Introduction to Breathwork
- When did Breathwork begin?
- How does it work?
- What outcomes can you expect from Breathwork?
- Enhanced physical well-being.
- Loving relationships.
- Connection with your true, infinite nature.
- An expanded experience of love.
- Enriched the experience of being alive.
- More peace and less stress.
- Empowerment to create the kind of life we want.
Yahweh God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his
nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being. Genesis 2:7
There I was in a basement in Sydney lying down with a group of about eight people and being told to take deep, full breaths. I had heard stories about extraordinary experiences during this process and I was eager to see if it would work for me.
I lay down and started breathing. At the time I was an international marathon runner at the Australian Institute of Sport and so I was used to physical exertion. I dived in deep and started breathing like a stream train.
At first I felt a little dizzy and got a bit scared, but this soon passed and I settled into the rhythm of the breath. Next I noticed a series of images flashing across my mind about the everyday events that were happening in my life at the time. I started to feel a soft buzzing in my hands and feet. The buzzing continued to get stronger until it was like a steady current of electricity running through my whole body. I noticed my arms lifting off the mattress involuntarily and my hands tightening. I began to feel stuck, locked in. I recognised this feeling as one that appeared in my life regularly, a feeling of being held back, blocked and restricted.
I started to feel hot and sweaty. I had a weird feeling, as if someone was holding my hands and I could feel the sensation of a wet towel on my forehead. I remembered that I had almost died of a fever when I was a three month old baby and I wondered if maybe I felt like this at the time.
In the fashion of a true athlete I fought the on coming feelings of restriction and they seemed to fight back, tightening my hands and locking me up even more. I felt powerless, like a tiny baby being held down. I was hot and sweaty and my whole body was charged with energy.
The facilitators came over and pushed against my upright arms. This ignited a wave of passion and fury within me. Instinctively I pushed back with all my might. A huge wave of emotion burst forth. A roar from deep inside me came thundering out as I struggled to break free. Suddenly something broke open and a river of relief flooded through me. I started to sob uncontrollably. All the years of pushing and driving my body beyond the pain threshold came pouring out. I cried and cried. I had not cried for years before this as I had believed that it was weak to cry. Gradually the intense feelings of grief subsided and I was left with a soft magical glowing feeling through my whole body. I was peace.
I lay there enjoying the blissful experience. I noticed that my breath felt remarkably calm and easy. Soft waves of joy flowed effortlessly through me as a rainbow of beautiful energy flushed my whole body clean. As I lay there I started to see the seriousness with which that I had taken my life so far and I started to laugh. I had spent years trying to prove that I was good enough and there in that moment I realised that I was OK just the way I was. A lightness descended upon me as I saw the cosmic joke and the great game that this life is.
Later that evening we had a social gathering, I was standing around chatting when my partner took me aside and commented that I was talking uncharacteristically loudly. Normally at social gatherings I was fairly quiet and reserved but that evening I felt free and open. Happy to be alive, I smiled at her and went on talking.
This was my introduction to Breathwork, and it changed my life. It was in 1989 and I was on a facilitator training weekend. My Journey in personal development had only recently begun and this experience ignited a passion in me to continue to explore the potential of Breathwork. During the 13 years since that first experience I have facilitated thousands of Breathwork sessions and I am still amazed at the extraordinary power of this simple breathing technique to make profound transformation in people lives.
When did Breathwork begin? In modern times Breathwork has its origins in the work of Leonard Orr. In 1962 Leonard, whilst taking a particularly long bath, started to have flashback experiences of his birth. He began to experiment with this phenomenon and to encourage others to do the same. Pretty soon he noticed that the flashback experiences were accompanied by a certain breathing pattern. He called this pattern connected breathing and began to guide others in this breathing technique. At the time Leonard discovered this work there was a lot of interest in alternative birthing practices (people such as the famous Frenchman Le Boyer were exploring alternative birthing practices). Leonard and a good friend Sondra Ray (a midwifery nurse) noted that many patterns present in a person’s birth were repeated throughout their life. (For instance, a person born prematurely is likely to be early for appointments). They focused on re-birth experiences during Breathwork sessions and named the process Rebirthing.
Other names given to Breathwork processing today are: Vivation, Holotropic Breathwork, Radiance Breathwork, Energy Meditation, Core Energetics and Quantum Breathwork. How does it work? Our breath is a major source of energy supply. Eastern cultures have explored the power inherent in the breath and speak of the energy as ‘chi’ or ‘prana’. In Latin the word for breath and spirit is the same word spirare. About 16 to 17 times per minute we say “yes ” to continuing our life here on Earth and take another breath. We breathe about 10,000 litres a day, oxygenating some 27 trillion (27,000,000,000,000) cells.
