‘Breathwork’ has become a buzz word in wellbeing circles in recent years. Perhaps never more so than in the past year, since Covid-19 and a raised global awareness of the importance of the breath, immunity and conscious choices for good health.
Many are advocating breathwork as the next major leap forward in health awareness as though it were a new invention.
But why all the media coverage? Is this all new-age hype, or are the claims that one breathwork session is like 10-20 years of therapy well-founded?
As a lawyer and businesswoman, I have an entrenched love of evidence and strong foundations in facts, so my own foray into breathwork has been a journey of discovery that I hope can help settle these questions for you.
The breath and you
To begin let me ask a question ... as you read these words are you breathing? Or are you by any chance holding your breath? I know that would have been me a year ago (and for many years prior to that too).
While you form your own answer, I invite you to pause. Just for a moment close your eyes. Tune into your breath moving in and moving out. Don’t try to change it, simply notice. Allow yourself to settle into this moment and feel the sense of your breath and your body. How does that feel? Is the pause welcome? Is it needed?
We all know that without breath there is no life. The breath is your life force, a vital source for so many of our fundamental body functions. Fortunately, as an autonomic aspect of the nervous system, it usually occurs without conscious effort. What’s unique about the breath is that we can also consciously and voluntarily regulate it. As a consequence, we have a direct path to influencing, changing and improving our physical, mental and emotional functioning, and so our lived experience.
In reality, despite this inbuilt natural process, from at least the moment of conception (considerations of epigenetics aside), and certainly from birth, our actual lived experience impacts and impinges on our innate ability to breathe. Through physical and psychological tensions we can develop breath dysfunctions and other blockages, which, if left unresolved can result in ‘dis-ease’. Your body and mind can become locked into habitual but unhelpful processes. Much of the root of this becomes entrenched in your subconscious mind. As a consequence, your conscious thoughts and behaviours become dictated by this conditioning without your awareness. Any breath dysfunction can manifest in both physical and psychological issues.
How you breathe impacts how you live, and vice versa.
The act of breathing creates a bridge between the body and the psyche.
Your primal functioning means that the brain centre, which generates the two main emotions of love or fear will take account of your breathing pattern. Your nervous system, whether parasympathetic (your rest and digest state) or sympathetic (the fight or flight state), is activated by the breath, through messaging via the vagus nerve, which links directly between the brain and the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing will activate the parasympathetic response, and shallow chest breathing will have the opposite effect.
Simultaneously, any subconscious data stored in your brain will directly impact your nervous system and your behaviours, irrespective of whether you have awareness of this. As a consequence of this, you can be limited by inaccurate and outdated information - layer upon layer of it. The result of all of this is that your body and mind can malfunction in extensive ways. Anxiety, stress, depression, digestive disorders, skin problems, heart problems, hypertension... the list is extensive and comprehensive.
Whenever you begin to bring awareness to aspects of your life, your body, and the workings of the mind, it can help to motivate and generate positive change. Often though, you can seek to evoke positive change but results are limited. You may set goals, even enrol support from coaches and therapists – looking for the answers outside of yourself, and still you may feel blocked and frustrated. You can become disheartened and develop more layers of negative thinking on top of those already lurking in your subconscious and your body’s tissues:
“I am a failure. I’m not good enough. I’m stupid. I’m weak. I can’t cope on my own. I’m not worthy”.
Throughout all of this the profound truth is that YOU ARE LIMITLESS.
All the guides, teachers and gurus that you may have chosen to turn to, can hold tools to illuminate other choices and practices to support your growth... but ultimately YOU hold the key to unlock the potential within. Only YOU. As a coach, healer or teacher this is one of the single most important truths to hold close to your heart. The best gift you can give to your clients is the realisation that they hold their own key. Inspiring anyone to make this connection to themselves sets them free and there is no need for any sense of dependency on you.
