Ask the experts: How can I benefit from breathwork practice?
When was the last time you thought about your breath? It’s something that we do around 22,000 times a day, and yet we can easily forget just how important it is.
Breathwork, the art of breathing intentionally, can be an incredibly powerful therapeutic tool used to help us heal. Here, craniosacral and breathwork therapist Elmer Postle answers your questions on breathwork and shares some tips for getting started.
What is breathwork and why is it so powerful?
‘Breathwork’ is a term that covers therapeutic approaches of using the breath to intentionally help restore health. When we are alive, we are breathing; it is a core expression of health. Deepening the breath intentionally is to decide to get closer to how that aspect is working in our physical, emotional, and spiritual systems.
With the breath being central to our survival, when we have been challenged in our living, through experiencing trauma or experiencing diminishment, these events are connected to our breath. Consequently, when we consciously breathe, connecting ourselves to this great big global expression of health provided by the trees, aspects of our lives that need healing may put up their hand and say, “Me; now!”. As such, the skill and support of the therapist and the intention behind the deepening of the breath are key to the experience being a healing one.
What can breathwork help with?
We all breathe the same air. The air breathed by a jaguar in Guatemala is the air we breathe as we wake and put the kettle on. Breathing connects us to ‘all that lives and all that breathes’, as my teacher and colleague, Binnie A. Dansby says. We are part of a universal expression of life and health. Intentionally connecting with it – allowing the air into our bodies – restates this universal health in our system.
It supports a reorienting to health we may have forgotten or got lost in. In this way, pretty much any ailment or misalignment, illness or condition can be supported towards health in some way through conscious attention to the breath. This may be a profound healing of a physical matter or we change our minds about how we take care of ourselves – one which makes all the difference.
Can anyone do breathwork?
“Anyone does” do a version of ‘breathwork’ all the time. Breathing helps us regulate our systems continually. Intending to breathe in a therapeutic context is one of the many forms of breathwork, including the SOURCE process.
This breathwork model, with the breath into the upper chest, is about integrating affirmations of safety and support. If our source beliefs about life, learned when we took our first breath, state the world isn’t safe or we are not supported, then we can tend to see and make this the case. Integrating affirmations of safety and support creates choice in our response to life conditions we experience.
Some people may not want to heal, to take a step – for good reason. What the breath connects us with may be an experience that was particularly miserable, painful, difficult or choice-less: “Why would I go there again?” we might ask. Having support around us is critical as we are choosing to parent ourselves into our next stage of growth, so it’s important to find the right teacher/practitioner. Our breathwork practice is a dialling-up of a local regulation – ‘one body’ moving into a relationship with a bigger expression of health.
Top tips for those new to breathwork
- The choice of working with the breath is worth researching. Because you are working with profound issues, finding someone who has demonstrably been where you are interested in going is essential.
- Take it steady and make sure you are supported. It’s more important to have a sense of agency and achievement in your engagement of breathwork practices than it is to have a big experience you are left alone to make sense of.
- It is often the community around you that makes the difference in how breathwork works for you. Integrating these experiences means being around people who are safe with you being who you are at a deeper level.
- Intention is key. It’s worth the time and effort to get clear on what you want to work with each time you breathe. Affirmations that can accompany breathwork are central to helping us change life-diminishing beliefs and embrace greater well-being.