What is breathwork?
Breathwork is a general term used to describe therapy that utilizes breathing exercises to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health. Many forms of breathwork therapy exist today. Each has its unique methods of using breath for healing purposes. Many current practices, like Healing Air, draw from an ancient Pranayama tradition while incorporating modern techniques. The techniques are relatively simple, but the results are often profound.
Healing Air employs a powerful, active breath done laying on your back. A 3-part breath (inhale/inhale/exhale) enables you to access a non-ordinary state of consciousness by turning down the brain’s executive and higher cognitive functions (transient hypofrontality – similar to an extreme ‘runner’s high’). With the executive portion of the brain turned down, the older, limbic brain is activated. This gives rise to creative insights, breakthroughs, and transformation. People often cite their first session as one of the most powerful singular experiences of their lives and go forth from the session with applicable real-life to-dos.
Our breath is the easiest part of our autonomic nervous system to manipulate consciously. As such, Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.» The breath is an accessible tool if you want to feel great in mind/body/spirit. Healing Air participants often report:
• Newfound meaning and purpose
• Improved relationships
• Increased access to creativity
• Bliss, awe, and transcendence
• Deep relaxation and peace
• Specific, actionable life insights.
What are some of the benefits?
Did you know that 70 percent of the toxins inside our bodies are removed through our lungs? Manipulating our breath consciously through Breathwork may bring benefits to a wide range of issues, including:
• Addiction recovery
• Chronic pain relief
• Relieving deep trauma and grief
• Countering depression
• Squashing negative inner voices
• Clearing toxins at the cellular level.
Is it safe?
Breathwork is generally a very safe practice with very few adverse reactions. Your breath, after all, is the source of your life. Generally, the stress on the body during breathwork is similar to active exercise.
However, some contraindications to be aware of include pregnancy, heart conditions, aneurysms, epilepsy, glaucoma, detached retina, psychiatric disorders, PTSD, parasomnia, and recent surgery. If you’re unsure if you are fit to participate in breathwork, please consult your medical professional before you do.
How do I prepare for a session?
Wear comfy clothes, bring a yoga mat and blanket (if you like – some people get chilly), drink some water, and avoid eating an hour or two beforehand. Other than that, bring an adventurous spirit, and you’re clear for takeoff.
What can I expect?
Hard to say. Everyone’s experience is different, and you may have different experiences from session to session. The best way to know is to dive right in – it’s always the perfect time to start. (There’s never been any other time, but now, has there?)
What’s going on with my hands?!
A healthy percentage of people who try breathwork get something called Tetany. These are cramps, convulsions, or tightness in parts of the body (often the hands or feet, or lips) that may be uncomfortable to experience. The medical explanation of this is that the intensity of our breathing causes it — as we expel CO2 and other gasses, the body becomes more alkaline, creating this effect.
An additional explanation would suggest that the body inherently knows how to release inner tension or places we are energetically ‘stuck.’ To efficiently release, it first maximizes or pools this tension. Dr. Stanislav Grof writes that «…it represents a unique opportunity for healing. What emerges under these circumstances is unconscious material with a strong emotional charge that is most ready for processing.»
The important thing to know about tetany is that it is temporary and always away. Big releases and enhanced relaxation often accompany it. Making friends with tetany by breathing through it and allowing these sensations may be a highly beneficial part of your breathwork experience. That said, your body knows best. If at any time the sensations are just too uncomfortable, you can breathe through your nose, and the tension will dissipate in a few minutes.