Rebirthing breathwork & psychotherapy
Article by Kaela Parentis
Psychotherapy and Breathwork
Psychotherapy is a broad term used to describe the myriad of techniques in which we can help treat individuals with mental health issues, troubling emotions, thoughts, and even physical pain. More specifically, breathing techniques or Oftentimes, it enables individuals to achieve a greater sense of self-awareness and mindfulness. Many breathwork techniques draw from Eastern practices, such as yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi, while also incorporating modern Western techniques as well. Some of these breathwork therapies include Rebirthing, Holotropic Breathwork, and Pranayama (Manné, 2004). Most of the breathwork sessions offered by InnerCamp draw from the techniques used in Rebirthing, but they also include some other aspects of holotropic breathwork, as well as InnerCamp’s approved, original methods. All breathwork therapy is supervised and led by trained facilitators. It can be done in groups, with partners, or individually.
Origins of Rebirthing: What is it?
Rebirthing is a type of breathwork therapy that is said to connect individuals with their subconscious mind. The goal of the breathwork is to create a flow of energy in and out of the body that eventually helps you to release negative emotions. It is a transformational process where a circular breath is created through multiple stages. The breathing progressively gets deeper over the course of the session. (Carr, Elise 2014).
The origins of rebirthing began in the 1960’s after Leonard Orr personally experienced a powerful event. Orr was exploring altered states of consciousness primarily through lengthy immersion in warm water. Orr recalls slipping into a state of regression and allegedly reliving his birth while bathing. He experienced emotional release and revelations and he wanted to share this experience with others (Adams 2010). Rebirthing then took about ten to fifteen years to fully develop into a breathwork therapy technique. Shortly after Orr’s discovery, Dr. Stanislav Grov explored these altered states of consciousness and developed Holotropic Breathing in the 1970’s. Both Orr and Grov came to recognize over time that these deeper states of consciousness were actually induced by breathwork. In turn, the specialized breathing techniques then uncovered subconscious memories and experiences related to the birth process. Since then, breathwork has been connected to the science of prenatal psychology. (Adams 2010).
Rebirthing Breathwork (RB) consists of maintaining a conscious connected breathing rhythm for an hour or longer. This is usually done with the eyes closed and while laying on a mat. The conscious connected breathing rhythm is a type of circular breathing without pauses between the inhale and the exhale. This pattern is often very difficult to maintain and usually takes an individual multiple sessions to master. The conscious connected breathing tends to activate unresolved emotional issues and traumas and, simultaneously, the consciousness of these conflicts eventually leads to their resolution. This is called a somatic-cognitive cycle and it can usually last from about fifteen minutes to two hours (De-wit, Oliveira, Cruz, & Menezes, (2019).
Researchers Paulus de-Wit and Roberto Cruz (2020) identified the nine phases that can occur during RB.
Stage 1: Rebirthing begins with the first stage of emerging bodily sensations and emotions. This is often accompanied with physical symptoms such as trembling, tingling, shaking, cramping, and feeling cold or warm. The emotions evoked can also range from fear and sadness to love and happiness.
Stage 2: The defence stage, where the individual begins to feel dissociation and the connected breathing begins to become quite difficult to maintain.
Stage 3: coined the immersions phase, is where the breather surrenders to and immerses themselves into their arising sensations and emotions. At this stage, the breathing rhythm begins to adapt to the breather’s experience.
Stage 4: the inversion stage. Breathers experience an inversion of consciousness from central (experience themselves as the subject at the centre of consciousness) to peripheral (experience a richer and lively sense of consciousness that does not have a centre).
Stage 5: the most important phase is the association phase. This phase is where associated memories are evoked, similar to the experience during REM sleep, where most dreams occur.
Stage 6: the insight and epiphany phase. Breathers can experience a sudden clarity about thoughts and beliefs that were not initially fully processed. Individuals often feel a deep surge of energy through their bodies as this is the stage where they are instructed to breath the most deep, full breaths.
Stage 7: the transliminal stage, is where breathers can have a transpersonal and spiritual experience.
Stage 8: the deep relaxation stage, in which breathers are deeply relaxed and can even experience a possible short period of sleep. In fact, individuals are said to look as if they are asleep in stages seven and eight. There is also elongated breath suspension during the deep relaxation phase.
Stage 9: the return phase. Here, individuals begin to return to their bodies, open their eyes, and regain movement in their fingers, toes, hands, feet, legs, and arms. They also engage with others.
The most important phases are three, five, and six because these are the main phases in which traumatic memories are processed. During phases four through eight, consciousness repeatedly shifts through levels I and II. We view consciousness in three distinct levels: level I is the conscious, level II is the subconscious, and level III is the unconscious (De-wit et al. 2019).
During rebirthing, the individual experiences the sensations and emotions of traumatic memories and simultaneously the rebirthee has opened themself to recognize how they initially viewed these experiences when they occurred. In the third stage, individuals usually find themselves consciously looking at the meaning they ascribed to these experiences and realizing that their perspectives have changed.
