Breathing is one of the most fundamental things we do, and in an average life span, we directly engage with it over a billion times. It has been with you from the first breath you took as a baby and will remain with you till your last breath. Our breath has a significant influence over our physical, mental, emotional, and energetic wellbeing. Through the breath, we bring a lot of new energy into the body – Prana, life force, divine force – and as it flows through your body it increases the blood flow to your brain, which nourishes your body oxygenating your cells, tissues, and organs for optimal health. Although breathing is a natural process, unfortunately most people breathe incorrectly due to stress, anxiety, panic disorders, strong emotions, postural issues, and even excessive talking. A vast amount of people are upper chest breathers, meaning they don’t breathe deep down into their belly’s which should be the foundation of healthy breathing. Others are mouth breathers which leads to chronic over breathing. So, there are all these complexities in the way we breathe that we can improve simply by breathing consciously.
Our breath has a significant influence over our physical, mental, emotional, and energetic wellbeing.
Consciously changing the way we breath adjusts the parasympathetic (rest & digest) branch of the nervous system slowing down the heart and breathing rates, lowering blood pressure, promoting digestion and allowing the body to recover. So essentially the more time we spend in the parasympathetic nervous system the healthier we are. We can do this with deep belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, which involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the belly, and the deepening of each inhalation and exhalation with each breath.
Deep unrestricted breath represents health, vitality, and the ability to flow with life’s circumstances. During traumatic events our body’s defence mechanisms restrict our breathing to prevent an overflow of emotional charge. This protective armouring stays in our bodies resulting in chronic shallow breathing and consequently affecting our psychological and physiological states.
Conscious connected breathing used in Shamanic Breathwork amongst other breathing techniques, builds an energetic charge in the body which creates an opening for deep suppressed emotional energy to percolate to the surface to be released. Core tensions related to past traumas, mental, emotional, and physical blockages, fears, negative beliefs, and chronic tensions held in the nervous system begin to release from your body at a cellular level.
In a recent study by Wit and Cruz (2020) of connected breathing and PTSD, the results showed that after eight connected breathwork sessions, the participants PTSD and comorbid symptoms were in remission. Evidently conscious connected breathing as used in Shamanic Breathwork is helpful in releasing unresolved emotions or experiences, expanding our awareness, and subsequently guiding us into reaching our full spiritual and physical potential.
Any practice that involves conscious focused breathing such as the Wim Hof Method, Holotropic, or Rebirthing is a form of breathwork. These practices were used in several ancient cultures but mainly originated in China, India, and Tibet. In China, Qigong, or energy cultivation, comprises over 3,000 breathings techniques. In India, breathwork is linked to the ancient practice of Pranayama. In Tibet, Anapanasati (or buddha breath), was developed to cultivate spirituality.
In more modern times, professionals in psychology such as Wilhelm Reich, Stansilav Grof, Arthur Janov and Alexander Lowen incorporated breathwork in clinical applications to advance regulation, trauma release, emotional attunement, increased awareness, and mindfulness.
In conclusion, the power of the breath can have powerful outcomes, bypassing the conscious mind to evoke deeper layers of the psyche, encompassing the body, mind and emotions in ways that allows the body to do what it already naturally knows how to do – release and heal.