.
  • A quiet, distraction-free place.
  • Make a schedule of when you plan to meditate.

As a Christian, I have found Abide Bible meditations to be incredibly illuminating and calming. I currently start my day with that and notice a grounded sense throughout my day compared to days I skip. 

Another common misconception about meditation is that your thoughts go away. 

Meditation is not the absence of thought but rather the state of peace with your thoughts, just as they are. Take a few deep breaths to arrive in your space. If thoughts come – and they will – simply acknowledge them without judgment and with each breath release. 

How to perform breathwork

Depending on what you want to achieve, experimenting with Breathwork is a bit different. For me, the goal was to work through trauma and breakthrough limiting beliefs I had been battling with for too long. It worked! 

My first breathwork session was a free four-hour workshop one afternoon during peak pandemic lockdown. With nowhere else to go, I decided to journey inward. Samantha Skelly, the founder of Pause Breathwork, hosted the event. I was amazed at how many people zoomed in. 

There were over five hundred people in attendance from all over the world! Clearly, I was not the only person curious about and motivated to heal. It was exciting because, unlike meditation, I knew nothing about Breathwork. 

Sam did a fantastic job of providing background and information that I found helpful. She is a very animated, upfront, and engaging personality. There are all kinds of guides out there. 

Experiment. I will also provide a couple other resources that I have had positive experiences with. The breathing we practiced reminded me a great deal of the breathing I learned for childbirth. It was open-mouthed, rapid, and moved in a circular motion. At first, I felt kind of lightheaded which was a little scary, but that’s the benefit of a professional guide. 

They are trained to make sure the breath pattern is not dangerous. I kept with the practice and began to feel lightness and tingling throughout my body, accompanied by waves of emotion. There was joy, tears, laughter. Throughout, I kept the breath and with Sam’s encouragement, embraced any other sounds or movement that arose. 

Since I arrived at the session with a clear idea of what I wanted to break through, I focused on that. Bursts of revelation came through me. There’s no other way to put that. I simply existed with my breath and my own natural state of knowing. My body shook as I released. After the session, we had an awesome dance party which made coming out of such a powerful state an incredibly joyful experience.

Where to go to pursue Breathwork?

If you’re curious about Breathwork and/or struggle with meditation, consider a free session. Even if there is a cost, they tend to be reasonably low. 

  • Neurodynamic Breathwork Online, founded by Michael Stone, is a solid place to start. There is the benefit of privacy and community. Michael often integrates other healing modalities such as tapping or the Emotional Freedom Technique. Michael is a very grounded, gentle guide that allows you to really explore yourself without over inserting himself. The site offers a free session and lots of support. 
  • Alchemy of Breath, founded by Anthony Abbagnano, is another great place to start. Again, this is all online. I like Alchemy of Breath because many of the sessions are themed. For instance, the last session I did with them was based around “The Hero’s Journey.” It was profoundly empowering to embark on my own journey with breath while examining the dark night of the soul. I experienced this a couple of years ago and my rise from that authentic place. 

I accessed that place within me that I once saw as broken but now acknowledge as a whole and healed. It is beautiful, light-filled, and strong. You have it too. I promise. I would not have accessed this space so tangibly on every level if not for Breathwork. Anthony is a lot of fun and also puts together some awesome playlist, so the soundtrack on your journey will undoubtedly is inspiring. 

These are just a couple of the professionals I have a positive experience with. Still, as always, I encourage you to explore. There are several experts out there to discover and even apps and books you can use to further your growth. Remember, if you have any questions or are not sure how to proceed, write to me, and you can be sure we can get you on the right path today!

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