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Breathwork in an umbrella term for various New Age practices in which the conscious control of breathing is meant to influence mental, emotional and physical state – sometimes to claimed therapeutic effect.[1]

Breathwork has no health impact other than perhaps promoting relaxation.[2]

Description and sub-types[edit]

Breathwork is a method of breath control that is meant to give rise to altered states of consciousness and to have an effect on physical and mental well-being.[1] Derived from various spiritual and pre-scientific traditions from around the world, it was pioneered in the West by William Reich.[1]

There are several sub-types of breathwork:

  • Rebirthing-Breathwork – was devised by Leonard Orr in the 1970s. It is claimed to be capable of released suppressed traumatic childhood memories.[3]
  • Vivation – was created by Jim Leonard and Phil Lawton.[4] It claims to improve wellbeing through the use of circular breathing.[5]
  • Holotropic Breathwork – 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.[citation needed]
  • Other types – 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.


Breathwork has no beneficial effect on health, although there is some evidence it may help relaxation; some people, however, find its effects distressing.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Young JS, Cashwell CS, Giordano AL (2010). "Breathwork as a therapeutic modality: an overview for counselors". Counseling and Values 55 (1): 113. doi:10.1002/j.2161-007X.2010.tb00025.x. 
  2. ^ a b "Breathwork". American Cancer Society. November 2008. Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Radford B (2000). "New Age 'Rebirthing' Treatment Kills Girl". Skeptical Inquirer 24 (5): 6. 
  4. ^ "Breathe Easy Holistic program airs out stress-filled habitat". Denver Post. 7 February 1996. p. G-01. 
  5. ^ Mantle F, Tiran D (2009). "Vivation". A-Z of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A guide for health professionals (Elsevier). p. 108. ISBN 0-7020-4999-9.