What are some of the things that we can find out in a Breathwork session?
According to one of the leaders in Breathwork, Stanislav Grof, the main categories of experience are;
When we explore a deeper, more connected breath style, what can often arise is feeling of numbness. This is generally read in Breathwork as the surfacing of psychological patterns of control.
Wilhelm Reich in the 1930's delivered his theory on "character analysis" in the body. His main tenet was concept of material from a patient should be enlarged to include not only the content, but also the form of the patient's communications. Reich was convinced that the non-verbal behavior of the patient - his look, facial expressions, dress, bodily attitude - was not only underestimated but often completely overlooked by many analysts.
Additionally, Reich emphasised an early concept of Freud's. When Freud first studied hysterical patients with Josef Breuer in the 1880's, he used hypnosis. He found that unless a traumatic event was re-experienced, not simply remembered, under hypnosis in all its emotional vividness, there was no alleviation of symptoms. (M Sharaf 'Fury on Earth' 1983)
As a Breathwork practitioner, whenever people complain of feeling numb or frozen this is a good indicator that a major release of emotion is not far away. This is where Breathwork is very good at by-passing the defence mechanism of the muscles and fascia - and allows deep feelings to flow. Once the emotional tension is released there is more room for 'streaming', and feelings of pleasure and joy are much more available to us when return to our ordinary state of consciousness. If the client cannot move past the feelings of numbness, then bodywork sessions may be indicated to help break down the body armouring.
There are many items in our culture that are great at holding back dammed up primal feelings and energies. Marriage. Laws against murder. Cultural norms about how to be civilized in public situations. All these are necessary at a level for a functioning society. But when our inhibited culture over-reaches into almost every aspect of our daily thinking patterns, we tend to get many neuroses arising. Dammed up sexual energy or rage are two examples. During Breathwork session, some of these feelings may be touched upon. They are welcomed.
We don't have to be 'nice' all the time. Some people are very shocked that such feelings are even residing inside themselves. Just acknowledging that they are there and speaking it clearly within a group setting can be enough to help relieve any deep internal tensions. As Freud
noted early on in the 20th century, it takes alot of energy to be civilized.
In the world of Breathwork all feelings are welcomed, all energies are welcomed and worked through either through the breath itself or some integration work at the end of a session.
Another, perhaps more accurate, term for Breathwork is Cellular Memory Release. When we engage in the accelerated and focused breathing, what lies beyond the initial "getting into the groove" phase is often unknown. You can choose to have an 'intention' for a guided result in a breathwork session, however, this is not essential. Most of the time I find it more useful to allow people to have no preset agenda. This allows more space for 'left field' to enter the session. As we deepen into the space of surrendering during a session, the body can let go and release bodily pain and emotional pain,clearing the way for more bliss to enter into us.
So what sort of experiences can we expect? The main elements are;
Breathwork is a modality that can offer very quick access into a non-ordinary state of consciousness, which can then be translated into less anxiety or neuroses in everyday life. Next blog I'll be discussing how what occurs during a group breathwork session and what I'm looking for to ensure clients have the most rewarding experience possible.
After pounding the pavements of London town last September, you really get to notice the human condition in all its manifest glory, the hunchbacks, the fashion victims, the money men and money women, the dejected beggars, the local lads with tins of lager at the station on a Saturday night ready for action. I get a sense of English culture being mostly solidified and stuck in past but always around the edges is something extraordinary is going on...a place where humans are willing to let go go of long held 'norms' and jump into the unknown (especially the guy on the tube with really huge stripey platform boots).
How we take in a full breath is a good indicator of how much we can 'take in' new ideas or inspiration. If one' inhale is shallow, sharp or thin, it is likely that my client has gone through something in the past to get that way. So when I conduct a breathwork session, it my role as a breath coach to encourage you to lose your fear of taking in a full breath. What will happen if I breath fully? It might hurt, I might cry, I might laugh etc. Once we get past this restriction limitation of the inhale and teach you to surrender on the exhale you can open into some interesting spaces. Sounds simple? It is. But actually consistently moving into a full regular, rhythmic breath can be quite a challenge, but the rewards are endless.