Breathe in and breathe out. How difficult can it be, right? From that first gasp of air we took as newborns, breathing came naturally. As babies and young children, we would breathe through our noses and feel the air go down to our stomachs as our diaphragms contracted. Which means we should be pros by now, right? Not quite.
As we get older, breathing becomes more and more of an aside. Our busier pace and sedentary lifestyle have led to poor breathing habits. The respiratory system will then self-adjust the depth of our breathing depending on our activities. So, over time, we take in shallower and quicker breaths.
The aging process can also cause difficulty in breathing. As you age, your lung tissue, muscles, and bones, which enable you to breathe, also decline. Your diaphragm and ribcage, which expand and contract as you breathe, also weaken. This can lead to shortness of breath, fatigue, and respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. It also keeps us from an optimal state of mental health, including achieving a flow state. In this article, we'll focus on breathwork meditation to achieve a flow state, so you can breathe—and live—your life to the fullest!
What is a Flow State?
In the 1970s, the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly studied how to pursue happiness. His scientific research showed that happiness lay not in being stress-free. Instead, it depended on the ability to savor intense experiences fully. He termed this state of being as the "flow state," using the metaphor of being carried away by a river's current.
Today, psychologists describe the "flow state" as a mental state that enables you to focus all your attention and energies on a single activity. It's also called being effortlessly "in the zone" or "in a groove." Like a river that doesn't struggle to gush, it just is.
The flow state is also different from mindfulness, which is awareness of yourself interacting with the environment. In contrast, the flow state is a complete lack of self-consciousness. You're so completely immersed in your task that you forget the fears or inhibitions that prevent peak performance.
Another similar concept is hyperfocus. However, unlike being in the flow, hyperfocus is a generally counterproductive fixation disorder. Individuals with this condition struggle to pull their attention away from what they're focused on.
If a flow state is so desirable, can we make it happen safely, naturally, and at will? Fortunately, you can—with breathwork meditation!
How breathwork meditation can achieve a flow state
When you're in danger or facing stressful situations, your body's fight, flight, or freeze response triggers the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This SNS then speeds up your heart rate so your blood can deliver oxygen to your body and enable you to perform any of its default responses. However, your prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive functioning, doesn't receive enough oxygen to allow clear thinking.
While the SNS equips you to protect yourself from dangerous situations, if it's constantly “on,” this can cause chronic stress. An overstimulated nervous system can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, palpitations, heart attacks, and strokes.
Because our body is set up brilliantly, there's a counter mechanism to a hyper SNS— the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This network of nerves sends oxygen to your prefrontal cortex and downregulates it. What happens is that your brain calms down and processes information more efficiently. So you're able to assess the perceived danger or threat better, enabling you to form a better response. As a result, your heart slows down, your blood pressure decreases, and you function optimally. However, the parasympathetic system, like the sympathetic system, is also autonomic. This means it happens unconsciously. So how then can you activate it at will if it's an involuntary response?
Enter breathwork meditation. Deep and intentional breathing exercises can activate the PNS and control the delivery of oxygen to the brain. With slow practiced breaths, your brain relaxes its pace. As it does, it enables the release of anxiety, fear, and all the psychological clutter holding your mind—and yourself—captive. Controlled and conscious breathing stimulates the PNS to allow you to enter a state of deep relaxation. It unleashes your inner creativity and mental acuity like opening the floodgates of a brimming reservoir. These pour into a downstream river that just goes on and on—and this is your flow state.
Biohacking flow state with breathwork meditation
Biohacking is a biotechnological social movement using science, technology, and our bodies' natural capabilities to take control of our health. HigherDOSE is one of the health and wellness companies advancing its frontiers. Co-founders Lauren and Katie strongly believe in the biohacking cause that they submit to regular self-experimentation.
So, when they learned that breathwork meditation can achieve a flow state, they grabbed the opportunity to immerse themselves in it. In our Biohack-Hers episode on Breathwork Meditation, they share everything that went down at the Frequency Breathwork Center with founder Vivian Rosenthal.
Frequency Breathwork Center NY is a first-of-its-kind immersive art and breathwork studio based in New York. They aim to make emotional well-being accessible to all. Through exclusive Frequency breathwork techniques, they help you activate your purest potential. Lauren and Katie discovered these "mind-blowing" benefits from their 30-minute breathwork center experience:
1. Breathwork meditation can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Before they began their breathwork meditation session, Vivian asked Lauren and Katie to set their intentions. She asked about what they sought to release and what flow state they wanted to open up to. For Lauren, setting intentions helped her realize what made her feel guilty. And this opened her up to the profound healing and rewiring powers of breathwork.
