The Transforming Power of the Breath

Why breathe?

Breathing is key to human survival; we can live only a few minutes without it. It is also the core of Breathwork, sometimes known as Breath Therapy or Rebirthing, a natural and very powerful self-healing process that can offer a wide range of benefits:

Ultimately, all therapy is about helping people to heal themselves in order to release their true essence; to enable them to live a life governed by love rather than by fear. Of the very many different therapeutic approaches, our experience suggests that Breathwork is possibly the most powerful. It draws on the body’s amazing ability to self-heal, it works at all levels from physical to spiritual, and can make a real difference in a relatively short timeframe. After many years of conscious journeying, both of us have found our most powerful transformation and healing through working with the breath.

A brief history

The power of working with the breath has been known for at least 2000 years. It was rediscovered in the 1960s by Leonard Orr in California, who found that breathing supported conscious development at least as well as the drugs that many around him were using at the time! He called it Rebirthing because reliving the experience of birth and healing birth trauma was a particular focus of the early breathwork pioneers. Many of the deep beliefs and fears that each of us carries can be traced back to what happened to us during our birth and how, as babies, we interpreted the experience. However, the term Breathwork acknowledges that the power of the approach goes much further than just rebirthing.

The Human Condition

To get a sense of how Breathwork is effective, we must understand that our emotional experiences since conception are programmed into our bodies (sometimes referred to as ´┐Żbody memory’), not just in our heads. While we may be aware of this in more extreme examples as, for instance, the person with a heavy emotional burden who walks as if carrying a physical one, it is not always realised that the same link between the emotion and the physical exists in our bodies for all our emotional experiences. Softening the rigidities in body tissue is an essential part of emotional healing.

The rigidities themselves come from our experiences, particularly those early in life - pre-birth, the birth experience itself, and our experiences during childhood within the family, at school, and wherever. Indeed, it is often said, "When we are young, our experiences shape our attitudes; when we are older, our attitudes shape our experiences." These attitudes and the conscious and unconscious thoughts driven by them are creative; we are individually responsible for creating the world as we experience it. So, if we want to experience life differently, we need to reshape these attitudes, beliefs and fears. Breathwork offers this opportunity.

The Breathwork Session

Self-healing with support is the basis of Breathwork. It is, on the face of it, a simple therapy. Following a dialogue with the Breathworker, the breather typically lies on a mattress on the floor, fully but loosely clothed, and is invited to do deep conscious, connected, rhythmic energy breathing. This is a straightforward technique which has three main requirements:

The Breathworker helps the breather to find a natural rhythm. After 10-20 minutes, the breather typically falls into an altered state and the body becomes activated and starts to breathe itself - there is normally a noticeable change in the rhythm. During this activation phase, any number of different things may surface in all sorts of different ways - physical feelings, emotions, previously unconscious thoughts and understanding, spiritual experiences, etc. - or the breather may just experience calmness, relaxation and well-being. During the whole session, the Breathworker is holding a supportive and safe spiritual environment, being always present beside the breather, maintaining his/her own centredness, playing appropriate music, offering relevant affirmations, responding to the breather’s needs and requests, and keeping a strong energetic connection to hold the trust of the breather.

Every breath experience is individual and unique. The body brings to consciousness exactly what it needs to as part of its own healing. By surfacing body memory of a particular experience, the breather has an opportunity to reinterpret the experience and reprogram the deep beliefs that are limiting his/her life. Although, for many, the healing takes place without any conscious awareness. After a while, the breather naturally relaxes into an integration phase and lies quietly, possibly even sleeping, for at least 20 minutes to allow the body to integrate the energies released during the activation phase.

Using Bodywork with the Breath

During the Breathe, we may use some bodywork to assist the client in releasing areas where energy and emotional patterns are held. The approach we use is similar to Body-Harmony. We will lightly place one or two hands in certain areas and wait for the body to respond to our touch. When the tissue starts to soften, we move with it to offer continuing support, thus further releasing the breather from old structure. We are always moving with the breather’s body; there is no manipulation.

Breathwork and Bodywork both focus on freeing the body to heal itself and dissolve its structure. Our experience suggests that they are extremely powerfully when used in tandem. When working with a client, in any given session we may do Breathwork, or Bodywork, or a Breathwork session supported by Bodywork. We work in the moment, using our intuition as a guide and with the agreement of the breather.

Healing and Transformation

The effects of a breathwork session last long after the session itself and a client can feel deep internal changes days and even weeks after a session. Breathwork goes very deep and gets beneath the brain’s defence mechanism which often hampers more conventional dialogue-based therapy. Not only can it help surface and heal any experiences from this life, but many believe that it can help with traumas from past lives; clients often talk of past life experiences that have surfaced during their breath sessions. This dissolving of old structure begins to create more flow within the system and allows the breather to experience a more conscious way of being in the world. People who have worked with the breath are generally more spiritually connected to themselves and to the world.

Next Steps

The general consensus is that 10 sessions are needed for an individual to experience fully the transformational power of the breath. However, it is important to be sure that the therapy and the therapist really feel right for you and most Breathworkers will be very happy for you do a session before deciding whether or not you wish to do a full course. A typical breathwork session takes between 2 and 3 hours.

If you feel that you might be interested in exploring this further, you may like to contact us on Gower, near Swansea - 01792-386626 - or find another practitioner on the British Rebirth Society’s website.

by By Barry Seward-Thompson and Glynis Judge
(First printed in Aura, February/March 2008)


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