Curbing the Mental Health Crisis One Breath at a Time

Joseph Dana
4 min readMay 17

We can’t afford to ignore the global mental health crisis much longer. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions worldwide suffer from dangerous levels of depression and anxiety. Our always-connected lifestyles ironically wreak havoc on our ability to connect meaningfully with our loved ones and ourselves. The World Economic Forum claims that 12 billion working days are lost annually to depression and anxiety, which costs nearly $1 trillion in lost productivity per year.

As mental health challenges grow, new treatment avenues are opening up, and old ones are being reconsidered. In the United States, Australia, and Europe, psychedelics such as psilocybin and ketamine are being decriminalized to combat mental health challenges. But what if there was a simple solution under our noses that doesn’t require any outside medicine?

Our breath is an indicator of our mental state. Have you noticed how your breath changes throughout the day? When we are anxious, our breath can feel restricted. A couple of deep breaths can do wonders to release stress and facilitate relaxation. It’s one of the oldest practices in the book.

Historically, various cultures have used the breath for spiritual rituals, community cohesion, and mental health. For example, the breath animates consciousness in the Jewish mystical tradition. Three different Hebrew words in Jewish scripture mean or refer to the soul (nefesh, ruach, and neshama), and all are variations of words that mean “breath.”

In Eastern traditions, breathwork has been used to achieve different meditative and yogic states of consciousness. Many of these practices are thousands of years old, and anyone who has attended a yoga class has experienced their power.

In the late 1970s, the Czech-American psychologist Dr Stanislav Grof and his wife, Christina Grof, created a modern form of ancient yogic breathwork called Holotropic breathwork. The Grofs had been using psychedelics as a psychotherapeutic tool until they were outlawed in the 1960s. Their system was an intense form of breathwork that replaced psychedelics to help clients release trauma by accessing different states of consciousness.

I have been practicing a form of holotropic breathwork called conscious connected…

Joseph Dana

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