What is BreatheAware?
We all deal with stress, anxiety, pain and other chronic issues, but BreatheAware’s structured, digital health training programs promise to change your behavior—and your health—by teaching you lifelong skills and educational content in breathing, mindfulness, body alignment, light movement, and cognitive training, within short two-to-three minute lessons.
It’s all provided as part of carefully designed and evidence-based programs, delivered via a media-driven software platform and self-paced lessons that are focused on changing behavior day-by-day, starting with basics and building skills using training models borrowed from athletics.
Each lesson is backed by the research and best practices of a team of advisors specializing in a variety of fields, including medicine, neuroscience, sports science, bio-systems engineering, physical therapy, and Eastern practices (e.g. martial arts, mindfulness, bodywork, etc.).
The Breatheaware program can be used by individuals, employers, and doctors alike, and a big focus of the company’s business is creating tools specifically for physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to co-brand and customize the product for their patients. They also offer health training programs as a benefit of using their medical services, and as a complement to treatments for serious issues, such as chronic pain.
In fact, their Pain management product has been built to help with opioid addiction prevention and recovery, which, in large part, is fueled by chronic pain, and for which the company says non-pharmaceutical approaches are in the long run more effective.
Like pretty much everyone else, you’re overworked and overstressed, and may even suffer from pain or other medical issues like sleeplessness or hypertension. But will BreatheAware’s behavioral and multi-discipline-based approach make a difference? Or, will other options work better?
Here, we’ll talk about what you might encounter within BreatheAware programs, and find out what authoritative websites have to say about the benefits of mindful breathing, movement, cognitive training, and related topics.
Stress, Pain, and What Causes It
Let’s briefly discuss some of the basics, which can ultimately help us come to a more informed conclusion about BreatheAware.
Stress largely defies definition because it’s such a subjective experience. What causes one person to stress out may not make another person to so much as flinch, and what one individual considers through-the-roof-stress levels another might view as a walk in the park.
Basically, stress is your body’s response to a demand or threat. Your nervous system releases high levels of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which increases heart rate, tenses muscles, boosts blood pressure, and sharpens senses, which together is known as the fight or flight response.
While this stress response evolved to help keep us alert and out of danger’s way, our body can’t distinguish between stress caused by (for example) a wooly mammoth charging our family or the tight deadline your boss handed you at the last minute.
To this last point, in the modern world, it’s no secret that short, periodic bursts of stress within our comfort zone can help us rise to different challenges.
But, if we’re constantly in a stressed, fight-or-flight mode, it can lead to negative health consequences like fatigue, decreased libido, sleeping issues (which can further compound stress), irritability and mood swings, drug or alcohol abuse, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and decreased immune response.
Next, let’s cover the pain aspect, before brining it back around to BreathAware’s specific programs.
The Basics of Pain
The company reports that pain can be even more complex than stress, but is similarly connected to injury, disease, behavior, diet, exercise, mood, sleep – and especially our stress level. They state that chronic pain can also persist long after the initial injury, due to two main reasons:
- Central Sensitization – Causes the nervous system to be chronically agitated, which can increase pain signal intensity.
- Secondary Signaling – Even though the actual pain may no longer exist, your brain can ‘replay’ the memory of the pain and make it feel just like the real thing.
Speaking of which, although there are certainly physical aspects of pain and stress, BreatheAware tells us that these ailments are largely brain-based, meaning they’re driven by sensation, stimulation, and how our nervous system and brains are trained to handle them.
Given these details, how does the BreatheAware program promise to actively address stress, pain, and other physical and mental health problems?
How Does BreatheAware Work?
Each BreatheAware lesson involves learning self-care skills, many of which have users complete a certain number of breathing exercises and reps (slow, relaxed in-and-out breaths) over a couple of minutes.
These lifestyle lessons are said to focus on their practical use in day-to-day life, which the company claims is a differentiator in the market.
Each BreatheAware program uses video, audio, and text-based instruction. Onscreen, there is a circle that expands, holds, and then contracts, which guides users through specific breathing exercises.
You’ll also receive some short instruction on how to breathe, how to hold your body for best results, what movements to practice, what (or what not to) think about, along with additional information and access to related multimedia content.
BreatheAware’s short, guided meditation sessions claim to help reduce stress, pain, and anxiety. Image credit: BreatheAware
BreatheAware’s programs for stress, pain, and other concerns are accessed from the user dashboard. Image credit: BreatheAware
With this said, each exercise in the BreatheAware program is focused on the following methodology:
- Conscious & Deep Breathing – Focusing attention on your breath and learning dozens of patterns, techniques, and approaches to feel good, perform better, and improve health.
- Body Alignment & Movement– Being aware of your body on a moment-by-moment basis, while making little adjustments and movements throughout the day to improve health and wellness.
- Mindfulness & Cognitive Training – Learning to observe yourself and the world around you, as well as training your reactions, attitudes, and other repetitive brain patterns.
- Lifestyle – How to take the skills and techniques you’ve trained with and learned, and implement them into your day-to-day life as practical tools and habits.
Does this sound a lot like meditation? BreatheAware makes a point of emphasizing that they are not a meditation app and are not attempting to be known as such.
