Breathwork or breath therapy is any practice that uses the breath or alters the breath to promote physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. Breathwork can be used as a stand-alone intervention or in conjunction with other types of medical and therapeutic treatments.

If you are curious about the benefits of breathwork, read on and learn more about some of the most common breathwork therapies.

What is Breathwork?

Close your eyes for a minute and focus on your breathing. What do you notice? Is your breathing shallow, fast, slow?

We breathe automatically, as a result, the breath is not only a response to our need for oxygen and to release carbon dioxide it is also an indication of how our body is responding to our internal (emotional) and external environment.

Breathwork is the process of consciously controlling the breath, and in some cases retraining the breath, to promote health and healing. 

If you are skeptical, the next time you are anxious or angry at, for example, traffic, stop and take 5 big deep breaths, breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 4. Now notice how you feel.

Principles of Breathwork

The principles of breathwork are simple. We were born knowing how to breathe, but as we age our breathing changes. Many times the changes in our breathing are the result of sickness or trauma.

If we focus on returning our breathing to our optimal or original state we will experience an improvement in our health.

Most of the breathing practices mentioned below come from Eastern practices, Western science has begun to better understand how optimal breathing improves our immune system, circulatory system, and nervous system.

Because the body has amazing self-regeneration properties if we can harness our body’s healing properties if we harness our breath. 

Types of Breathwork

There are many different types of breathwork. Some you may be familiar with, like the breathing done in a yoga class, some may be new. While there are unique therapeutic applications and benefits of each type of breathwork, their core goal overlaps: harness the power of breath to facilitate healing.

Pranayama

Prana means life force or breath sustaining the body; Ayama translates as “to extend or draw out.” Together two mean breath extension or control. Pranayam is breathwork lat comes from the Yogic tradition.

For some Yogis Pranayama, not the physical practice of yoga poses or asanas, is considered true yoga.

There are many different types of yogic breathing, one of the most commonly accompanies movement through yoga poses. Ujjayi breath, or Victorious Breath, is the closed mouth, Darth Vadar like breathing.

For example, in a yoga class, you may move from a standing position (Tadasana) to a forward fold. As you inhale you reach up and as you exhale you lean forward. If you breathe in through your nose and out through your nose and the back of your throat, you just practiced Ujjayi Breathwork.

Holotropic

Holotropic Breathwork comes from the work of Christina and Stanislav Grof. This breathwork is done in a group setting and focusses on altering the breath to alter the consciousness.

Throughout the 2-3 hour process you then, personally, explore the thoughts, feelings, and experiences you have. At the end of the breathing session, the group discusses their individual experiences in an effort to gain further insight and aid in healing. To conclude the process you create a visual representation of your experience.

This breathing practice can be intense and induce hallucinations, crying, and even muscle cramps. To ensure safety, the process is done in pairs. One member of the pair is the watcher, the other the breather. They switch roles from one session to the next. 

Rebirthing Breathwork

Rebirthing breathwork focusses on remembering the residual stress from the traumatic experience of birth. During this process, you use breathwork to release much of the emotional baggage you carry.

This type of breathwork is typically done in conjunction with warm water to mimic life in the womb. It can be done with the head above water and the body submerged or while you are fully submerged and your breath through a snorkel. 

There is a process called Dry Rebirthing that you can also explore. If you would like to explore more about breathwork, explore a retreat at the Koh Samui Detox Resort

Shamanic Breathwork 

A Shaman is a seer that goes by many names in different languages and cultures. They are able to “see” the greater universe and our place within it. We also have a Shaman within us.

The process of Shamanic Breathwork connects us to the healer within. As we age we experience more trauma and create dysfunctional patterns. If we can reconnect with our internal healer we can release those wounds and the patterns that evolved from them.

The Shamanic breathwork process also connects us to the greater unifying power in the universe. During this process, you may also have assistance from other “co-journeyers” who are walking a similar path or are able to support you on your path. 

In Shamanic breathwork, you create a safe and sacred space where you can begin to connect with your inner self. The experience includes rhythmic breathing and chakra-attuned music and drumming.

As you reconnect with the universal power the Ego defenses are released and the journey unfolds in a variety of magical ways.

 Our hope is that you now have a better idea of the wide variety of breathwork therapies that exist. If you have questions about how breathwork might support your journey, talk to your care team. With their guidance, you can explore how breathwork can heal trauma and improve your overall health.

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