Introduction to Breathwork
Breathwork is a holistic modality for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being that is useful in the realm of self-regulation, self-healing, and self-realization.
Breathwork for Self-regulation
Self-regulation refers to the capacity for an individual to regulate their nervous system (NS). The NS comprises the brain, spinal cord and the associated neurons that run like mushroom mycelia throughout the body. The NS transmits signals between the brain and all the cells of the body. In this way, the nervous system’s activity controls the ability to move, breathe, see, think, and feel. The NS has two primary branches known as the sympathetic and parasympathetic, respectively. The two branches of the NS are the yin and yang of the body. The sympathetic being yang, associated with activity, using energy, and when this system is engaged the bodymind prepares itself for action by speeding up the heart rate and breathing, bringing blood away from organs to the skeletal muscles, and dilating pupils among others. Whereas the parasympathetic NS is related to resting, digesting, and relaxing and some its principle actions are to increase intestinal peristalsis, relax the system, and increase immune function.
A regulated or balanced nervous system is one that can dynamically move between sympathetic and parasympathetic at the appropriate times. If however, an individual is experiencing chronic stress, over-activity or under-activity, taking too many stimulants, is experiencing negative emotions or trauma symptoms, etc then they may exhibit nervous system dysregulation. A dysregulated NS is unable to adjust itself appropriately to maintain the optimal balance of body, emotion, and mind.
The relationship between your breathing and your NS is direct. Meaning that your breathing rate and quality directly reflect your current state of nervous system regulation, which is also a reflection of your body, emotion, and mind. The art and science of breathwork for self-regulation lies in that we can conscious choose to change our breathing and directly affect our nervous system which creates system wide benefits across the body, emotion, and mind. When an individual learns to appropriately choose breathing patterns that suit their current circumstance, they have the ability to stimulate their NS when needed for activity, to rest when necessary, and to become resilient to stress. NS regulation offers you a way to become resilient to stress of all kinds (physical, mental, emotional, chemical, electromagnetic, etc) and through the process it empowers you by resourcing you with inner tools that no one can take from you, that don’t cost a thing, and the more you use them the for more effective they become and the more intelligent you become.
Breathwork for Self-Healing
Through breathwork’s capacity to help us maintain regulation of our nervous system we can optimize the body and mind in many ways, one of which is the capacity to heal. Because breathwork is a holistic modality it recognizes that healing comes from wholeness. To become whole it is important to understand ourselves at the level of our body, emotion, mind, and spirit. First I’ll share some of the benefits across the various dimensions of Self, and we can explore the mechanism after.
– Increased immunity
– Improved respiratory function and increase in lung capacity
– Blood pressure balancing
– Reduction in stress hormones
– Release of negative emotions
– Release of trauma or easing of trauma symptoms
– Accessing elevated states
– Enhances creativity
– Increased contentment
– Mental clarity
– Big picture view of life
– Reduced addictive and repetitive thoughts/behaviours
– Increase in optimistic outlook
– Mental focus
– Greater connection to SELF
– Connection with purpose
– Deepening of relationships and their meaning
To name a few…
So then, by regulating our nervous system we can bring the body into deep states of parasympathetic activity where it can rest, digest, relax and repair itself mentally, emotionally, physically. Breathwork helps to bolster natural immunity and strengthens the body’s natural healing responses creating long term resilience and strength and no dependence. Further, the breath is the chief way energy comes into the body, and that toxins are removed.
The life giving, balancing, and healing properties of oxygen are well-studied. Improper breathing patterns prevent the oxygen from going into the cells. Most people have chronic over-breathing patterns which over-stimulates the NS preventing rest, digest, repair, and relaxation. For example, most people breath around 15-20 breaths a minute, which is in the realm of over-breathing and running the system inefficiently. With regular practice I help individual bring their breathing down to 5-10 breaths a minutes which is efficient and more effective for eliciting self-healing responses.
Breathing rate is one of the best predictors of longevity.
Breathing and Self-realization
The above content is grounded in a wealth of science and verification. As we move into the territory of speaking about self-realization we move from objective to subjective. It Is important for me to discuss the bridge between the outer and the inner because it is the nature of breathwork. Our breath is the bridge between outer and inner, and breathing helps us to move from the conscious mind into the subconscious. The breath and nervous system is the bridge between energy and matter. And in speaking about the realm of things beyond the objective dimensions of things we can weigh and measure it is important to note that this is the subjective or personal domain. The language I use here is important as we all experience our inner reality, emotions, experiences, and our understandings of life, death, god, and other metaphysical things. But, I feel it necessary to speak to the metaphysical because it is part of breathwork, and perhaps the most important part.
