Yes, it’s pretty common knowledge that breathing is important, but what about breathwork?
It’s a practice you may not be familiar with, but local author and breathwork instructor Lauren Chelec Cafritz wants to change that. Her recently released book Breath Love is part-memoir, part-instructional guide, and outlines her journey toward discovering breathwork and its benefits. (For the uninitiated: The practice utilizes a controlled series of breaths to help with issues like anxiety and trauma and enhance clarity and physical well-being.)
The DC native and Bethesda resident, who, yes, is part of the Cafritz real estate development family (her husband is Elliot Cafritz), got into the practice when her now 23-year-old son was a newborn. She discovered she couldn’t move her neck, and after seeing a variety of doctors and no results, she started taking yoga classes, which eventually led her to see a breathworker.
She was immediately hooked. “I was like, ‘Why isn’t everyone doing this?,'” says Chelec Cafritz.
“If you’re under a lot of stress and do this connected breathing, your body starts to relax and your systems calm down,” she says, adding that it can help with issues such as headaches, stomach pains, and even social anxiety or a fear of public speaking. “When I do breathwork and yoga together in my life, I am so balanced and clear.”
Today, Chelec Cafritz is a certified breathwork teacher who leads weekly classes at The Mindfulness Center and teaches executive workshops to groups like the United States Postal Service and Kaiser Permanente.
DC, with its stressed-out lobbyists and attorneys and helicopter parents, is a spot that could benefit from more breathwork, says Chelec Cafritz. And with the current social trend toward adopting practices once considered “woo-woo” (think Gwyneth Paltrow-endorsed crystals and sound bathing), Chelec Cafritz says more and more folks are open to this kind of self-improvement.
“Before, I felt like I had to knock hard to get people to pay attention,” she says of her practice. “Now it’s like, okay, they’re ready.”
She wanted to make sure her book was easily digestible and approachable for folks who might still be wary of dipping their toes into something like breathwork.
“It could be looked at as very complicated, but it’s not,” she says. “My goal was to find a way to make it as simple and as accessible to as many people as possible.” That means no scientific jargon and plenty of approachable anecdotes from Chelec Cafritz’s own journey.
And, if you try it, you may even see benefits beyond lowered stress and heightened focus. “As you go deeper, [breathwork] brings more and more gifts,” Chelec Cafritz says. “The big gift I hear all the time from breathwork is ‘I’m calmer, I’m more confident, and I’m more clear,’ —the three Cs.”
Up next? In September, Chelec Cafritz will host a breathwork workshop in Philadelphia, and she’s planning a breathwork retreat next year in Sedona.