What is Breathwork?

“Breathwork” may refer to any number of intentional breath practices. These include mindful breathing and yoga breathing practices. Commonly however, “Breathwork” refers to a specific therapeutic practice of “Connected Breathwork”.


What is Connected Breathwork?

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Connected Breathwork is a circular breath technique. Inhalations are focused into the upper chest followed with a passive exhale. Maintained for upwards of an hour, CB brings on hyperventilation-like physical conditions and non-ordinary states of consciousness.

Done in a one-to-one therapeutic setting over 2 hours, the states of consciousness entered can allow for profound healing of trauma and stuck emotions. People who seek Connected Breathwork may be looking for healing of anxiety, depression, anger, stress or addictions, or to improve sleep and breathing issues. Some come to Connected Breathwork to explore their spiritual dimension.

The spectrum of experiences range from physical sensations of pain or pleasure, release of body blockages through heat or energy movement, to release of emotions (sadness, anger, etc.) There may be realisations of dysfunctional thought patterns or new thought connections and insights, and deeply spiritual or energetic experiences. You may experience expanded consciousness, overwhelming feelings of peace and joy and even mystical revelation. Time is then given for integration and discussion of your experience. Experiences may vary every time.

The theory behind this work is that throughout our lives when we supress difficult feelings, we also alter our breathing, tending to hold air in after inhalation. This automatic, dissociative knot of emotions and breath alteration build up to become a lifetime of background fears, sadness and anger. Connected Breathwork Therapy is a rapid means by which these knots can become liberated and cleared from the system forever.

A cycle of breathwork consists of ten sessions which also includes personal coaching into how your birth, early experiences as a child and events in your life shape your thought patterns. Connected Breathwork supports the clearing away of old patterns and conditioning, negative thoughts and emotions. It opens the doors wide for new life and greater consciousness. Those who commit themselves to a course of Connected Breathwork and mentoring have been almost universally grateful and permanently changed.


Is Breathwork Dangerous?

Breathwork rapidly but temporarily reduces CO2 and oxygen delivery to the tissues and brain. Blood alkalinity increases and calcium decreases. Sensory and motor neurons begin to fire more rapidly, which can feel like tingling sensations and cramping. Cramping, or “tetany” may be an indication of low magnesium in the body, or psycho-somatic factors.

It is similar to a state of hyperventilation. These temporary alterations of the body chemistry are not harmful to the body, although it can initially feel intense. Check with your doctor if you have non-medicated high blood pressure or have been diagnosed with psychosis. If so, breathwork can still be practiced but more gently and slowly, emphasizing awareness.

Leonard Orr the founder of Rebirthing Breathwork used to say, “Rebirthing is safer than going to kindergarden”. Breathwork always brings benefits which are much more than the sum of its parts.


Breathwork Benefits
(why you need it)

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In a nutshell, breathwork can bring about improvements in health, emotional wellbeing and appearance. Physical benefits include enhanced immune function, lowered stress and blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health, including improved heart rate variability (hRV).

Mental and emotional benefits of breathwork begin with an unburdening of background tension, anxiety, grief, or depression and can aid in the release of trauma and PTSD. It will help you to heal emotional pain and process emotions. It takes you to a better place and increases clarity, joy and happiness. Simply put, when you improve your breathing and add more energy and consciousness to your life, things get better!


Types of Breathwork Approaches

All schools of Connected Breathwork use a variation on the same technique of ‘Conscious, Connected Breath’. This technique was first discovered or rediscovered in 1960 by Leonard Orr, an American who went on to found the school of ‘Rebirthing’.

Through his spontaneous experience of breathing in this way, Orr experienced spontaneous regressions to his own birth memories. He came to understand that unprocessed, or repressed emotions condition us to react to events in patterned ways and have a physical impact on the body. Rebirthing integrates Conscious Connected Breathwork with psychological mentoring to reflect on our life story and offer affirmations that can change how we talk to ourselves.

Rebirthing is typically done in a quiet and supportive one-to-one setting. Sessions take approximately two hours where the breath is coached but not forced. Other methods of Connected Breathwork may use physical manipulation of the body such as Transformational Breath, while others use loud music and creation of art as part of the process such as Holotropic Breathwork.


How to do Breathwork?

Connected Breathwork typically starts laying on your back. Perform full inhalations into the upper chest, and then immediately let go of the breath with a passive exhalation. Do not hold or pause your breath. Keep the same channel of breath; either through the mouth or nose.

This is maintained for as much as 45-60 minutes striving to remain aware and continuously breathing.

The key words for Connected Breathwork are:

Conscious:
Remaining aware of the breath and whatever thoughts, emotions or sensations arise through the process. It may be difficult but try to remain aware.

Connected:
Using a circular pattern for your breath. That is, as soon as you finish inhaling, you exhale. Before you get to the bottom of the exhalation, you connect right back up to the full inhalation again. Like a circle. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. No pauses. Focus your inhalations into the upper chest.

Continuous:
At some point, typically about 20 minutes in, you will begin to feel as if you are being breathed. The breath will its own effortless rhythm. Until that point however, one must endeavor to be continuously breathing without pause.

To the extent that you maintain Conscious, Connected and Continuous breathing, energy will begin to build until you enter into a non-ordinary state of consciousness and following that, usually about 45 to 60 minutes in, there will be a peak of the experience.

Following this peak there comes an integration phase of 15-30 minutes.

Often it can be difficult to remain conscious and maintain the technique without outside support. Additionally, connected breathwork can bring up emotional experiences which you will want or need assistance to help integrate. For these reasons, I recommend that you have guidance and support from a trained and experienced breath mentor.


References

Holotropic breathwork: An experiential approach to psychotherapy - shows how breathwork and therapy signicantly reduced death anxiety and increased self-esteem:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232555956_Holotropic_breathwork_An_experiential_approach_to_psychotherapy

Measure of Significance of Holotropic Breathwork in the Development of Self-Awareness:
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2014.0297

Results of 11,000 people over 12 years who participated in holotropic breathwork. Results show that breathwork can be used to treat a wide range of psychological and existential life issues. Significant benefits in emotional catharsis and internal spiritual exploration reported with no adverse reactions:

http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v23n1/v23n1_24-27.pdf

Holotropic Breathwork in the development of self-awareness, positive changes in temperament and development of character

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2014.0297

The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

Benefits of brief intermittent hypoxia:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3361916/

Intermittent hypoxia training protects cerebrovascular function in Alzheimer's disease:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27190276