Breathwork

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Breathwork refers to many forms of conscious alteration of breathing, such as connecting the inhale and exhale, or energetically charging and discharging, when used within psychotherapy or meditation. Proponents believe breathwork technique may be used to attain alternate states of consciousness, and that sustained practice of techniques may result in spiritual or psychological benefits. Breathwork may also relate to optimal healthy breathing in a healing context.

Origins of breathwork[edit]

Breathwork has been used as a label for yogic Pranayama and Tibetan Tantric Tummo, traditional spiritual practices from which the modern Western therapies most probably derive. Occasional use of the term Breathwork to describe Buddhist Anapanasati, “mindfulness of breathing” or "conscious breathing" appears to be misleading, because the meditator breathes naturally, without attempting to change the length or depth of the breath, simply observing it. This too can be debated as some practitioner would contend that whenever attention is focused and the object of attention changes, in this case breathing typically becomes longer, deeper and more relaxed.[citation needed]

While using movement, T'ai chi and Qigong also make conscious use of the breath.

When the modern breath-oriented therapies were first developed in the 1970s, they were often, as well as the previous spiritual and therapeutic history of breathwork, influenced by ideas from psychotherapy, vegetotherapy or the human potential movement.

Leonard Orr, Jim Leonard and Stanislav Grof are three practitioners from whose work many of the more recently created types of breathwork have derived the basis of their techniques.

Types of breathwork[edit]

Leonard Orr's style of Breathwork, Rebirthing-Breathwork is based on the technique of conscious connected breathing; connecting the inhale and exhale without a pause between them. Stanislav Grof's Holotropic Breathwork can include hyperventilation, which Grof believes can aid emotional integration.[1] However, according to Vivation Breathwork, hyperventilation is unnecessary and is caused by a non-relaxed exhale. Emotional integration comes from connecting with the feelings honestly, which is made easier through a relaxed and connected breath.[2]

There are many other types of Breathwork which have emerged over the last few decades, including Integrative Breathwork, Transformational Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Conscious Connected Breathing, Radiance Breathwork, Zen Yoga Breathwork and many others.

Older non-Western techniques such as Yoga, Pranayama, T'ai chi, and Qigong are also offered as systems where the breath is used to direct and enhance the body's energy and aid in the release old emotions. Similarly the many schools and teachers of mindfulness are also using breathing techniques that can date back to and beyond the time of the Buddha.

Orr founded conscious breathing as one of the five aspects of spiritual purification that he still supports today. In his low intervention approach, there is breathing guidance at different points and no encouragement for movement or externalising emotion.

Grof's Holotropic Breathwork emerged from his study of the healing potentials of nonordinary states of consciousness during the mid-50s. It utilizes deep, fast breathing in combination with loud evocative music. In Holotropic Breathwork, the sessions are less facilitator-directed and more client-directed, believed to be guided by an innate healing intelligence. Trained facilitators support each individual's process as it emerges with various techniques including bodywork.

The Russian Martial Art Systema uses breathwork to control and relax the body from tension as well as control the cardiovascular system by extension through the use of various types of breathwork. Those who study Systema can calm their mind and control tension throughout their body. Despite generally being categorized as a martial art, training includes many health-enhancing exercises. Some training exercises could be seen as forms of meditation or self-psychology. Breathwork is a fundamental aspect of Systema.

Breathwork Mastery is a conscious, full, connected body/breath technique which activates an inner non-ordinary experience. This results in a number of internal experiences. One is where thoughts, pains, memories or feelings and blocks that have been held down with the breath, are able to surface to be released, cleared or resolved. The process frees limiting decisions, beliefs or conditioning from previous imprints in early life.

Dan Brulé's Breath Mastery Program synthesizes the ancient methods and modern approaches, focusing on the fundamental principles found in all schools and styles, and presents them as a "Formula for Transformation," and the "Principles of breath Therapy" [3]

Criticism[edit]

There has been specific criticism directed at those breathwork modalities which rely on hyperventilation as part of its practice. Critics have pointed out the alleged dangers associated with hyperventilation. There is little peer reviewed scientific evidence of its effectiveness in treating illness.[4] Although breathwork in general can be relaxing for most people, hyperventilation can be a symptom of a panic disorder or even energy depletion[citation needed].

Some psychiatrists have suggested that more extreme forms of breathwork might bring about psychotic episodes in some people. Other believers in the earlier esoteric ideas underlying much Breathwork have also raised concerns about unskillful or premature psychospiritual awakening of patients or meditators.

