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Importance Of Breathwork In Addiction Recovery

breathwork importance

Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic brain disorder. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli (e.g., abusing drugs) regardless of the consequences. An individual struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying his or her substance cravings above all else, which can wreak havoc in all areas of his or her life. The recovery process from substance abuse and/ or addiction is entirely personal, and it will be directly informed by one’s personality, mental health, and emotional needs. It is becoming increasingly common to integrate traditional psychotherapeutic methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy (IPT), mindfulness-based therapy, expressive arts therapies, and more along with holistic treatment modalities (e.g., breathwork, yoga, meditation, etc.) into recovery plans for individuals struggling with substance abuse and/ or addiction. There is no universal treatment method that proves successful for every person struggling with substance abuse and/ or addiction, as everyone has nuanced needs when it comes to the recovery process.

What Is Breathwork?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines breathwork as “conscious, controlled breathing done especially for relaxation, meditation, or therapeutic purposes.” It is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of breathing exercises designed to enhance physical, spiritual, and mental health. The goal of breathwork is to help an individual achieve a greater sense of self-awareness and trust in his or her capacity for self-healing. Common breathing exercises that are useful in recovery from addiction may include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

  • Alternate nostril breathing: entails breathing through an alternate nostril, with each separate breath. It is used to relieve mental unrest and promote physical and mental balance.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing: also called abdominal breathing or deep breathing, entails focusing on the stomach area when breathing, instead of the chest to encourage full oxygen exchange. Abdominal breathing calms the nervous system, increases oxygen to the heart, and relieves anxiety.
  • Lion’s Breath: entails exhaling through an open mouth, with tongue hanging out, and making a noise while breathing out. Lion’s breath stimulates the throat and upper chest, and can improve circulation, eliminate toxins, and alleviate stress. 
  • Ujjayi Breath: entails taking long, deep breaths and exhaling slowly through the nose while constricting the muscles in the back of the throat to elicit a vibratory noise. It promotes relaxation by soothing the nervous system. 

Deliberately changing the pattern of breathing can have various beneficial effects. Research has found breathing techniques can effectively help with relaxation, stress management, control of psychophysiological states, and to improve organ function.

For Information and Support

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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