Breathwork: The Next Biggest Trend in Wellness "Just Breathe..."
“Just Breathe.” Besides the title of a great Pearl Jam song, the tag “Just Breathe” is becoming a branded philosophy for the central truth of a well-lived life of BALANCE; similar to how “mindfulness” has become a brand for paying attention to metrospirituals.
A zillion of these images popped up on google when I typed it in, related to workshops, articles or books on the subject. And at some point, we have all been told to “just breathe.”
Although breathing may seem too simple or obvious to do anything for us, Breathwork (among other trends under the umbrella of Mental Wellness such as Bibliotherapy) has been cited as “the biggest future trend, period” by the 2017 Global Wellness Summit (for the other trends see 8 Wellness trends for 2017 and beyond). By Breathwork, I am referring to something far beyond mainstream relaxation techniques like “6 breathing exercises to relax in 10 minutes or less.” The reference point is therapeutic breathwork to access transformational healing, for which some of the many benefits includes opening up the flow of your breath to bring more energy; clearing negativity, repressed emotions, and trauma from the subconscious mind.
And although it may sound a little “Woo Woo” or New Age-ish, there is concrete medical evidence backing this powerful ancient healing art that the wellness industry has been passive in communicating, however, according to the trend report we will begin to see much more assertiveness in affirming these new paths to emotional and mental well-being.
What exactly is Breathwork, what can it do for you, and how should you approach it?
The text book definition of Breathwork is: "The art and science of using Breath Awareness and Conscious Breathing for healing and transformation in body, mind, and spirit" –Dan Brule, author of Just Breathe-Mastering Breathwork for Success in Life, Love, Business, and Beyond.
As for Breath Awareness- just pay attention next time you are on a difficult task at the computer. Your breathing might be shallow and tense, and over the long term can become an unconscious habit that deprives the body of oxygen. I had never even realized that I do this until I began to pay attention, and I frequently catch myself holding my breath (mystery solved on why I often feel so drained after a few hours of computer work).
Conscious Breathing means that you deliberately control your breathing in some way. It can be as simple as slow deep breathing, or a more complex sequence of controlled counts for the inhale and the exhale. Many are simple and effective to do on your own for variety of benefits, but to achieve profound transformation and deep catharsis, longer and more intense sessions of breathwork are key. This type of breathwork is often integrated with other healing modalities and meditation, so for clarity I’ll refer to it as therapeutic breathwork.
WHAT IS Therapeutic Breathwork?
Therapeutic Breathwork is essentially a form of active meditation, and there at least as many different practices or techniques as there are yoga poses. In sum, all are means to inactively (non-cardiovascular) get more oxygen into the system and release energy blockages. The specific and consciously controlled breathing pattern helps shut off the busy, day-to-day laundry list part of the mind, to access other parts of our brain such as (but not limited to) the subconscious. There is also big metaphysical side to it that is best experienced rather than described.
My personal experience with Breathwork
About three months ago, I stumbled upon breathwork by accident at a workshop called “Transformational Breath.” It was led by Christian Minson; Life-Balance Coach, Former Monk, and Founder of Breathflow Wellness. The setting was Rythmia Life Advancement Center (a unique, holistic, life transformational wellness resort located in Costa Rica) during my week long stay there in March.
The feedback from other guests was that it was a purifying, heart-opening, intuition-enhancing, and sometimes even psychedelic experience. I was at the resort for a turbo level mental and emotional detox, so I did not need much convincing. I did three 2 hour sessions during my stay, and it ended up being all of the above and MORE for me. Most importantly, it opened the door into a fascinating and diverse world of practices that will take years to thoroughly navigate.
Since Transformational Breath, I began working with two other practices- Shamanic Breathwork, and Sudarshan Kriya. My experience with them have been just as uplifting and fortifying as the first and I cannot contain my enthusiasm to share them all. Depending on the context, some may be more conducive than others for releasing toxins from the body, resolving emotional traumas, increasing creativity, or changing subconscious thought patterns. In any case, the most widely experienced and immediate benefit is anxiety reduction and mental clarity.
