Everything breathes: breathing is the inspiration of Life within all living forms of reality. All matter is in a continual state of particle exchange. In humans, breathing is the biological basis and spiritual expression that renews life, propels awareness and focuses body-mind functioning in time and space.
Therapeutic Breathwork is the intentional application of conscious, connected breathing one-on-one or in a group setting, guided by a skilled practitioner and the Spirit of Breath, and held within the sacred container of a therapeutic relationship and community.
” The Spirit of Breath in this case refers to the multi-dimensional collective intelligence that naturally seeks harmony, balance and fulfillment, and seems to surround and guide the act of conscious breathing. Working purposefully with the Spirit of Breath for the upliftment of others inspires the arena of human relationship to a heightened level of spiritual connection and empowerment. Consciously activating the human respiratory system in concert with this intelligence seems to also support the rapid establishment of safety within the client-therapist relationship, as well as promote a heightened potential for improved self-awareness, personal transformation and the integration of trauma.
” Therapeutic Breathwork engages all aspects of body, mind and spirit in its approach to empowerment and healing. The three primary areas of benefit are:
1. Body-mind therapy
2. Personal Development 3. Spiritual Empowerment
” Each one of these areas of focus may be engaged within the full scope of a Therapeutic Breathwork session, and therefore requires a unique combination of skills on the part of the therapist. Therapeutic attention may involve cognitive agility, intention and coaching skills, understanding of trauma, body-mind awareness and even energetic and transcendent sensitivity. Regardless of this diversity, however, what makes Therapeutic Breathwork uniquely powerful and confirming is its utilization of a self- regulating, biological mechanism that is uniquely fashioned for balancing stressed nerves: the human respiratory system.
” On its own, the act of respiration naturally energizes, cleanses, purifies, uplifts and reconnects the human organism to a state of maximum balance as well as higher states of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. A few full, relaxed exhales naturally engages the bodyʼs parasympathetic nervous system. Combining these inherent capabilities with conscious choice accelerates the healing effect by activating awareness and supporting the desire to grow and improve oneself. Therapeutic Breathwork not only enhances these qualities with conscious intent, but also seeks to engage the intelligence within the breath itself in order to escort or guide the process of self-discovery, emotional freedom and spiritual transformation.
The first step in this practice is in reminding the body how to breathe an “open, healthy breath”, i.e. the natural, relaxed and uninhibited breath most of us began with as infants. Then, by “picking up the inhale”, i.e. by starting the next breath a little sooner and closing the natural pause or gap, then letting the exhale just flow out, unencumbered and free, the connected or circular breath is established.
This type of breathing initiates an increase in body awareness that often leads to whatever physical, emotional and/or mental patterns are currently preventing a full and easy life and a full and easy breath. How a person breathes reflects how a person lives and responds to their life, and the reclamation of this open, relaxed breathing is crucial to recovering from the long-term effects of stress-related living as well as the specific effects of dis-ease, imbalance and trauma.
So, the first component of Therapeutic Breathwork is body-mind therapy. According to current thinking and research, the way the body functions is directly affected by our emotional and mental states. Breathwork as a body-mind therapy immediately addresses the needed changes to go from restricted breathing to open breathing, from physical dis-ease to ease, from personal dysfunction to full, healthy function of a human being Similar to its physical role, respiration also sponsors a means to emotionally clarify, purify and integrate subconscious imbalances (also called suppressions) as a way of releasing tension and creating higher states of performance.
Breathwork as therapy engages a client’s past in a way that is relevant to their evolution for two fundamental reasons:
1. During the breathing portion of the session what needs to be addressed most tends to show up first.
2. The clients are actively involved and must initiate the conscious breathing process for themselves.
Therapeutic Breathwork is empowering. It embraces the idea that the client is in charge of his or her session, and at the body-mind level knows what is needed to assist them on their path of healing and transformation. Even though a variety of styles of breathwork interventions may be used according to a variety of methodologies, the principal focus of the body-mind therapy should be to get in direct alignment with the clientʼs presenting issues.
Finally, assisting a client to find an open, healthy breath begins to address how, when and where they had to contract and protect themselves (and shut down their breath) through the various physical, emotional and mental traumas of their life. A clientʼs story is indelibly ingrained in their bodies, but with the energetic activation of the breath in the body, suppressions begin to soften and a healing process is initiated that both spirit and matter seem to support. Therapeutic Breathwork utilizes a unique combination of innate body-mind intelligence and client-centered empowerment, and over a series of sessions leads to feelings of peace, safety and a greater sense of well- being.