Breathwork as a key
Breathwork is YOUR personal key, within YOUR body that you are able to access whenever you choose. The breath can liberate you by connecting you to your subconscious mind, and unlocking the deepest recesses of programming that have held you back. Once you connect to the breath, it will allow you to let go of the tensions that have inhibited your natural state. You are free to be.
Having the ability to share the power of breathwork as a teacher also means giving people a resource that can benefit their lives at the deepest possible level.
Bizarrely, due to its simplicity and unassuming presence, it often gets overlooked. As humans. we can be prone to overthinking and imagine the answers must be more complex than they are. We can be influenced by so-called experts, scientists, governments and large corporations selling their philosophies, products and beliefs all promising to hold the answer to what we crave.
If there were a medicine to take that would guarantee optimum health, peace of mind, limitlessness and a life lived as our best selves, surely we would all take it!
Would you consider it incredible to know that the breath IS this healing elixir!
When we bring our awareness to the breath, and practice breathwork, the body responds.
Embedded fear can restrict this process initially but, with a willingness to surrender, the benefits are profound.
Imagine being able to influence whether you are in a state of calm presence simply by breathing. Or perhaps you might wish to feel invigorated and replenished? Breathwork is the way. These states of being, and the choice to control them, can have the hugest influence on our lived experience. All that you need to do is to trust the breath.
Conscious choices for clarity
You only have to read the findings of American journalist, James Nestor, in his 2020 book ‘Breathe – the science of a lost art’ to appreciate the scope of these benefits, along with the diversity of choice when it comes to breathwork practice.
Practices such as Buteyko breathing help to develop and optimise breathing technique, and health, day-to-day.
Ultimately though the root cause of what created the dysfunction can remain untouched. The layers of tension and subconscious thoughts that block people often persist.
Another consideration is that some practices which control the breath in certain ways can actually bring a level of tension into the body. Depending on the individual, a sense of performance pressure can arise. The same is true with meditation, yoga, and other wellbeing practices, particularly if there is a perfectionistic tendency. These can be a focus for self-control and holding, instead of bringing more ease and embodied calm and centering. Used in isolation, without appropriate training and mindful awareness, they have the scope to be detrimental.
This is where conscious connected breathing comes to the fore. It helps to remove the ingrained causes of our self-sabotage.
If you have followed James Nestor, or the Buteyko clinic practices (there are countless free resources to sample on YouTube) you will have an understanding of the importance of nasal breathing day-to-day. There is potential for confusion to arise as conscious connected breathwork can be practiced with an open mouth. So it would be logical to assume that the two practices contradict one another and belong to two separate camps.
Happily, conscious connected breathwork harmonises perfectly with whatever daily breathing practice you may choose. It works to support release of tension, ‘stuck’ emotions and underlying associated blockages. A daily breathing practice can complement this perfectly. Breathwork Coach, Ritchie Bostock advocates a combined approach in his book ‘Exhale’.
Breathwork isn't a new invention. It's been around for many thousands of years thanks to the in-depth study of breath practice by yogis in the form of pranayama. Many of the modern-day practices have evolved from those ancient roots. The wonders of yoga itself, and its profound health benefits, have only filtered into the Western World since the 1960s, and are still only now becoming more of a mainstream option.
Similarly, Western breathwork in its modern form has been in existence since the 1970s, with several main international schools of connected breathwork evolving since that time. Conscious connected breathwork is one of the key forms of breathwork that has developed, and gained some of the greatest recognition for its transformational benefits. Some of the most internationally recognised forms of this are Rebirthing Breathwork, Holotropic Breathwork, and Transformational Breathwork. These have been developed from the same ancient traditions of pranayama, but with different focuses and variations in technique.
Without a doubt, conscious connected breathwork is one of the most powerful means by which you can connect to the subconscious mind and release any unhelpful beliefs and blocks.
‘Let it go’ has become something of a catch phrase and whilst we might like the idea of this, it can feel hard to ‘achieve’. In reality, it need only be as difficult as we choose to make it because it really is as simple as the breath.
