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Breathwork is a New Age term for various breathing practices in which the conscious control of breathing is said to influence a person's mental, emotional or physical state, with a claimed therapeutic effect.[1] There is limited evidence that breathwork may be helpful for relaxation and stress, though no other health benefits have been proven. Breathwork can cause distress.[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 Wilhelm Reich.[1] According to Jack Raso, breathwork is described by proponents as a multiform "healing modality" characterized by stylized breathing. Its purported design is to effect physical, emotional, and spiritual change. Such a process can allegedly "dissolve limiting programs" that are "stored" in the mind and body, and increases one's ability to handle more "energy".[3]

There are several sub-types of breathwork:

A process described as releasing suppressed traumatic childhood memories.[4] Created by Leonard Orr in the 1970s.
A practice that claims to improve wellbeing through the use of circular breathing.[5] Created by Jim Leonard and Phil Laut.[6]
Holotropic Breathwork
A practice that uses breathing and other elements to putatively allow access to non-ordinary states of consciousness. It was developed by Stanislav Grof as a successor to his LSD-based psychedelic therapy, following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960s.[7] Following a 1993 report commissioned by the Scottish Charities Office, concerns about the risk that the hyperventilation technique could cause seizure or lead to psychosis in vulnerable people caused the Findhorn Foundation to suspend its breathwork programme.[8]
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.

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. ^ Ades TB, ed. (2009). "Breathwork". American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies (2nd ed.). American Cancer Society. pp. 72–74. ISBN 9780944235713.
  3. ^ Jack Raso M.S., R.D.: Quackwatch March 25, 2007
  4. ^ Radford B (2000). "New Age 'Rebirthing' Treatment Kills Girl". Skeptical Inquirer. 24 (5): 6.
  5. ^ Mantle F, Tiran D (2009). Vivation. A-Z of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A guide for health professionals. Elsevier. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7020-4999-6.
  6. ^ "Breathe Easy Holistic program airs out stress-filled habitat". Denver Post. 7 February 1996. p. G-01.
  7. ^ Cortright, Brant (1997). Psychotherapy and Spirit: Theory and Practice in Transpersonal Psychotherapy. SUNY Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0791434666.
  8. ^ Stephen Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation: Towards a Sociology of a New Age Community (New Media Books, 1996)
  9. ^ "How to take the perfect breath: why learning to breathe properly could change your life". the Guardian. 2020-08-26. Retrieved 2020-09-02.