Responses to Criticism[edit]

Grof disputes many of the medical criticisms of Holotropic Breathwork, arguing that they are based on misunderstandings of the physiological and psychological processes involved. In his paper reviewing the literature on the effects of faster breathing, he concludes that "The fact that during rapid breathing symptoms surface and become manifest is not a pathological phenomenon...With skillful support and guidance, the emergence of symptoms during hyperventilation can result in healing of emotional and psychosomatic problems...". (Grof 2003)[citation needed]

Rhinewine and Williams (2007), reviewing the medical literature on hyperventilation in the context of a theoretical article on Holotropic Breathwork, state that "The procedure of voluntary hyperventilation has proven to be safe after medical screening for contraindicating conditions, and has been demonstrated across numerous studies to be helpful in treatment of anxiety as a tool for diagnosis and desensitization."[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Grof, S. "Physical Manifestations of Emotional disorders:Observations from the study of non-ordinary states of consciousness" in Exploring Holotropic breathwork: Selected Articles from a Decade of the Inner Door. Taylor, K [Ed.] Hanford Mead, 2003
  2. ^ Vivation: The Skill of Happiness. Jim Leonard 2001, Vivation International Publishing.
  3. ^ http://www.breathmastery.com
  4. ^ ACS :: Breathwork

References[edit]

  • Lukoff, David; Lu Francis G. & Turner, Robert P. (1998) From Spiritual Emergency to Spiritual Problem: The Transpersonal Roots of the New DSM-IV Category. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 38(2), 21-50 [1]
  • Brown,R.P and Gerbarg,P.L "Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I Neurophysiologic Model" in The Journal of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, Vol 11, No 4, 2005, pp 189–201
  • Brown,R.P and Gerbarg,P.L "Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part II Clinical Applications and Guidelines" in The Journal of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, Vol 11, No 4, 2005, pp 711–171
  • Grof, S., The Adventure of Self-Discovery. SUNY, 1988.
  • Grof, S., with Bennett, H. The Holotropic Mind: The Three Levels of Human Consciousness and How They Shape Our Lives. HarperCollins, 1992.
  • Grof, S. "Physical Manifestations of Emotional disorders:Observations from the study of non-ordinary states of consciousness" in Exploring Holotropic breathwork: Selected Articles from a Decade of the Inner Door. Taylor, K [Ed.] Hanford Mead, 2003
  • N.Janakiramaiah,B.N.Gangadhar,P.J.Naga Venkatesha Murthy,M.G.Harish,D.K.Subbakrishna,A.Vedamurthachar "Antidepressant efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga(SKY)in melancholia:a randomized comparison with electroconvulsive therapy(ECT) and imipramine", Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol 57, 2000, pp 255–259
  • Heyda, A., 2003, An Impact of Conscious Connected Breathing on Emotional States, The Healing Breath Journal – a Journal of Breathwork Practice, Spirituality and Psychotherapy, vol.5, no 2 p. 9-18 www.healingbreathjournal.org
  • Heyda, A., 2003b, "Application of Breathwork in Psychotherapy of Oncological Patients (Zastosowanie pracy z oddechem w psychoterapii pacjentów onkologicznych)", Reports Of Practical Oncology And Radiotherapy, vol.8, suppl.2, str 179
  • Heyda A,. Jurkowski MK, Głowala - Kosińska M, Czuba A, Składowski K, 2007, "Conscious Connected Breathing Training Decreases Level of Anxiety and Depression and Increases NK Cell Counts in Breast Cancer Patients: Preliminary Report". poster presentation, World Congress of Psycho-Oncology, London 17–19 September 2007, Psycho-Oncology, vol.16, no 9 suppl, September 2007, p. 224-225
  • Heyda A, Jurkowski MK, Składowski K, 2008, Emotional Stress, Cortisol and Peripheral Blood Cells in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Breathork Training During Radical Radiotherapy, Psycho-Oncology, vol.17, no 6 suppl, June 2008, p. 266-267
  • Rajski, P. 2002, "Alcoholism and Rebirthing.", International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling 24: 123-136
  • Rajski, P., Delgado, T., Dowling, C., Heyda, A., Sudres, JL., Vignali, E., 2003, Standards of Rebirthing-Breathwork as Therapy, The Healing Breath Journal – a Journal of Breathwork Practice, Spirituality and Psychotherapy, vol.5 no 3, p. 6-26, www.healingbreathjournal.org
  • Rhinewine, J. P., Williams, O. J. "Holotropic Breathwork: The Potential Role of a Prolonged, Voluntary Hyperventilation Procedure as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy". Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 13(7), September 2007. pp. 771–776. 2007
  • Rubin B.K., 1983. "Cognitive, Affective and Physiological Outcomes of Rebirthing". Washington, American University.
  • Vivation: The Skill of Happiness. Jim Leonard 2001, Vivation International Publishing.

External links[edit]