WHAT IS BREATHWORK?
Breathwork dates back to the ancient Hindu practice of yogic breathing known as Pranayama, meaning “breath control.” Modern breathwork, however, was developed in the mid-1960s and the primary principle of this technique is to find healing from within. When you read that the US government is paying for its most elite Navy Seals to be trained in breathwork to bring focus and calm before combat, one has to stop and take notice. Very often we are told to try meditation to reach this space of tranquility but I believe that learning these breathing techniques is a first step to being able to calm the mind for meditation. Breathing first teaches our brain to switch off its "fight or flight" response in our sympathetic nervous system and switch on the "rest and digest" in our parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to be less reactive and better able to cope with daily life. All forms of breathwork have one thing in common...they control the breath in order to bring transformation.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BREATHWORK?
Holotropic breathing is probably the most popular style but is practiced for longer than my method and at a much faster pace. Generally, there is a longer period of integration afterward which might include talking and drawing. While this is beautiful, most people don't have time to practice this on an on-going basis and so I prefer the 1hour+ of my method.
As the name might suggest, this is breathwork that involves drumming, tribal music, bodywork, art and other indigenous themes which do not feel authentic to me but is a style many prefer.
Is a trademarked form of breathwork that is essentially the same but includes toning, sounds, screams and banging of your hands and feet on the floor. There are times when I incorporate screams in my sessions as it is an amazing energy release but forcing that can feel uncomfortable so I prefer the less-is-more approach.
Wim Hof Method:
Wim Hof, the Dutch extreme athlete, is a master in breathwork and certainly has helped to bring science and spirituality together in a brilliant way, while making breathwork manly and exciting! He has overcome personal tragedy and physical constraints while preaching that anyone can do what he does with the right training. His breathing method is different from all the ones above and the one I teach because it incorporates breath holds and generally 3 sets of thirty breaths rather than the circular, continuous breath that I work with.
During a session with me, I will guide you through a set of visual images, encourage you to visualize sensations and memories and then let you go, on your own internal journey. As your attention is then forced to focus on breathing, images or clarification may appear, inducing feelings of contentedness or sensations of deep emotion. The breath allows you to concentrate on the here and now, clearing out the other noises in your head, which often allows you to touch something within that you haven’t paid attention to in a long time.
Many people report feeling personally empowered or feel a kind of high, while others find a quietness of the mind and relief from daily stress which can come through breathwork. Whatever it is, connecting with your inner compass determines the most important experience or you. You will figure out on your own while doing the "work", the intention or focus that is particular to you at that exact point in your life and it might even be informed by setting an intention in advance.
HOW I FOUND MY BREATH
Perhaps it was growing up in a family of seven children and moving ten different times before I was 18, or perhaps it was just my nature, but I have long been an expert chameleon - going with the flow and accommodating those around me. As a child, I preferred to stay unnoticed in the background and was a constant worrier since I can remember. These skills served me well... until they didn't.
In the last five years, I recognized that this well-honed tendency of acquiescing to others, seeking approval and swallowing my frustrations had made me physically ill, weary of life, anxious and emotionally absent. I took on more, pushed myself harder, and kept my life busy, trying to prove that I was worthy of admiration all while privately punishing myself for my perceived shortcomings.
It was only once I hit a proverbial brick wall that I was forced to begin a three-year journey to uncover the self that was suppressed and recognize that unless I learned to like the person within me, I would never be content or peaceful. I had to train my critical self to be quieter and my true self to be kinder. For me, it was ultimately breathwork that provided the key to unlock my power and allowed me to heal. While surely not a panacea, I believe it can work for others as it did for me. We are often so quick to discredit ancient modalities in favor of modern medication but in many cases, this allows us to cede power and numb our feelings rather than hold ourselves accountable and see our body as capable of self-healing and worthy of nurture.
Breathwork is not a magic fix, it is a way to block out peripheral noise, listen to your soul and then gain the courage to take action in your life. This is what I hope to share with others.
by Anna Beauregard