The breath and success
My own journey has proven this fundamental truth to me in the past year. For me, thanks to the power of breathwork, I have eventually found a sense of success that resonates with me to my core by aligning me to my truth.
Once I discovered conscious connected breathwork in the summer of 2020 I rapidly noticed major shifts in my way of being. I felt open-hearted and more connected to a deeper sense of compassion than ever before. Despite intensely challenging family and business issues during the pandemic last year, I was able to connect to a sense of inner expansiveness that I had never known. I found myself so much more grounded and in touch with my feelings... laughing freely but also crying more naturally in response to situations, allowing the emotions to release. I was so much more joyful and alive. I was finally unlocking. I had become to think of myself as an introverted ‘cave dwelling’ sort and suddenly I found myself starting up conversations with strangers and enjoying connecting.
In all my years of meditation and other spiritual, wellbeing, and embodiment practices, nothing has come closer to connecting me to myself and supporting me to release the unhelpful thoughts and feelings that were holding me back.
Ultimately I made the conscious choice to further the connection by signing up to study to become a Breathwork Teacher. I recently graduated and this has truly meant the world to me. The whole journey has invoked a very unique process of personal alchemy.
Through connecting to the breath I have connected to myself. Each week another layer unlocked and a new level of self understanding prevailed. This has been the single most life-changing process I have ever encountered.
Breathwork brings success because it leads to self-realisation, and living your truth. I can certainly vouch for it doing so for me personally, and I know the same is true for countless others.
What I value most about this ‘success’ is that I no longer feel like an ‘imposter’. Breathwork has helped me to understand that I am worthy, AND enough, AND capable of limitless success. I have released all fear of failure. I am the master of my own destiny.
I have immediately noticed the positive impact of this on my personal and professional life. I have been able to establish a new mindful restaurant business during the pandemic, fully fortified by the power of the breath. My personal wellbeing is also benefiting in unlimited ways through the freedom that breathwork has helped me to find. My relationships are flourishing too thanks to the power of connection and increased capacity for love that has flowed from my opened heart. I am not a different person, I am me, just without the fear.
The best part of this discovery for me has been that there are no magic spells being cast here to manifest this transformational alchemy. This is about your own power, and how you choose to connect to that. I can’t stress this enough. The personal realisation, when it comes, that it is your own power that holds the key is one of the most profound possible.
Every single breath you take is a choice of how much life force you inhale and how this flows within your body. Every layer of tension you choose to let go, and each tear you shed, is another step towards your truth. Learning to open yourself up to the breath and welcome all that flows with it is the single most positive step you can ever take. Will it be easy? No! Will it be worth it? Most definitely!
I hope this helps to clarify the potential scope for growth and wellbeing that breathwork offers. If so, you might be wondering how to advance your own interest in breathwork. After all, personal experience is without doubt the best evidence you can find to verify what I’ve said here. You may be interested to explore the breathwork options offered by InnerCamp.
They say that when you are ready the teacher will come. I can truly say that I feel so blessed to have discovered breathwork. I feel deeply grateful to have found InnerCamp and to be fortunate enough to connect with Alexis Alcala as a teacher. His approach is not to offer himself up as a Guru but rather to illuminate his students own inner wisdom and help them to flourish in their own unique ways.
For me, the choice to connect with my breath, and InnerCamp, has led to personal success. It has led me to a deep sense of self-acceptance and a feeling of total infinite empowerment. As a graduate of InnerCamp, I can speak authentically to wholeheartedly recommend this as the best possible route to a connection with yourself.
If you would like to explore and harness your own personal potential, and capacity for success, then I recommend the InnerCamp Breathwork Facilitator Training as an incredible journey.
You will know whether the time is right for you. Trust the instinctive calling and consider what possible futures lie ahead. If you doubt your ability in any way... by turning away from the opportunity breathwork holds, you may risk missing a rare chance to overcome the obstacles that are restricting your success. By embracing breathwork you can open up your heart, your mind and your own limitless potential.
Trust in yourself. You know the way.