Breathwork is an active meditation that uses conscious, focused, and extended breathing exercises and music to assist the “mind release and connect with the body.”
Art and Science of Breathwork
- Conscious patterns of breathing alter brain chemistry. Theoretically, Breathwork creates physiological symptoms that enhance the sense of a spiritual experience.
- Breathing exercises can help relieve stress, improve mood, and help one feel energized.
- Scientific research about Breathwork is still in its early stages and only slowly picking up. Studies about Holotropic Breathwork support the assertions of possible healing effects.
- According to the 2007 study on Holotropic Breathwork, conscious hyperventilation leads to disinhibition of hitherto avoided or suppressed stimuli.
- Science-based medicine defines Holotropic Breathwork as voluntary hyperventilation that generates “spiritual” experiences.
- “Hyperventilating” in a controlled manner slows down the brain’s default mode network (DMN).
- The Psychedelic research found that the default mode network is responsible for our ego, brain control mechanisms, and rigid, habitual thinking, and obsessions. The study found that 10-22 minutes of Breathwork are needed to affect the default mode network.
- Other research works on the Breathwork Science can be accessed through the link.
History of Breathwork
- Breathwork has links to Eastern practices such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Buddhism.
- Ancient Breathwork was used therapeutically and as a way of spiritual awakening in past traditions. It includes Pranayamas in Yoga practices and various breath-based meditations in Buddhism, Christianity, martial arts, Shamanism, etc.
- Modern Breathwork therapy started in the 1960s and 1970s during the consciousness-raising era.
- Leonard Orr and Stanislav Grof were behind the re-emergence of Breathwork in Western culture in the 1960s.
- Holotropic Breathwork and Rebirthing Breathwork were developed by Leonard Orr and Dr. Stan Grof, respectively, during the consciousness-raising era.
- In 1991, Jacquelyn Small, through her work in Holotropic Breathwork along with Dr. Grof, established Integrative Breathwork.
- In 1999, Rebirthing Breathwork evolved into Clarity Breathwork to comprise a universal approach to trauma and therapy.
- Through various programs, scientific research, and studies, Breathwork therapies in the present world continue to evolve.
Practice of Breathwork
- Generally, the practice of Breathwork entails exercises that involve conscious, deep, focused breathing that lasts for a drawn-out period.
- The practice of breathwork models is such that each incorporates its breathwork exercises.
- Holotropic Breathwork: This is a therapeutic technique that helps in emotional coping and personal growth. A holotropic breathwork session includes controlled breathing, music, meditative art and discussion, and group guidance.
- Rebirthing Breathwork: This is a self-healing practice that uses breathing exercises to help individuals work on blocked emotions and energy. A Rebirthing breathwork session entails experienced guidance, circular breathing, and emotional & physical response.
- Clarity Breathwork: The practice of Clarity Breathwork includes circular or continuous breathing. A Clarity Breathwork session starts with a counseling session with a practitioner and setting the session’s intentions.
- Other models through which Breathwork is practiced include Biodynamic Breathwork, IntegrativeBreathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Vivation, Zen Yoga Breathwork, and Transformational Breathwork.
Results of Breathwork
- Remembering forgotten and childhood memories are among the results of Breathwork. Practices of Breathwork loosen psychological defenses and cause temporary vanishing of the ego, freeing the brain to explore more unconscious material. Removal of restrictions from the DMN makes it possible to remember past and forgotten memories.
- Regularly-done breathwork results in strengthening the neuropathways to the inner intelligence and subconscious, allowing for easier access to it.
- Usually, our subconscious starts to release during Breathwork. The result of such an experience is that a lot of emotions and memories get suppressed.
- Breathwork sessions reduce cortisol levels, providing super-quick relief from stress. The journal Frontiers in Psychology present a 2017 study showing that participants who undertook 20 breathwork sessions over 8 weeks reported lower stress hormone cortisol levels than those who did not participate in the sessions.
- Another result of Breathwork is a sharper focus. Findings from a 2018 study in the journal “Consciousness and Cognition” show that breath-based yoga increased the participants’ attention span.