In my case, it has been the only effective tool to eliminate my chronic anxiety. A big factor, is that unlike other practices, it is practicable anywhere and simple to do on a daily basis. The other major factor is linked to the clearing of past traumas, emotional blockages, and subconscious fears.
Another advantage is that is it an ACTIVE form of meditation. While regular meditation is a practical solution for many people, I was never able to make it work for me. Focusing on breath counts or rhythms gives the mind something to do, making it much harder for mind chatter to disrupt the process.
If you are looking to start a journey with Breathwork there are few ways to start
Although I don’t think there is one “right” way to start, I do believe in an ideal introduction as a guided session with an experienced practitioner. Besides ensuring that you are doing it right (which a book, CD, or video cannot do) a facilitator brings their own energy to the process to support and maximize each individual experience. Much like a yoga class, these sessions are led by trained professionals whose goal is to help you experience presence, oneness, and healing.
At the end of the day, any technique to raise consciousness of the breath will have a positive impact. Like anything, transformation comes proportionally based on the effort and attitude you put into the process. At the very least, breathwork can get you out of your mind- particularly if it is an OVERACTIVE mind where other techniques like yoga or meditation have failed. The peace and clarity that comes when endless mind chatter is silenced and replaced with insights, ideas and creativity is very much worth the effort.
It really is as easy as breathing, and if you are ready to give it a try, see below a flash summary of each practice to see which one appeals to you.
The focus of the Transformational Breath technique is on maximizing the full potential of our breathing mechanism, utilizing full deep breaths originating in the lower abdomen and repeating the inhalation and exhalation without pausing for about 40 minutes. It integrates other healing modalities such as toning, body mapping, and somatic integration. The facilitator may adjust your position if necessary and do body mapping- a technique similar to acupressure where facilitators work with points on the body known to store specific emotions. Applying pressure to these points along with instructions to “breathe into” those areas, helps to release emotional blockages, which relieves the tension and allows the emotional energy to move and find a path to integration.
Christian Minson, the guest instructor at Rythmia who led the sessions is based out of San Diego, CA, but travels regularly. He offers in-person workshops, seminars and private sessions, in additional to webinars and 1-on-1 coaching and breath sessions through video applications. For more information on his schedule of events and on breath transformation in general visit www.breathflow.com. For details on his weeklong retreat in August visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1806077806378319/
The workshop I attended at the Sacred Space in Miami was called “The Art of Awakening: A Shamanic Journey into Ancient Mysticism.” It was a unique modern fusion of different disciplines led by the gifted musician, mystic and shaman- Omar Ahmadzai, also known as “The Urban Shaman”. Elements from ancient civilizations from around the world were brought together for an incredibly diverse cultural perspective. His practice of the shamanic flute and ayahuasca chants (icaros) adds additional dimensions to the already profound experience of a breathwork meditation. For information on the July 20 upcoming workshop at The Sacred Space please visit the event page on The Conscious City Guide. And for a beautiful preview from his latest album visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ajKj_vl8xY
In simple terms, Sudarshan Kriya puts together a series of rhythmic breathing techniques and pranayama exercises. Specifically, it involves Ujjayi (also known as victorious breath in Hatha Yoga practice) and bhastrika breathing (also known as the “breath of fire” in Kundalini Yoga practice). These techniques are available on youtube, or through specific yoga instructors. They are however, best taught through The Art of Living Foundation’s 3 day program “The Art of Happiness” which integrates other disciplines and practical wisdoms.
The Art of Living foundation has a wide spread network with centers available for monthly workshops in over 200 locations throughout the US, and countless cities worldwide. Assuming you do the introductory session in your home town, you also gain a community of support to maintain your practice including access to a weekly group session. For more information see: https://www.artofliving.org/us-en/happiness-program. There is an upcoming workshop at the Sacred space starting July 28th. Look for "The Happiness Program" on the Conscious City Guide
Thank you! If there is another practice you have had an amazing experience that you recommend or any interesting books on the subject please drop me a line in the comments.
8 Wellness Trends for 2017 and Beyond. 2017 Global Wellness Summit http://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/wp-content/uploads/Industry-Research/8WellnessTrends_2017.pdf