Mental Health

I tried a breathwork session and it surprisingly calmed my stress and anxiety

Ana Lilia is a certified breathwork teacher and healer who led me through my experience.

Only a few months into 2021 and it’s hard to believe that life is still in lockdown and we’re not able to carry on as normal just yet. It’s safe to say that I have not thought about my mental health as often or as in depth as I have this past year.

Prior to the pandemic, I definitely had my share of daily stresses, anxiety ridden days, and the typical worries of my future. Once forced into lockdown, unable to see the outside world, and left alone with my own thoughts, I found myself unable to control my anxiety. Although I never really classified myself as a person who severely suffers from anxiety, I was very aware and empathetic to those who did and I got a glimpse of it throughout 2020.

Now, I’d like to think that over the course of the year I’ve grown as a person and became more self-aware of things I’d like to personally improve on. However, one thing I didn’t check off my list was getting a hold on my stress and anxiety that has been at an all-time high during this unprecedented time. Although my friends and I often talk about going to therapy to learn the tools we need to better ourselves, I haven’t taken the necessary steps to attend a (virtual) therapy session yet.

One weekday morning as I was settling into the computer at my desk, I received an email about “using breathwork to calm stress and anxiety.” I never clicked to open an email fast enough. The idea of using your breath as a form of healing therapy was intriguing to me. In that email, I learned of Ana Lilia, a certified breathwork teacher and healer. I didn’t know what exactly Lilia did or what her work consisted of, but I was eager to learn more.

I quickly did some research and learned that breathwork and meditation are different from one another. According to Mind Body Green, “breathwork can be easier to drop into when you are seeking more immediate feedback,” as “meditation is a slow and steady practice that over a period of time will shift our perspective.” I’ve attempted meditation apps before and I struggled with being consistent with them to reap the benefits, so I was curious to try a breathwork session.

After having a phone call with Lilia and asking all the questions I could about her and her work, I was more than thrilled to be offered to do a breathwork session with her. Lilia’s transformative work includes one-on-one coaching, private sessions, manifestation workshops, and virtual events to support clients in using their breath as a tool to help them calm their body and mind. She even hosts free weekly classes called “Community Gathering” to help individuals manage the stress and fears they may be feeling amidst the global pandemic.

A few days later after our initial phone chat, I was on a Zoom call with Lilia and she was walking me through what the different parts of our hour together would consist of. During one of Lilia’s sessions, she guides her clients through a two-step pranayama breathing technique, which is similar to the practice of breath control in yoga, that moves blocked energy and emotions through the body, leaving people feeling clear, relaxed, and empowered.

Before I knew it, I was laying on my bedroom carpet with my head on a pillow and my iPad facing me with Lilia’s kind face on the screen. Prior to this, I didn’t tell Lilia anything that was weighing heavy on my mind or what I was stressed out about at that moment. With one hand on my chest and another on my stomach, I began the breathing exercises with Lilia. “Two chest breaths in through my nose out through my mouth, two stomach breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth” I repeated to myself.

The combination of concentrated breathing, Lilia’s calm voice guiding me, along with her curated playlist, suddenly caused me to feel a wave of emotions. At one moment I felt very cold, another moment my shoulders felt tense, and then a few minutes later I found myself in tears.

Yes, it was difficult to clear my mind during the session but I also didn’t fight the thoughts that came in and out of my mind. I focused on Lilia’s words, the lyrics of the songs she played, and the different things I was feeling in the moment.

The time flew by and by the end of the hour, I was instructed by Lilia to slowly sit up. After giving myself a few seconds to pull myself together, I turned towards my iPad screen to face Lilia. I asked her if I could explain to her what I just experienced. I burst into tears and told her how this breathing session was very therapeutic for me and helped me, in a way, face what was weighing me down. I’m a person who is never at a loss for words so I couldn’t believe how much lighter and calmer I felt in that moment from solely doing breathwork.

I told Lilia how I couldn’t believe how my stress and anxiety that day seemed to be at bay, although I didn’t speak one word throughout our session together. This was a really amazing realization. For the past four years, Lilia has helped people such as myself feel a sense of clarity and openness. Although my stress and anxiety is a work in progress, people like Lilia give me a sense of hope that with the right tools and practice, anyone can achieve mental clarity to live a happy and fulfilled life.

I’m excited to take what I learned during my session with Lilia and apply it to my daily life. Sometimes all we simply need are a few breaths in through our nose and out through our mouth to ground and calm ourselves.

Find out more information about Lilia’s work here.

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