We’re learning more and more about the power of breathing. Yogis have been using pranayama to slow down their parasynthetic nervous systems and fire up their bodies with lion’s breath for years, but mainstream society has only relatively recently cottoned on to breathwork. It’s such a fundamental part of wellbeing and health these days that many fitness trackers offer quick breathing exercises when they notice you’ve sustained a long period of stress.
But while lots of us know about breathwork, it can be difficult to do it in times of need. When you’ve got a difficult meeting coming up at work, do you really close your eyes for five minutes to try a few rounds of box breathing? Or do you rush to make another cup of coffee and pray that you won’t get grilled too viciously? After a row with your partner, do you brood and start to doomscroll or do you consciously try to lengthen your exhale so as to slow down the mind and heartbeat?
Chances are, you stay in that negative loop, despite the fact that studies have found slow breathing techniques can improve emotional control and psychological wellbeing.
A study by Yale academics got students to try three wellbeing interventions: breathing exercises, meditation techniques and a programme on emotional intelligence. They found that those who did the breathing intervention (the SKY Breath Meditation) experienced the greatest mental health, social connectedness, positive emotions, stress, depression and mindfulness benefits.
And another study involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that those who did SKY Breath Meditation managed to bring their anxiety levels down to ‘normal’ in a week – and they continued to enjoy all those health benefits a full year later.
We have the tools to calm ourselves down, clear the mind and feel better, but all too often, simple wellness techniques go out of the window in times of true stress.
That’s where Moonbird comes in. Moonbird is a handheld piece of tech designed to make breathing exercises easier than ever. All you’ve got to do is shake the little gadget to turn it on (yes, it does look like a vibrator, but leaving that aside…), put your thumb on the sensor and then breathe along to the vibrations. It’s so effective that the brand claims to have been recommended for stress, anxiety and sleep by over 400 doctors and therapists.
But just how effective can a piece of tech be when it comes to one of the most fundamental habits humans have? Can a jazzy piece of plastic really train us to breath slower, deeper and calmer? I asked two chronically anxious members of the Stylist staff to put Moonbird to the test.
Does Moonbird work? We put it to the test
Lauren – mental health writer and chronic overthinker
As someone who both struggles with anxiety and writes about mental health for a living, I’ve heard plenty about the benefits of breathwork – but have always struggled with finding the patience to sit still and focus on my breathing for an extended period of time. So, when I first heard about Moonbird, I was excited to see if having a physical prompt would help me to stay on track.
While I can’t say I’m a regular ‘breath worker’, my Moonbird has definitely made it easier to fit breathwork into my day; when I want to do some breathing, I just pop my Moonbird into my hand, close my eyes and let it take the lead.
The Moonbird’s size also makes it easily portable, so it’s perfect for popping in your bag and getting out whenever you’re in need of some quick and simple stress relief. What’s not to love about that?
Savannah – wellbeing creative strategist and distracted yogi
Breathwork can be tricky if your mind is all over the place; I’ve found in the past, when I’ve lost concentration, that I start to breathe erratically – which can make me feel unwell. Using Moonbird, however, I’ve been able to practise mindful breathing when I need to re-focus, de-stress or before going to sleep, and I’ve absolutely loved adding this into my wellness routine.
The tactile device ‘breathes’ in and out in time with the breathing exercises available on the app, and gives you something to concentrate on besides your own breath.
The gadget connects to an app on your phone, and after each session, you can check out an array of stats. At first, it was really interesting to learn more about how breathing and heart rate work together, but I soon came to realise that, for me, it’s far better to ignore the data and focus on the exercise in hand (I’m the kind of perfectionist who’ll look for any excuse to condemn what I’ve done as a ‘bad job’, so I struggle with a lot of health tech).
While I’d like to increase the amount of time spent practising breathwork, I’ve stuck to shorter breathing exercises in a bid to make breathing more of a habit.
Tech can be great and devices like these are awesome if you can’t get your mind around practising breathwork alone. But if you’re already overwhelmed by the amount of tech and data in your life, then it’s worth thinking about how using a wellbeing gadget might benefit you.