The Power of Breath: The Gift of Healing

January 2023

By Megan Callus, Owner, Boundless Breath NJ


Breathing is the most basic and common habit that we all practice every day. But did you know how your breathing can affect whether or not you’re feeling tired or anxious and that how you breathe can not only impact your emotions and energy but your overall health?

Ever since I was a teen, I have suffered from chronic depression. For years I managed it with counseling and medication. After my divorce, I was hit with unfathomable anxiety. I felt like I was on super-speed constantly running from a fire I could never escape. I would wake up with a pounding heart and a racing mind. In addition to the anxiety, I had entered a dark hole of depression where therapy and medications were no longer helping. Every day felt like a waking nightmare. I felt so alone.

I tried meditation but my brain and nervous system were on overdrive and wouldn’t allow stillness. I began utilizing a three-dimensional breathing practice and found this helped to center me and, at least temporarily, pull me out of the constant loop of my dark thoughts and fears. It was my entry point into the power of breathwork and a critical piece of the puzzle that led me out of my despair.

One key reason we feel anxious and unsettled is that we are not breathing slowly, diaphragmatically and through our noses. Let me explain. If you breathe in your chest and faster than your body actually needs, your brain and nervous system think you are under threat or in distress; i.e., your brain thinks you are being chased by a tiger. When you continue to breathe this way, patterns are set, creating a loop in your brain that keeps you in a constant state of stress, inflammation and unease.

The science behind this, albeit new, continues to demonstrate how our breathing patterns can either help us create healthful states or contribute to chronic illness. Illnesses and traumatic experiences, among other things, can alter our breathing and create states of anxiety, fatigue and other health issues.Yet, we can use our breath to activate or inhibit different brain structures which can help individuals move from anxiety, fatigue, discomfort and dis-ease to health, energy and calm.

I have spent the last decade studying the brain and body, and found the most powerful way of changing and healing the body is simply adjusting the way we breathe. It is well established that breathing patterns can influence state of mind and neural activity. For example, fast, shallow breathing is associated with anxiety, while slow, deep breathing is associated with relaxation. However, it is less well known that changing one’s breathing pattern can actually lead to changes in the brain.

Delving into the science for a moment, studies have revealed that there are neural changes which happen when someone switches from normal, everyday breathing to a more deliberate, regulated pattern of breathing. This switch activates a neural loop that includes the pre-Bötzinger complex, an area of the brainstem responsible for breathing rhythm generation. This complex is important because it helps to control the rate and depth of breathing.

One study found that participants who learned to breathe slowly and deeply (a technique known as “coherent breathing”) showed an increase in brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, regions associated with memory and learning. The participants also showed decreases in activity in the amygdala, a region associated with fear and anxiety; changes which were observed after just three minutes of coherent breathing.

These findings suggest that changing one’s breathing pattern can lead to changes in neural activity and even brain structure. This has implications for a wide range of conditions, from anxiety disorders to chronic pain. It is even possible to use breath work to enhance cognitive performance and protect against age-related mental decline.

Ultimately, changing your breathing can change neural circuits, which can alter brain function. This means that you have the power to change how your body works simply by changing your breath. Different breathing techniques can be used for different purposes, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Inhalation-based practices are often used for purposes such as cardiovascular health or to fight fatigue, while exhalation-based practices may be more beneficial for relaxation or stress relief. Breath holds and other techniques may be useful for meditation or mindfulness, amongst other objectives. The Buteyko method and Wim Hof breathing are two specific techniques that have been shown to be particularly effective for certain health conditions. The best breathing technique is the one that suits you and your body.

People too often live a life of unfulfillment, anxiety, pain and sorrow, struggling with being human in a world that’s increasingly more isolating and challenging. They do not need to live in darkness. I’ve been there and I know the way out.

Breath is a life-given gift. My goal is to teach our community how to use breath along with activation or inhibition of different brain structures to create balance within the nervous system and as a tool for healing.


Credit: Design Cells



Megan Callus is the owner of Boundless Breath NJ. Megan spent the last decade studying Applied Neuroanatomy and Breathwork and specializes in respiratory training (aka breathwork) to teach clients how to use their breath to reduce stress and heal their bodies. She focuses on the neurology, biochemistry, biomechanics and psychosocial elements of breathing,teaching and utilizing practices that have been scientifically studied and verified in terms of benefits to health. In her practice, She employs different breathing techniques as well as movements that activate specific brain areas to reduce symptoms associated with health issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, Long Covid, respiratory dysfunction (such as asthma and sleep apnea), chronic fatigue and lack of endurance. She works virtually and in-person and in 2023 will be training psychotherapists on how to use different breathing techniques with their clients.