Whether you want to reduce PMS, fight fatigue, improve your fitness performance or manage perimenopause symptoms, breathwork is a simple technique that can help. Here, Georgie Lawlor, the Jennis app’s new breathwork ambassador, explains what breathwork is and the science behind its success…
The breath powers everything we do, so it stands to reason that controlling and managing our breath can impact our energy and performance levels.
What’s more surprising, however, is that breathwork can help us optimise our breathing biochemistry (the delicate balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels). This, in turn, has an impact on our nervous system and symptom severity.
Here, we chat to breathwork expert Georgie Lawlor about why it works and how you can apply breathwork to your every day with the new sessions featured in the Jennis app .
This sounds great. So, in a nutshell, what is breathwork?
Breathwork refers to any type of breathing techniques that positively shift your physiology to improve your mental, physical and emotional health.
A growing body of scientific evidence proves that breathwork is certainly no woo-woo wellness pursuit
There are many different styles of breathwork, with some more spiritual than others, but they’re generally united by a process of intentionally changing your breathing patterns to positively change your emotional and physical state.
Is there any scientific proof that breathwork works?
Absolutely. A growing body of scientific evidence proves that breathwork is certainly no woo-woo wellness pursuit.
As an example, a recent study showed how stress-related symptoms significantly decrease after 4 weeks of implementing breathwork, with another showing improved attention levels after practising breathing exercises.
Then, there’s the ground-breaking American study on breathwork for hot flushes, which focused on women going through perimenopause. This showed that a simple breathwork tool, known as cadence breathing, can potentially half the number of hot flushes experienced by women when practised twice a day for 15 minutes.
My goal with these short introductory sessions is to make tuning into your breath easy and accessible
How did you get into breathwork?
Before the pandemic I was living a really fast-paced life in London and had been on the edge of burnout for a while. When we went into lockdown, it forced me to move away, take a step back and start listening to my body.
From there, I took the advanced instructor training programme and, after a few years of coaching, was asked to be a master instructor, with a focus on implementing female-focused breathwork into the Oxygen Advantage method.
How does your style of teaching differ to others?
Because of my training with the Oxygen Advantage method , my coaching has very much focused on the more functional aspects of the breath, then the ways in which you can make it accessible through simple self-regulation techniques.
Because of my passion for women’s health, I've also focused very much on helping women through my breathwork coaching: reducing menstrual cycle symptoms, restoring good sleeping patterns, super-charging their fitness levels and much more.
Tell us about the Jennis app sessions you have created…
With the sessions I’ve created for Jennis, I’ve looked at the symptoms the community are logging, then created breathwork sessions that are all dedicated to improving those symptoms. Because of this, you’ll find breathwork for poor sleep, irritation, tiredness, anxiety and many more.
My goal with these short introductory sessions is to make tuning into your breath easy and accessible; to help you feel the benefits or symptom relief quickly and to also give simple explanations of the science behind what’s happening.
What’s a good starting place for someone who’s never tried breathwork before?
Fatigue is a massive issue for a lot of women - and stressful lives that sky rocket our cortisol levels don't help. I’d start with my ‘Breathwork for fatigue’ session in the Jennis app . It's a lot more active than a lot of the other sessions and people always really enjoy it.
My other recommended session is breathwork for anxiety. Being over-tired and overstressed is a big problem for many of us, so this is a great everyday tool to help you quickly come back into balance – and it's one of my most used tools for the people I work with.
How does breathwork help with symptoms like fatigue, period cramps and headaches?
When you focus on your breathing, you’re able to regulate your nervous system and allow your body to function normally. From helping you to produce pain-reducing endorphins to slowing the heart rate and increasing blood flow, this can have a huge impact on symptom reduction.
Take fatigue as an example. Often caused by things like cycle-related hormone changes, poor sleep and overexercising, fatigue can be made much worse when you’re stressed – and let’s face it, we often are. The reason for this is that when cortisol levels are high we have a tendency to overbreathe, causing a lack of oxygen delivery to tissues, muscles and cells.
To counteract this, my ‘Breathwork for fatigue session’ (which you’ll find in the Jennis app ) gives the nervous system a wake-up call with short, fast nasal breaths. Reduced-volume nasal breathing then opens up the blood vessels to make oxygen delivery more efficient, leaving you feeling energised and recharged.
After implementing these exercises, her digestive issues had gone and she’d achieved that extra gain she was aiming for
If anxiety is something you experience, then you can use your breath to quickly access and calm your autonomic nervous system. Our nervous system can’t tell the difference between immediate physical danger and danger that is perceived through our thoughts, so when we feel anxious our body goes into fight or flight mode. My ‘Breathwork for anxiety session’ increases the levels of both nasal nitric oxide and CO2 in the lungs and blood, helping to open up the airways, increase blood flow and counteract feelings of anxiousness.
Give us an example of a success story for someone you have worked with…
I was working with a triathlete who was suffering with bloating and digestion issues that affected her performance. In our first session we noticed that she breathed from her upper chest when she was running, so we started to work on breathing predominantly from her lower ribs.
We then worked on optimising her recovery process to shorten the time taken for her to move into a deeply relaxed state after training. Three weeks later, after really implementing these exercises, her digestive issues had gone and she’d achieved that extra gain she was aiming for.
When I have a big presentation, I’ll take a few minutes beforehand to do my breathwork for anxiety session
Another one of my clients suffered from debilitating PMS-related brain fog. After 6 weeks of practising tailored breathwork techniques, she was able to focus much more effectively at work and at home. She also had more awareness of her hormones, which made her more able to set boundaries with her team and plan her work schedule around her cycle.
What scenarios would you use breathwork in?
Breathwork is something that you can tune into anytime, anywhere so I use it for a whole host of scenarios.
When I have a big presentation, I’ll take a few minutes beforehand to do my breathwork for anxiety session, which features breathing methods to calm your nervous system.
When I need a boost of energy I’ll turn to ‘Breathwork for fatigue’ to wake up my mind and invigorate my body, and if my Pre-menstrual phase has got me feeling irritated, I’ll practise humming to release tension.
How long do you need to practice breathwork before you start seeing the benefits
You’ll notice a difference immediately and your body will start to make long-term adaptations after about six to eight weeks.
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