As we enter the festive season, a transformational breathwork session may well be one of the best self-care investments you can make.
During our younger years while our brains are developing we find it difficult to process trauma, grief, fear and other states that are experienced during our upbringing. The effect is that they often get buried in our bodies or our subconscious.
A few years ago Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a blog post about the impacts of time with our families during holiday periods:
“Even in very loving families, not every individual in that family is happy, healthy, sane, or safe. You may have done enormous personal work on yourself during the course of your life. You may have evolved into a graceful, peaceful, compassionate, well-adjusted, loving human being… and yet you still may find —when you go home for the holidays, or when your relatives come to visit you — that suddenly it is totally impossible even for YOU to remain happy, healthy, or sane.”
One reason Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, struck such a chord was due to the disillusionment modern society has felt with materialism, rationalism and endless striving removed from one’s self and inner life.
Medicating or incarcerating people with unresolved trauma has done little to reduce mental health illness or crime rates. Over the last two decades, new approaches have been explored.
In 2002, psychotherapist Jenny Phillips gave maximum-security prisoners intensive meditation retreats based on the principles of Vipassana. The 10-day retreats were conducted in total silence. A documentary, The Dhamma Brothers, captured the process.
Traditionally, inmates have one on one sessions with a psychologist in the hopes of rehabilitating them. A downside to this approach is that it separates those seen as healthy (psychologists) and those seen as lost causes (inmates).
The Inside Circle Foundation created a four-day group therapy retreat in Folsom State Prison in California. It involves a more humanising approach where civilians and inmates undertaking group therapy sessions that are facilitated by the inmates. After recognising the success of the program over a 7 year period, the prison allowed the sessions to be filmed in 2009. The slogan of the documentary, The Work, is "Sometimes the change can come only from inside.”
Many other documentaries such as The Wisdom of Trauma and Chasing the Present delve into the impact of trauma and modern day disconnection. Wim Hof helped to heal his grief through breathwork therapy, also known as rebirthing therapy, and exposing his body to cold water.
In each of these examples family relationships play a central role in explaining how we lose equanimity and connection with our essential selves. Breathwork practices and techniques help us to recalibrate.
As a mindfulness practice, you can do hold the intention of inhaling the future and exhaling the past.
Oprah Winfrey spoke of its power to bring us back to the present moment:
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”
This article looks at the rise of conscious breathing.
More than two centuries ago Jane Austen said:
“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”
Holotropic breathwork attests to this, holding that the bodies wisdom is to be trusted above all else.
As a facilitator of breathwork in Sydney, my role is to help you focus on your breath and help you engage with that altered state where your body can release what it needs to release.
After a session, I then offer a space where you can talk through your experience, which many people finds helps to complete the healing process.
To understand what holotropic breathwork is, consider the work ‘holotropic.’ It comes from the Greek words holos (whole) & trepein (moving toward). Essentially, it means moving toward wholeness.
Abraham Maslow became renowned for introducing transpersonal psychology to the world. He advocated a psychology and a philosophy that helps people attain greater wholeness and health.
Stanislav Grof co-founded transpersonal psychology. Where Maslow came more from the intellect, Grof took more of an experiential approach.
While exploring breathwork, Grof experienced an altered state of consciousness. Some people experience altered states through meditation or lucid dreaming. Grof entered them from rapid breathing, coining the modality: holotropic breathwork.
Breath Workshop / Breathing Classes Sydney
If you’d like to take part in a group breath workshop/breathwork meditation, I regularly run events in Sydney and at my wellness centre in the Blue Mountains. As a breath coach, I also incorporate breathwork in some of the retreat programs I offer if you’re looking for some more holistic, intensive self-development.
If you'd like to find out more about healing breath here is some information about my service as well as a range of breathwork benefits: