Is This Breathing Practice the Antidote to Stress and Anxiety?

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you spent an hour alone to reflect? When Michelle D’Avella, a breathwork teacher and self-care coach, posed this question to me as I sat cross-legged in a dark studio in New York, I honestly couldn’t come up with an answer. The sad reality is that for many women, myself included, time is a commodity to be maximized. After all, if you’re not listening to a podcast mid-commute or texting friends while you wait at a café, isn’t that time wasted? Before my first breathwork class, I had no memory of what it was like to spend an hour alone with nothing but my thoughts and emotions. But I was about to find out.

Breathwork is a meditation practice that uses simple breathing exercises to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health. “[It’s] an active meditation that moves stuck energy, limiting beliefs, and emotional blockages,” explains D’Avella, who says the practice has transformed the way she deals with stress and anxiety. She’s not alone. Nine people surrounded me on yoga mats, mostly women and many claiming they’d heard of D’Avella’s powerful classes through friends and colleagues who’d said it had changed their life.

As we went around the class and shared what we hoped to achieve during the one-hour session, there was a clear common thread: healing. “I’ve been searching for a partner and I’ve just met someone, but I’m worried that I’m holding back,” says a woman in her 30s, who had done the classes a few times. Another confided that she was in remission and hadn’t fully come to terms with emotional scars. As for me? I’d left behind my family and closest friends to move to the States and start a life in New York. Not once had I given myself a moment to reflect on how I was coping. I’ll be honest: I was terrified to pause my chaotic schedule and give myself permission to check in.