Compared to existing meditation apps, they note their programs are medically designed to approach health problems from a wider range of perspectives; they treat chronic physical and mental conditions, and are increasingly sold via healthcare providers (although, as mentioned above, individual consumers and employers also buy their product—even a pro sports team, we’re told).
In summary, BreatheAware refers to their exercises as short, informal breaks that require no commitment or a special environment, and that can make you immediately feel good and reinforce positive self-care habits.
The biggest difference in long-term health improvement, though, is consistent, daily practice. Eventually, their goal is that users will reach a point where they can perform these exercises on their own, with or without the app’s assistance.
Are BreatheAware’s Techniques Beneficial and How Do You Begin?
The short answer? Yes.
Specifically, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes clinical evidence exists indicating that mindful breathing can help reduce anxiety and depression, improve symptoms of insomnia and chronic pain, decrease blood pressure, and may even physically change the brain (for the better, of course).
After just 20 minutes of daily mindful breathing, WebMD adds stress reduction and boosted immune response to this list. In fact, the physical and mental benefits related to mindful breathing are so widely recognized that some health insurance companies—and many hospitals—recommend it on their websites.
It’s much the same for many of the other techniques used in BreatheAware’s programs, whether deeper mindfulness and cognitive training, or movement and body alignment. In fact, the company calls the medical evidence for the health benefits of these practices, and the recommended use of them for chronic ailments, ‘overwhelming.’
The BreatheAware website has a science page that describes all of this in more detail, including dozens of medical reference links.
But hold on: Isn’t mindful breathing and bodywork only for Eastern mystics and new age gurus? Not at all.
Getting started with mindful breathing, alignment, movement, and other techniques is as easy as setting aside a few moments of your day, sitting in a comfortable position (even in a chair), and paying close attention to each inhalation and exhalation.
From there, the health-promoting exercises are diverse, and build on top of simple, mindful breathing to benefit brain and body.
Given how easy it is to start practicing mindful breathing, how much will you pay for BreatheAware’s program?
How Much Does BreatheAware Cost?
BreathAware’s pricing structure is based on a ‘freemium’ model, where users can enjoy the Starter program for free for as long as they want (the company releases additional free content on a regular basis). However, premium programs such as Pain require a for-pay upgrade.
With this in mind, there are a few different BreatheAware membership options available, most billed on a recurring basis:
- Starter and other complimentary programs: Free
- Pain: $19/mo, or $179 / year
- Stress: $6/mo, or $49 / year
- Workplace: $9 (one-time in-app purchase)
- On-The-Go: $9 (one-time in-app purchase)
Each of these options will allow you to train at your own pace and configure personalized SMS/email reminders.
While BreatheAware doesn’t offer refunds on their premium products, users can try the Starter program for free for an unlimited time before choosing to purchase a premium membership.
If you have additional questions, customer support can be reached at (800) 655-0973 or via their website’s contact form.
We Want Your Reviews for BreatheAware!
Although BreatheAware has been in business since 2013, we only encountered two customer reviews on SiteJabber at the time of our research, both of which gave the program five-star reviews. Common compliments referenced ease-of-use and effectiveness.
We learned that the company was founded by Curt Rosenthal, Peter Hermann, and David May. Previously, Curt (Chief Innovation Officer) worked in soccer coaching, training, programming, and business development with a variety of organizations. Peter (CEO) has a sales and enterprise technology consulting background, while David (Director of Technology) has a software background.
In addition, the BreatheAware website lists nine different advisors, including three PhDs, four MDs, one sports science professional, one mindful breathing professional, a physical therapist, and one eastern practices professional.
Finally, a company representative informed us there are currently two major U.S. hospital systems conducting clinical trials on the product.
Does BreatheAware Have Any Competition?
From a basic mindful breathing perspective, BreatheAware definitely has a lot of competition, although we encountered very few (if any) programs that combine breathing, mindfulness, bodywork, and cognitive training into a single platform.
We also found little competition that targets specific conditions and health needs, or those that integrate their offering into the healthcare system as a doctor-patient education and trackable training tool.
For example, websites and smartphone apps like Headspace (as low as $6.24 per month) provide access to hundreds of guided and unguided mindful breathing sessions that can be completed in 10 minutes per day.
Omvana, Take a Break!, and Sattva can do much of the same, at no charge. For more free and paid options, we’d recommend checking out Healthline’s Best Meditation Apps of 2016.
We can even help you get started on the right foot by reading 6 Ways to Naturally Improve Your Focus, Energy, Productivity, and Decrease Stress.
What’s the point? We’ll wrap it up in the next section.
How Much Value Will BreatheAware’s Program Provide?
Might BreatheAware’s advisor-backed program(s) help you de-stress or reduce chronic pain? Based on the demos on their site and the medical evidence, it certainly seems possible.
Their ‘breathing circles’ and timers also worked well on our mobile device, which means you can utilize them on the go.
In the end, though, it’s not so much BreatheAware’s efficacy that we’re focused on. After all, as we outlined earlier from sources like NIH and WebMD, the benefits of their various techniques are well established. Instead, it’s the overall value it will provide to people suffering from chronic illness, or looking to prevent illness through increased education and practical daily training.
Specifically, while the program is available directly to consumers, based on what we learned from a company representative, you might achieve the most value by working in conjunction with a medical care provider.