Let me start here, how does breathing bolster multi-dimensional benefits? Because it connects you back to your True Nature. Our original nature is healthy, not plagued with negative emotion, limiting beliefs, trauma, and a sense of disconnection from SELF. Health, in the holistic perspective is the result of when we disentangle all the layers of negative emotion and trauma, limiting beliefs, and other pieces that disconnect us from love, from others, and from purpose and living in harmony with the planet. Breathing can be thought of metaphorically and literally as the process of your spirit coming into body. A disconnection from our breath is then a metaphor for a disconnection with the soul and the one spirit we all share in.
Our breath is our most fundamental relationship with life. How you breath is how you live, feel, and think. Your breathing pattern is then speaking the language of your spirit, and within the intelligence of the breath and how you breath, such as your breathing rate, and where you breath into or don’t breath into among other qualities indicates where you are open to receive and where you are blocked off. When I say receive I am referring to receiving life-force energy. Receiving the breath in the body enables us to feel. Blockages of the breath indicates blocks/resistance in the body, mind, and emotion. Mental blockages form from limiting beliefs we have that disconnect us from our True Nature and the Truth, emotional blockages are stored negative emotion or trauma, and physical blocks are the end result of prolonged mental-emotional blocks or physical injury.
the resistance and blockages of breathing are written in the legacy of the breath which is the story of our lives and where we have disconnected from our True Nature and Truth. The process of breathwork is then one of returning to our source and disentangling our attachment to negative emotions, past hurts, injuries, self-abandonment, addictions, limiting beliefs and stories, among other things we have been carrying. By letting go of these energies we have acquired we may then return to the limitless potential of our True Nature to write new stories, beliefs, heal diseases, and the sky is the limit to what is possible when we co-create with the universe.
Breathwork then, is not simply the missing pillar of health, though it will be a revolutionizing force in medicine. Breathwork is the key to self-mastery; to know thyself.
How to best prepare for your first session:
Though I have just built breathwork up to be a revolutionary art and science, it is also important to know that each breathwork session is different and is exactly what you need in your present moment to move you forward in your evolutionary journey. In life and in breathwork you get what you put in. Your readiness and willingness to open to life, to see yourself, to know and feel what is real creates the conditions for alchemy. That being said, you don’t necessarily have to prepare for weeks for a breathwork session, or necessarily have any long rituals that may prevent you from taking part of breathwork. Yes, preparing for ceremony is good, but we are always breathing, and we are always in ceremony.
Some helpful tips:
– Eat light the day of breathwork (2-4 hours or more before session or fasted)
– Drink plenty of good clean water before so your cells are hydrated
– Movement before a session will often enhance your experience (yoga, qigong, walking, working out, etc)
– Reflecting on your intentions and current evolutionary challenges and areas for growth help (for example, what are you letting go of, and what are you inviting in)
What is the session like?
For most beginners I start them off with 1-hour of conscious connected breathwork done in a supine (lying down position). The practice can eventually evolve into other positions and styles of breathing, but a gentle conscious connected rhythm is a safe and effective way for individuals to get an understanding of the potential of breathing.
The conscious connected breathing rhythm I start individuals off involves:
– Continuous breathing wherein inhale meets exhale without pause
– Breathing in and out of the mouth
– Inhales are full and create dynamic expansion throughout the body utilizing the major diaphragms
– Exhales exhibit a relaxed quality or letting go without effort or force
This rhythm harmonizes both branches of the NS and is gentle yet powerful.
The session involves intuitive bodywork, energy work, guidance, coaching, and post-integration discussion of breathing session, patterns of breathing, and an offering of prescription breath patterns you can take home for continued work.
Because of the powerful nature of this modality it is important to assure there is good connection and safety in the therapeutic relationship of breather and facilitator.
After your session
Because sessions can be life-changing and transformative or gentle and relaxing, there is a wide variation on how you will feel after your session. It is always good to have some space after the session for further integration and the downloading of further insight into what came up. Though, you and your NS has an intelligence and it typically won’t bring up a large piece of unprocessed emotion if you plan on going to work right after.
You can enhance your integration by:
– Working with other somatic mindbody arts such as yoga, mindfulness, walking, qigong, dance, etc
– Journalling about your experience and your life processes
– Talking about your experiencing with friends or scheduling a follow up call
– Nourishing your body, emotion, and mind with good water, food, company, and information that supports your process
– Working interdisciplinary with other health providers
If you have any questions regarding your session, please don’t hesitate to message. The more comfortable, safe, and knowledgeable of the process you are can help the breathwork session. If you’d like further resources such as podcasts, youtube, and other information you can find my links below.
I look forward to our session.
All my relations.