What is Breathwork?

Breathwork is a term used to describe any kind of therapy that uses breathing exercises to improve our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The practice of breathing in particular patterns can be a powerful approach to self-discovery, exploration and healing that have their basis in Eastern Spiritual practices like Yoga, Buddhism and Tai Chi. When used in specific ways this breathing allows us to release and resolve emotions, negative beliefs, memories and stresses that are often inaccessible through traditional talk-therapy. Breathwork practiced in the West also incorporates psychotherapy techniques that aid us in bringing about self-awareness.

For centuries now, people have been seeking a spiritual awakening, self-healing and a deeper meaning to life. Through the breath this can be easily achieved, giving us a higher state of awareness. It is through particular breathing patterns that we are able to activate the right and left hemispheres of our brain, opening up the barrier of communication between these two halves.

The History of Breathwork

The breathwork we know and practice today got its start during the consciousness-raising era of the 1960 and 70s. From this era came Holotropic Breathwork, which focused on altered states of consciousness and psychedelic effects, which was established by Dr. Stan Grof and his wife, Christina Grof, who researched the effects of psychedelic drugs, like LSD on consciousness.

Rebirthing breathwork, another form of breathing also developed in this era, was formed by Leonard Orr and was developed over a number of years. Through his technique, students are able to unravel the birth-death cycle and incorporate the body and mind into the conscious Life of the Eternal Spirit – or to become a conscious expression of the Eternal Spirit. This technique involves healing the “eight biggies” of human trauma, including birth, parental disapproval, the unconscious death urge, karma from past lives, religion, school, senility and other negative traumatic experiences that we may go through in life.

Since the 70’s, the field of breathwork continues to grow, with many different models and certified programs to those who are inclined to learn more about the importance of the breath. Like other methods of healing, there is always more than one way, and there are many different ways to learn to breathe, that offer their own unique outcome for healing.

The Breathwork Process

The goal of any breathwork therapy is to support you in achieving a greater sense of self-awareness, to give you an increased capacity for self-healing, and to give you an overall improvement in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Breathwork therapy is believed to benefit to those who are experiencing issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger Issues
  • Depression
  • Chronic Pain
  • Trauma and posttraumatic stress
  • Grief and Loss
  • Emotional effects of physical illness

All forms of breathwork therapy focus on the act of breathing in and out, with each model incorporating its own breathwork exercises. In general, breathwork exercises involve deep, focused breathing that can last for an extended period of time. Some examples include:

  • Continuous circular breathing: Using full deep breaths, the participants breathe in and out continuously without holding their breath at any point. This continuous in and out creates a circle of breath.
  • Immersion in water: The participant is partially or fully immersed in water and asked to breathe deeply, either above the surface or with the aid of a snorkel. Although not as prevalent as it was in the 1970s, this Rebirthing technique has historically produced dramatic results.
  • 20 connected breaths: The participant is asked to breathe in and out 20 times: four sets of four short breaths and one deep breath. It is suggested that the breathing is done through the nose. Participants may experience “non-ordinary” states of consciousness as a result of this exercise.



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