The Difference Between Breathwork and Meditation
Updated: Jun 16
Written By: Tiffany Hicks
While breathwork and meditation have some overlapping benefits, they differ in many aspects. Considered a passive approach to mental healing, meditation lacks the mindful action of breathwork. At the same time, breathwork meditation comes naturally and is easy to adapt to, while traditional meditation techniques need weeks of practice and discipline to master. For these reasons, breathwork’s active exercises often provide physiological and psychological benefits instantly whereas the benefits of passive meditation tend to take longer.
While it may be easy to simply extol the virtues of breathwork and conscious breathing meditation techniques, it helps to provide a concise explanation of just what breathwork is and why it is so important to do. The International Breathwork Foundation (IBF) defines breathwork as, “the experiential field of study and practice that encompasses a variety of breathing techniques utilized individually and in groups to cultivate self-awareness and the enhancement of physical, emotional, cognitive, or spiritual well-being.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that Navy SEALs, Olympic athletes, psychotherapists, and other individuals with high-stress careers have incorporated breathwork into their lifestyles. In many cases, the benefits of breathing practices like breathwork meditation are regarded as foundations for success in these fields.
Of course, why we do breathwork is not just a matter of managing a stressful profession. Breathwork and conscious breathing meditation is a personal experience in which individuals benefit from a deeper connection to their emotional and physical state. This is why individuals who practice breathwork meditation report experiencing a boost in their mood along with a decreased feeling of stress. Accordingly, breath workers and similar practitioners of conscious breathing meditation, who actually guide others through breathwork activities or classes, describe breathwork as a vital foundation for navigating a more beneficial life.
In simpler terms, when asked why one would do breathwork over traditional meditation techniques, we would respond that; whereas meditation serves as an escape from life, breathwork offers a foundation for living.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of breathwork meditation is that anyone can do it and they can do it any time whether first thing in the morning to promote focus for the day ahead, in the middle of an anxiety attack during the day or last thing at night to come down from the day and fall asleep quickly.
In addition, breathwork can also help you:
Improve self-esteem and confidence
Enhance creativity and professional skills
Overcome trauma and addiction
Release grief, anger, and other negative thoughts
Process ADHD, depression, and PTSD
Optimize athletic endurance
Recover from inflammatory conditions
Indeed, breathwork meditation equips individuals with a stronger sense of self that in turn benefits practically every aspect of their lives. So, consider making breathwork a part of your daily life to benefit from this healthier way of living for yourself!
Cronkleton, E. (2019, April 29). What is breathwork? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/breathwork
Gerbarg, P.L., Jacob, V.E., Stevens, L., Bosworth, B.P., Chabouni, F., DeFilippis, E.M., Warren, R., Trivellas, M., Patel, P.V., Webb, C.D., Harbus, M.D., Christos, P.J., Brown, R.P., & Scherl, E.J. (2015). The effect of breathing, movement, and meditation on psychological and physical symptoms and inflammatory biomarkers in inflammatory bowel disease: A randomized controlled trial. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 21(12): 2886-96. doi: 10.1097/MIB.0000000000000568
International Breathwork Foundation [IBF]. (2020). Breathwork definitions. https://ibfbreathwork.org/breathwork-definitions/
Reiss, J. (2019, February 25). Breaking down breathwork: What to know about trying this form of meditation. Yellow Co. https://archive.yellowco.co/blog/2019/02/25/breaking-down-breathwork-everything-should-know-meditation/