Due to poor breathing habits, limiting decisions about ourselves, and suppressing emotional experiences, the average person utilises only about 1 litre of their 6 to 7 litre lung capacity. Dysfunctional breathing habits are known as futile breathing and this is characterised by short, shallow irregular breathes. Futile breathing creates internal stress, confusion, tiredness, illness, and poor results in life generally.
During a Breathwork session our breath is guided back to its natural state: relaxed, rhythmic, flowing, and open. We call this breathing Connected Breathing. Connected Breathing promotes the ‘whole body’ integration of our physical, mental, and emotional states of being.
As a session progresses we open up the flow of energy in our bodies. Our vibrational rate starts to increase and we seem to ‘shift gears’ and open the door-way to altered states of consciousness.
Significant events from any time during our life may come to the surface. We may become aware of an event that is currently happening or one that happened years ago, including during our childhood, our birth, our time in the womb and even our conception. The recall of birth associated memories happens in about one in ten sessions. Events arise organically through the process, rather than being suggested as in hypnosis, they may or may not have been consciously remembered. Whatever surfaces is what most needs to be cleared for a particular person at that time in their life. The Breathworkers major role is to guide the breath and to create a safe space for the breather to fully process the experience that is arising.
We witness events unfolding like watching a movie. As the event unfolds we reconnect with the thoughts we were thinking and the emotions we were feeling at the time. In the presence of an experienced practitioner, we then have an opportunity to complete the experience. Not all sessions are loud and cathartic, many quiet and peaceful sessions are just as effective for making changes in our lives. Sometimes we make shifts even though it may seem that ʻ nothing is happening.
As a past event is reviewed we often gain valuable insights into our lives. During significant life experiences we often draw conclusions to help us make sense of the experience. We may decide I wasn’t wanted, I m unlovable, I m not worthy,I m bad and so on. Most of our formative decisions are made when we are children. As children we tend to take on the responsibility for the things that happen as our fault. For example, When a father dies a young child may conclude that “daddy left because I was bad”. Many of these conclusions do not serve us later in our lives.
During a breathe these conclusions become consciously recognised. Once recognised we now have the choice to reconsider the decision with an adults fuller understanding of the situation. For example, one man realised that it was not his fault that his mother was so angry. She was overwhelmed without a husband, after his father’s death. He also understood why he feared other women’s anger. Now as an adult he did not have to fear their anger anymore.
Towards the end of a session there is usually a profound experience of peace and relaxation. The breath is relaxed, gentle and flowing freely. This phase allows the experience to be integrated. Each Breathwork session is different. The outline I have presented is only a broad guide to give you a general idea of what happens in a session. Most people experience a sense of relief after a session and this may be accompanied by elation or peacefulness.
Breathwork is based on the principle: The Healing is in the Feeling. This means that until we feel our emotions we heal. We like to say you can run, but you can not get away!. Most of us spend a lot of time and energy fighting or avoiding feeling our feelings. Carl Jung said ʻ all addictions are substitutes for genuine feelings. True freedom and empowerment come when we learn to sit with our feelings and allow them to pass through us.
The goal in Breathwork is not to encourage people to become irresponsibly out of control with their emotions. Instead Breathwork gives us a safe and supportive place where we can clear old emotional baggage so that it does not come out in the wrong way at the wrong time, to the wrong person. It is an opportunity to reconnect with our feelings and gain skills for managing our emotions more effectively.
Apart from the breath, the primary tool of a Breathworker is an attitude of love and truth. Breathwork honours the unique, subjective experience of each individual. Changes are made largely through the discovery, recognition and validation of what is, rather than through some fix it mentality. In this way the Breathworker and the client come into a relationship that is mutually honouring, respectful and empowering.
Breathwork in the Quantum Age comes with a highly sophisticated level of awareness of emotional and metaphysical understandings and Conscious Awareness. This level of backup skill was not available when Breathwork was first made popular in the 1970’s. I have found the work of Louise Hay and John Bradshaw particularly useful for integrating the shifts made during a session.
What outcomes can you expect from Breathwork?
1. An expanded experience of love.
2. Enriched the experience of being alive.
3. More peace and less stress.
4. Empowerment to create the kind of life we want.
5. Enhanced physical well-being.
6. Loving relationships.
7. Connection with your true, infinite nature.
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