My interest in the benefits of breathwork started with my own shortness of breath.
(Click here for some basic breathing exercises.)
I went through a period of time when the stress levels were very high in multiple areas of my life. I soldiered through but shut down emotionally just so I could cope. This went on for several years. After a particularly stressful day, I hit a breaking point while at the grocery store. It was Thanksgiving Day and the store had lost my turkey order. Sounds silly now, but I was so overwhelmed that I sat in my car uncertain as to what to do next. I started to panic and then the tears started. You know...the "ugly cry". The kind of cry that catches your breath in stops-and-starts when you try to inhale. I felt tightness in my chest, dizzy and light headed from hyperventilating. In my panic I remember saying to myself "just breathe".
After I pulled myself together, I made a few calls and found another turkey and the meal was mostly warm by the time family and guests arrived. But my breathing was never the same after that day in the car. For over a year I experienced a shortness of breath from time to time (especially when stressed). I wasn't overly concerned but I did mention it to my doctor. I was otherwise healthy but she thought I had thrown off my oxygen/CO2 balance. She offered to refer me to a specialist who worked with asthmatics, but knew the stress I was under and thought I might try some yogic breathing exercises first to see if I improved. So off I went to find a yoga studio and some medical books on therapeutic breathing. It was a good suggestion. My symptoms improved within a few weeks.
I now understand the profound benefit of allowing a few minutes each day for conscious breathing. By slowing down the breath though "full body breathing" (also referred to as abdominal breathing or natural breathing) and Coherent breathing (equal breath counts, in and out) my body found the balance it was looking for.