Holotropic Breathwork is another type of self-healing breathwork. In many places, however, it is often viewed as a spiritual technique rather than a therapeutic one. It involves a similar type of circular breathing where there are no gaps in between each breath. The breathing is much faster than normal, and breaths are deep and full. Mouth breathing is also typically used as it is said to support the process better than nose breathing. A facilitator guides the session and it usually lasts around 2-3 hours. It differs from Rebirthing in that repetitive calming music is played and, afterwards, participants are usually instructed to draw mandalas about their experience. Holotropic Breathwork is said to access altered states of consciousness and help a person attain a state of wholeness. InnerCamp mostly utilizes aspects of Rebirthing Breathwork, while also incorporating some aspects of Holotropic Breathwork, such as calming music and mouth breathing (La Flamme, D. M. 1994).
Conscious Connected Breathing (CCB) and Releasing Trauma
Many studies have shown that CCB does in fact help heal trauma. In a recent study by Wit and Cruz (2020) of connected breathing and PTSD, the results showed that after 8 connected breathing sessions, the participant's PTSD and comorbid symptoms were in complete remission. Another study by Heyda (2007), looked at the effects of CCB on emotional states and connected breathing significantly evoked much more positive emotions. CCB does have evidence of reducing stress and improving overall mental health. Furthermore, a study showed that Conscious Connected Breathing Training decreased levels of anxiety and depression in breast cancer patients. Evidently, Conscious Connected Breathing, which is used in Rebirthing and Holotropic Breathwork, is helpful in releasing trauma (Heyda, et al., 2007).
Advantages of Rebirthing
The advantages of Rebirthing Breathwork include helping participants connect with their subconscious mind and leading them to understand and realize their true potential. Rebirthing can help stabilize unresolved traumas or experiences. It heightens our mindfulness and awareness and subsequently guides us into reaching our full spiritual and physical potential, as past emotional barriers and obstacles are overcome. Rebirthing teaches individuals to become more attuned to one’s own needs and aspirations (Sky, M. 2009). It also helps participants become more rooted and centered upon oneself. It is quite powerful that individuals are able to access their subconscious minds and change the way they contemplate their lives. It can push individuals to an entirely positive lifestyle change. Evidently, Rebirthing is a helpful, invigorating, energizing, and relaxing technique for self-healing (Adams, 2010).
Risks & Contraindications
Despite the advantages mentioned, there is a slight risk of hyperventilating during this type of conscious connected and circular breathing. Oftentimes, people who do not believe in Rebirthing Breathwork call it “voluntary hyperventilation”. Hyperventilation is known to alter the brain’s chemistry and, essentially, this is what Rebirthing accomplishes, while facilitating change and transformation in our minds. More specifically, what really occurs during hyperventilation is that a person’s carbon dioxide-oxygen balance becomes disproportionate. Although this is a concern for some individuals, it is actually the explanatory framework for how individuals reach this altered state of consciousness.In fact, it can be argued that hyperventilation is not what is occurring in the body at all. Breathwork can be completely separated from hyperventilation for the following reasons; rapid breathing is strictly avoided, as deep, slow and relaxing breathing is the primary aim. Rapid breathing in a rebirthee is corrected with the assistance of the breathworker. The facilitator helps participants maintain the rhythm for the duration of the session. Maintaining this continuous rhythm is what keeps individuals’ breathing from becoming irregular. Additionally, breathlessness, a common symptom of hyperventilation, is not at all a characteristic of breathwork. In conclusion, a trained breathwork facilitator would never willingly or intentionally cause someone to suffer from Hyperventilation Syndrome (HS) during breathwork aimed to promote self-healing (Rubin, B. K. 1984).
Ultimately, Rebirthing is safe and empowering for people and the risks and contraindications can be easily disproved (Young, C. 2003).
Validity and Conclusion
Other ways in which Rebirthing can be further validated and confirmed as a safe and effective therapy are types of Emotional Freeing Techniques (EFT) used during breathwork sessions. A type of EFT, tapping, is very effective in helping to alleviate possible pain and emotional distress experienced during Rebirthing. Originating from Japanese Reiki and Chinese Eastern medicine, meridian points are said to be the parts of the body through which energy flows. These pathways help balance energy flow to maintain health. As it is very pervasive in Eastern cultures, individuals believe that any energy imbalance can influence disease or sickness. Furthermore, these are the same points that pressure is applied to during acupuncture therapy (Church, D. 2010).
Overall, Rebirthing and other breathwork techniques generally prove to produce quite amazing results in individuals with unresolved trauma. Research has shown that it has helped improve the lives of individuals with depression, stress, addiction, PTSD, migraines, chronic pain, avoidance behaviors, and even premenstrual tension. It is safe, effective, and beneficial!
InnerCamp’s Breathwork Sessions
InnerCamp breathwork sessions involve a more natural and flowing breath, but emotions experienced can still be very intense. InnerCamp uses mouth breathing as opposed to nose breathing. The inhale is always a bit longer than the exhale and there is always a large focus on the diaphragm and breathing from the abdomen. InnerCamp uses multiple phases of breathwork and music plays for the duration of the breathwork session. InnerCamp also takes into other techniques such as tapping, as well as often supporting individuals’ heads with compression while intense feelings arise. In conclusion, InnerCamp introduces its own original breathing techniques, which incorporates much of the Rebirthing Breathwork framework, with aspects of Holotropic Breathing to ensure a greater sense of self-awareness, liberating your mind and body.
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