Vivian says that if we bring the conscious awareness of the breath to our intention and attention, our whole reality can shift. She, too, was depressed at one point in her life. But after her first breathwork meditation session, Vivian felt happy and full of love. As she started doing it every day, it rewired her brain and enabled her to go off her meds completely.
According to Michigan State University, controlled breathing can reduce anxiety and depression. It does so by triggering the vagus nerves, the main nerves in the PNS, to loosen up. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure go down. In addition, the stress hormone cortisol, our body's built-in alarm system, also decreases.
2. Breathwork meditation can create new neural pathways in the brain.
Katie's intentions were different from Lauren's. What she hoped to get from the breathwork meditation experience was to grow more dopamine receptors. The happy hormone attaches to these cells, producing chemical reactions for sleep, cognition, attention, memory, and many others.
The results didn't disappoint Katie. During her breathing immersion, she felt new connections being made in her brain as she entered a peaceful state. She was so absorbed that she wasn't even responding to Vivian's soft-spoken questions. Breathwork meditation looks deceptively simple but can create magnificent physical and emotional energetic shifts. Katie's breathwork meditation took her elsewhere, transporting her out of her everyday experience.
Studies show that breathwork meditation can enhance neural oscillations or nerve activity in the central nervous system. It can also increase the alpha waves in the brain (showing active thinking or alertness). The boost of movement of mature neurons triggers neurogenesis, the generation of new nerve cells. These cells eventually mature to support learning experiences. Fresh information then activates the neurons to form new connections. These neural pathways become stronger over time, enabling even more learning and rewiring.
3. Breathwork meditation can induce a psychedelic state with DMT.
Being at the Frequency Breathwork Center amped up the ladies' experience to a psychedelic state. As they were about to begin, Vivian brought them into a dome. Lauren saw all the visuals of sacred geometry and fractals projected on it and felt she was seeing the world differently. The dome acted as this incredible dark portal where the magic happens. As she stepped inside it, a real shift took place. All she could hear was the music playing and the teacher speaking gently. The gong begins to vibrate along with her body. Finally, she goes into therapeutic screaming, letting go of any emotions she was holding on to—what a powerful, immersive experience.
So what happens is holotropic (literally meaning moving toward wholeness) breathwork that produces an altered state of consciousness. This involves breathing quickly in and out of your mouth, temporarily reducing the oxygen flow and releasing the chemical DMT (Dimethyltryptamine). The endogenous (produced from within the body) DMT creates a psychedelic trip-like experience that allows mind and body to heal by resetting the brain. Research shows that the chemical may even induce nerve generation and rejuvenation.
4. Breathwork meditation can alkalize and oxygenate blood for that "natural high."
Katie was surprised about how physical breathwork meditation could be. She felt tingly in her hands and feet. Her whole leg felt numb, like her body was freaking out. She had to slow down her breathing to keep her from blasting off into outer space.
Vivian explains that in controlled breathing, a lot goes on inside us. Breathwork meditation alkalizes the blood, brings in oxygen, and releases carbon monoxide, so the body responds like it's doing a 15-mile bike ride. As a result, you can feel physically and emotionally intense. Your entire body might cramp up and go numb. Others may feel like they're having an out-of-body experience, save that they are entirely in control.
Our bodies are constantly producing CO2. It can happen that our lungs cannot release the gas, which builds up in the body and causes severe health problems like arrhythmia and seizures. Katie went through specific breathwork meditation that helped her lungs expel a substantial amount of carbon dioxide. The CO2 in her blood also decreased, making it alkaline and boosting oxygen levels. Thus, breathwork meditation can regulate carbon dioxide and help maintain the balance of acidity and alkalinity, which our bodies need to function.
Transcending to a higher dose of flow state
Breathwork meditation can be a powerful tool to help us achieve our optimal levels of health and healing. After much study and research, the flow state is now within your reach, or to be more precise, just a few breaths away.
Deepen and make your breathwork meditation more effective by practicing on the HigherDOSE Infrared PEMF Mat. Its pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF) mimics natural frequencies found in nature that gently stimulate and encourage your body's natural recovery process. But that's not all. The penetrating heat of its cutting-edge infrared technology doubles your dose of flow. With breathwork
meditation and the HigherDOSE Infrared PEMF Mat, you can awaken to a new and higher sense of being.
For more hacks to the high life, check out our Biohack-hers episodes, today.
Subscribe to our Youtube Channel to watch your way to wellness.