For most of us, breathing is a passive activity. For all the ins and outs it requires—about Canadian Lung Association “Breathing” View Source , to be precise—it doesn’t require much thought. But if you want to achieve feelings of calm and keep your body healthy, you might consider training yourself in breathwork. Your doctor or therapist may also recommend focusing on breathwork if you’re dealing with high blood pressure, anxiety, or stress.
While you can enroll in online or in-person courses with breathwork teachers, another popular option is emerging: breathing apps. We tested a bunch, and our favorite was Breathwrk. This app provided a polished experience, left us feeling calmer, and made it so we didn’t just breathe on default—we breathed well.
What Is Breathwork?
Breathwork is a process that involves manipulating your breath to achieve a specific goal or feeling, like increased calm or focus. When people talk about “learning breathwork,” they are typically referring to learning how to adjust their breath so it takes a horizontal form in the chest (called diaphragmatic or belly breathing) rather than a vertical form, which is more shallow and delivers less air to the lungs. Typically, these lessons happen under the oversight of a teacher with a 200-hour registered yoga teacher training or Global Breathwork Alliance certification. (And, yes, you can also learn breathwork through an app!)
Focusing on breath may impact health by Harvard Health “Breathing to reduce stress” View Source and increasing levels of calm. It may also treat common chronic conditions like Nature “Breathing-control lowers blood pressure” View Source . Many clinical mental health therapists teach breathwork as a tool to reduce the Journal of Mental Health Counseling “A Practitioner's Guide to Breathwork in Clinical Mental Health Counseling” View Source response(also known as the fight or flight response). Certain exercises, like square breathing, may help regulate levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, which can get disrupted during moments of anxiety. And some AKJournals “ An experience with Holotropic Breathwork is associated with improvement in non-judgement and satisfaction with life while reducing symptoms of stress in a Czech-speaking population” View Source shows that breathwork can help people feel more satisfied with their lives, too.
An important thing to know about breathwork is that it is not the same thing as meditation. Meditation is often centered on mindfulness. It involves sitting in a quiet, comfortable place and bringing awareness to certain thoughts and ideas. Breathwork is more active and is often intended to bring about a specific goal, like reduced anxiety. That said, both can be used—often to great effect!—at the same time.
What Is the Breathwrk App?
Breathwrk is an app that focuses on—you guessed it—teaching you how to breathe more effectively, often with a specific goal in mind. The app offers a huge library of 75+ breathing exercises that you can choose from, with most ranging from 2 to 3 minutes long. It also has a section of more than 25 educational “courses” (10 to 15 minutes long) and tools (or quick exercises with visualization components) to help you achieve a certain mental state (like “calm,” “endurance,” or “focus”). Some exercises can help you stay calm during the day, while others focus on specific activities like falling asleep. Each course is led by a certified teacher.
How Much Does the Breathwrk App Cost?
Breathwrk offers a free plan, which allows you to take a few classes in those aforementioned “calm,” “endurance,” or “focus” categories. This is a great way to get a sense of the app, but if you want access to its entire suite of exercises, you’ll need to enroll in Breathwrk Pro. This is $7.99 a month or $38.99 a year.
How To Get Breathwrk Pro for Free
Not ready to shell out money for Breathwrk Pro? You might not have to. The app offers a Breathwrk Grants program, which provides need-based Breathwrk Pro subscriptions to “those who qualify.” If you don’t qualify for a grant, you can try a 7-day free trial of its premium version. This is a good way to dip your toe in the app instead of diving in right away.
How Does the Breathwrk App Work?
When you log into the Breathwrk app, you’ll see a library of options like exercises, courses, and quick tools. Choose the one that most appeals to you based on your goal in that moment, then set aside about five minutes to listen. Each exercise is accompanied by a visualization meant to evoke the sensation of air coming in and out of the lungs. You can choose whether you want it to look like a circle or a line.
As you move through the exercise, focus on the visualization offered on screen. Lining your breath up with the animation is a good way to regulate your breath. We suggest choosing some of the educational courses first, so you can learn about breath basics like how to engage diaphragmatic breathing, why breathwork matters, and how to improve your lung capacity, endurance, and focus. If you’re competitive, you can sign up for one of Breathwrk’s “challenges” to remind you to do a bit of breathwork each day, eventually developing a habit.
What We Like About Breathwrk
Compared to the other breathing apps we tried, Breathwrk is the best designed, most user-friendly option. The interface is intuitive to navigate, beautifully laid out, and reflects the environment of calm and focus that most users will be trying to cultivate. We never had to pause lessons to look up what “pranayama” meant—teachers explained it when needed. It was also easy to find everything we needed in the app right away.
Breathwrk automatically creates a “schedule” of exercises for you to start—one for the morning, one before bed, and one educational component. This appears when you log in. The “discover” tab at the bottom of the page allows you to search for anything.
We also appreciated the variety of exercises available. Compared to the other apps we tried—including popular meditation apps Calm and Headspace—Breathwrk offered dozens more interesting, well-designed, breathwork-only sessions. (Calm and Headspace, perhaps understandably, focus more on just meditation.) And each option comes with three or four different visualizations to choose from, plus options for the length of the session, external audio, and vibrations that softly remind you to take another breath at the bottom of each exhale.
Overall, this app stands well on its own or in tandem with an in-person breathwork class to strengthen your mind and body. Even after using it for just a week, our testers found themselves using some of the box-breathing techniques they’d learned from the app during moments of stress, or before bed to quiet the mind.
What We Don’t Like About Breathwrk
We didn’t have many complaints! Unlike some of the other options on the market, Breathwrk offers only breathing-related exercises. It does not dabble in meditation or mindfulness, which is a bit of a bummer if you want to utilize breathwork in guided meditation. (In that case, we recommend Calm or Headspace.) But if you’re here to improve your breath, Breathwrk is all you need.
Should You Try Breathwrk?
If you’re looking to get into breathwork—or the idea of utilizing your breath to bring about a sense of calm appeals to you—the answer is clear: Yes! We think Breathwrk is an incredible vehicle for habit-building around breathwork. It’s designed well, easy to use, and is relatively inexpensive at $7.99 a month. Based on our experience, this educational and expert-led breathing app might just give you the tools you need to stay healthy and calm.