A Guide to Breathwork for Addiction

A Guide to Breathwork for Addiction

Struggling with addiction is a difficult thing to bear at the best of times, but when stress begins to pile up, those with this affliction may feel panicked or more stressed than others. Luckily, there are a few things that can be done to help, and one of these is breathwork. In this blog, we will look at the types of breathwork and how you might apply them in times of anxiety or stress. 

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What is Breathwork?

Breathwork is a technique where you alter the way you breathe in order to become more relaxed. Essentially, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system to bring about a sense of calm in an otherwise stressful situation. By doing this, you can reach deeper awareness. 

Benefits of Breathwork in Addiction Recovery

There are several benefits to breathwork, and below are just a few:

  • Reduces anxiety and stress: When you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, it slows down your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure manually. This will help you feel calmer. 
  • Improves emotional regulation: Breathwork forces us to slow down so that we pay closer attention to how we are feeling in the moment. By acknowledging our emotions, we can find better ways of dealing with them. 
  • Reduces cravings: When you use some breathwork techniques it can trigger the reward center in the brain and, therefore, stimulate the reward systems. This will reduce cravings. 
  • Promotes mindfulness: Mindfulness is important to learn; it keeps us present in the moment and lets us detach from thoughts.

Types of Breathwork for Addiction Recovery

All breathwork is about using your breath to hack your nervous system to achieve a state of calm, but there are several ways of going about it. Here are some:

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Belly breathing):

This is when you take slow, deep breaths that activate the diaphragm. When you place one hand over your diaphragm (at the top of your stomach), you should be able to feel your belly expand and then deflate as you breathe in and then out. Do this for 5-10 minutes. 

Box Breathing

Box breathing is breathing in and out for a specific amount of time. A popular way of doing this breathing technique is by breathing in for 4 seconds and then holding it for 4 seconds. Once ready, you then exhale for 4 seconds as well. Keep going until calm. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Breathing in through one nostril at a time stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to help you fight anxiety and stress. Take one finger and close one side of your nose, and then breathe in through the other nostril. Swap sides on the next breath in. Repeat this until you feel a little better. 

Coherent Breathing

This technique, like box breathing, is all about your rate of breathing. In this case, you want to breathe five times a minute. This is supposed to help with emotional regulation and clear thinking. It works by following the heart’s natural rhythm. 

Holotropic Breathwork

For this one, you will need the guidance of an expert, and it should not be tried alone. This involves fast breathing, which is often accompanied with music and eye movements. It allows for an altered state of consciousness and lets you access deep memories.

Rebirthing Breathwork

This mimics the way a newborn breathes by using circular breathing. The point of it is to release unconscious emotional blockages. This also needs a guide to help you do it right and safely. 


An ancient Indian practice that involves breathing exercises that are supposed to control the flow of “prana” (life force) in the body. Different techniques will target different parts of the body to give you lots of health benefits. 

Wim Hof Method

This is a unique breathing method that combines three things: cold exposure, breathing, and meditation. It’s supposed to help boost the immune system and your overall well-being. Cold may be applied in natural waters or cold baths/showers. 

Additional Tips for Breathwork

  • Practice regularly: By using these techniques often, you can find what works for you best. 
  • Find a comfortable environment: Environment is just as important as breathwork. Removing yourself from a stressful place or finding somewhere to practice that is your calm space can help.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to how you feel after breathwork and before. Adjust as needed.  
  • Seek guidance: Reach out to others who use these techniques to find out more tips from there. 

Breathwork can work really well when used often and practiced, but it will not change things overnight. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to work well for you. 

Sanctuary Foundation Can Help Today

At Sanctuary Foundation, we understand the unique challenges faced by individuals struggling with addiction. We are committed to providing comprehensive and compassionate care. Contact us today.