A meditation class offered at an acting studio in Los Angeles changed Victoria Antonelli’s life. Victoria started a breathwork facilitator certification course and, later, her business, A Breath of Sage LLC. Check out more about Victoria’s work and how can breathwork be so powerful for anyone that wants to try and focus in this interview for MysticMag.
How can breathwork improve someone’s life?
Breathwork is an umbrella term for a variety of conscious breathing techniques. Conscious breathing meaning the participant is actively holding a breath pattern outside of how they typically breathe to achieve a result. In general, breathwork is great for managing stress, relieving anxiety, breaking undesirable thought patterns or moods, cultivating focus, and more.
Breathwork can also be a wonderful pre-bed ritual to induce deeper sleep. On a purely physical level, breathwork can help your body release toxins (we release 70% of toxins through our breath), improve digestion, and strengthen the lungs/respiratory system.
There are a lot of breathwork forms. Can you present them to us?
The ones I am most familiar with are Kundalini yoga breathwork practices, Wim Hof’s method, Conscious Connected Breathing – also known as Circular Breathing, and other forms of Pranayama (yogic breathing).
My favorite Kundalini practices are Ego Eradicator and Alternate Nostril Breathing. All you need is 3 minutes with these practices to feel a positive shift in your mental state. I would also lump box breathing and general deep breathing (for example- breathe in for 5 counts, out for 7 counts) into this category because you don’t need to do these practices for very long to feel the results.
Wim Hof’s method involves three rounds of 20-30 breaths. Each round is marked by a breath hold – holding out for about a minute and holding for 10-15 seconds. This can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes and can be done for longer.
A popular yogic breathing/Pranayama is the Ujjayi breath. It’s the one you’ll most often hear an instructor referring back to throughout the class.
The type of breathwork I teach in group classes and private sessions is Conscious Connected Breathing (or circular breathing because there are no pauses or breath holds). Participants lie flat on their back and first breathe into the stomach, feeling the stomach expand, next into the chest, feeling the chest expand, and then one exhale as the body contracts. Essentially, two inhales and one exhale all through the mouth for 28 minutes, followed by an extended Shavasana.
For everything else in life- sleeping, exercising, going about your day (and for all Pranayama practices, I highly encourage NOSE BREATHING). However, the person who certified me explained that breathing through the mouth during Conscious Connected Breathing allows you to connect with your emotions on a deeper level- which is the main purpose of this practice.
There are many techniques but those are the ones I feel comfortable speaking on!
Can you share with us how your session works? Does it have to be presential or can it be done online also?
My business is called A Breath of Sage, LLC. I hold sessions in-person and virtually! I teach once a week at a yoga studio near my home in Marietta, GA, and have pop-up classes periodically throughout Atlanta. Virtually, I hold Zoom classes twice a month, plus my private offerings are all virtual. However, if someone lived nearby and wanted me to come to their home for a session, I would be open to it.
For privates and group classes, I start with housekeeping, questions, and if it’s one person, a couple, or a small group, I’ll ask questions about what they’d like to focus on during our time together. We then do some short grounding practices before beginning the 28 minutes of Conscious Connected Breathing. I play music and speak through the whole session either on what comes to me, what the client shares with me, or a combination. At the end, there’s a 7 minute meditation, followed by a reading. I then end the session with either journaling and/or an open space to share and ask additional questions.
For longer breathwork sessions (28-45 minutes), participants tend to have deeper results. In a typical class, you’ll hear people crying, making sounds, breathing heavy, and having a full-on experience. By breathing deeply into your stomach, you access the emotions you’ve been suppressing so stagnant energy can move through you. A breathwork session with a facilitator you trust gives you the space to process and let go of resentments, anger, sadness, etc. to cultivate freedom, joy, awareness, and growth.
I am a firm believer that you must feel something in order to heal it; if you avoid feeling/processing fear, grief, or any kind of mental pain/discomfort, you give your power away. Not to mention all the negative effects of holding onto stress, such as inflammation, mental disorders, autoimmune disease, cancer, and more. Breathwork provides a healthy outlet to process your emotions. Because, they will come out eventually- no matter how much you push them down. So, best to let it out in a controlled environment instead of at a loved one or coworker who doesn’t deserve it!
I also have a program right now called the 30 Day Mental Shift. For this offering, I send a survey to clients beforehand, and then create prompts Monday-Friday each week, 4 personalized meditations, and more based on the results. I also pepper in tools I’ve gathered over the past decade, such as dream work, additional breathwork practices, books, etc. to aid each person’s individual “shifting” process. Each client also gets 4 private breathwork/exploration sessions with me that last 90-120 minutes.
About the breathwork patterns, do they change from person to person or is it the same for everyone?
Right now I teach the same pattern to everyone: 2 inhales, 1 exhale through the mouth while lying down. However, the pace you breathe at will impact the result. Typically, the faster you breathe, the more physical sensations you’ll experience; the deeper you breathe, the deeper you’ll go; the slower you breathe, the more relaxed and connected you’ll feel. Ultimately, Conscious Connected Breathing is a great way to shut down the chattering monkey brain and connect to your body, intuition, and overall desires/truth. What’s also great about Conscious Connected Breathing is it’s different every time you do it!
During my 30 Day Mental Shift, I do introduce other techniques that can be safely implemented anywhere to shift your mood, relieve anxiety and stress, and improve sleep.
Do you have a session that stuck in your mind because of what happened or the immediate results that were achieved?
Yes! I have two that come to mind. The first time I participated in a breathwork ceremony – I had no idea what I was in for. I cried and released so many emotions – and actually saw my childhood dog come to me and lay down on my chest. It was so powerful! On a conscious level I hadn’t thought about that dog in years but deep down I still had sadness around her death- and this particular ceremony left me with peace knowing she’s in a better place — especially since she was sick for most of her life.
During another ceremony a couple years later I did several different breathwork patterns over the course of 2 hours- I was in a group setting with my partner who is also a big breathwork/meditation advocate. We cried and screamed and released what felt like decades worth of trauma. I left that room on cloud 9. I went to a job I hated right after and was so happy you would’ve thought I stepped off a plane in Paris. This feeling lasted for several days. It was the first time I felt that free, alive, and euphoric using something totally natural- my own breath!
Is it possible to share with us a quick tip to improve our breathwork and have a better quality of life?
What I aim to do every day and would highly recommend is 3 minutes of breathwork before a 10-15 minute meditation. For my technique, I oscillate between box breathing, general deep breathing (into the nose and out the mouth), Conscious Connected Breathing (two inhales one exhale), and Ego Eradicator for 3 minutes. I do this while sitting. I then go right into a meditation – I prefer no sound but do whatever is best for you – music, guided, etc.- tons of free options on YouTube. I find the breathwork calms my mind pre-meditation and allows me to get into a better flow and have a more “productive” session. It’s a great way to start the day or wind down before bed. Your energy/intention will set the tone!