As a tool for personal development, the dialogue portion of a Therapeutic Breathwork session aims to coach an individual towards new and healthier levels of self-awareness, intentional living and creative expression. The empowering aspect of this part of the work helps a client to explore new levels of personal growth, better communication in their relationships, as well as prepares them for energetic bodywork. The client is guided through a variety of techniques and tools that seek to engage and direct their life, creatively and with a sense of meaning and purpose.
This aspect of client support and exploration is considered equally important, and is founded upon the formation of a safe and caring therapeutic relationship. It may involve such methods as cognitive inquiry, voice dialogue, behavioral goals and practice assignments, life skills, group work, accountability and outside referrals, depending upon the skill level of the breathworker. In addition, addressing and affirming a clientʼs intention mentally prepares him or her for deep internal shifts of perspective and somatic experience.
Integral to a successful client outcome may be the need to work in concert with other health practitioners, therapists, couple mediators, and addiction and spiritual counselors, not only for the client, but also for the practitioner in terms of supervision. Breathwork is not meant to replace traditional therapy per se, but provide a very powerful complement to a clientʼs in-depth healing process. Also, because of the current cultural and professional sensitivity of doing bodywork that involves touch, a Therapeutic Breathworker must be clearly and fully trained and certified in all aspects of ethics and professionalism.
During the time a client is being guided through a series of breathwork sessions, core beliefs as well as core body-mind suppressions are being dynamically re-examined for re-evaluation, release and integration. Conscious intention and goal setting are actively engaged so the client can take more responsibility in his or her life. This type of restorative and intentional collaboration is essential, and the therapeutic breathworkerʼs relationship with the client is most often based upon the willingness to utilize a mutually supportive set of guidelines and agreements that encourage full participation and exploration.
As stated, self-responsibility is essential in this aspect of the empowerment process, not only for the client, but also for the professional breathworker as well. Because this method of therapy can sometimes involve a close, mutually reflective relationship, the more traditional lines of professional distance may be less clear, requiring the highest degree of self-awareness on the part of the practitioner. It is therefore equally essential for this type of healing relationship to utilize (and if need be, introduce) a perspective that transcends and perhaps moderates the normal pitfalls of therapeutic transference and counter-transference, through the engagement of a spiritual quality and dimension.
Lastly, therefore, Therapeutic Breathwork willingly endorses an individualʼs journey towards spiritual empowerment as an integral part of the healing and self-discovery process. Some research has shown that a natural byproduct of connected breathing is the stimulation of the longer brainwave patterns (long wave Alpha, Theta and even Delta) normally found during various stages of sleep, transcendent or meditative states of consciousness. As the inner intelligence of the clientʼs own body, heart, mind and soul are encouraged to lead a session, the Therapeutic Breathwork practitioner must also be able to attune to and carefully negotiate the activation of energetic and transcendent patterns, as well as the possible presence of what has been called “non- ordinary states of reality”.
Frequently during a session, a client will appear to temporarily transcend the normal flow of time-space and experience states or dimensions of deep integration and/or ecstatic reunion with something larger than themselves. The Therapeutic Breathwork practitioner not only anticipates these transcendent states, but must also be able to “midwife” the client in such a way as to encourage assimilation of these experiences into their understanding, and eventually into their daily lives. Because of this, attending to the spiritual aspects of breathwork necessitates an additional facility on the part of the breathwork practitioner that goes beyond normal therapeutic interaction and intervention.
The spiritually transcendent part of this process seems to be an integral part of breathwork, even if it is not emphasized or even consciously recognized or engaged. It may confound some traditional methodologies (and practitioners!), but points in the end to the fact that every clientʼs inner spiritual experience is uniquely their own. A skilled practitioner must have suitable training to be available to and maintain a presence of understanding with a clientʼs spiritual experience, even of they may not fully comprehend what has just happened.
Together, these three aspects of body-mind therapy, personal development and spiritual empowerment make up the core components of Therapeutic Breathwork, and help to identify it as a uniquely powerful and dynamic healing modality. With the current rise and support of professional and ethical standards of breathwork internationally,
Therapeutic Breathwork may soon be seen as the cutting edge to healing and personal empowerment as well as an equally effective adjunct to psychotherapy and spiritual disciplines.