Breathwork as a Stress Healing Therapy
Michael de Glanville & Viola Edward Interviewed by Fatma Tuna
“Breathwork as a Stress healing therapy”
(Published 7th Dec 2013)
Stress inhibits breathing
One of the most devastating effects of stress is the inhibition of breathing. With repetition this becomes a generator of hang ups which can result in lack of creativity, low productivity or as emotional unbalance. The symptoms experienced can be repressed emotions, frustration and lack of purpose in life, disregard of illnesses and general disconnection with nature and poor exercise, difficulty in expressing forgiveness, love and thankfulness. By practicing Breathwork and becoming conscious of the way that we breathe, we can reverse this inhibition, liberating ourselves from the effects of stress.
Q: What exactly do you mean by “general disconnection with nature”
A: “When I get away from the concrete, the tarmac and the electric light of the city, I get back in touch with my natural environment, nature. I make my connection with nature when I become aware of it, when I tune in my body senses to receive, when I see, feel, smell, hear and sense all that is going on around me. When I am stressed and my breathing has become inhibited, going out into the wonderful nature that surrounds me in Cyprus turns my mood around, my full and normal breathing pattern returns and with it, my energy rebuilds.
We have always been nourished by the boundless generosity of nature and being conscious of those gifts allows us to receive. Here are some examples; the atmosphere that surrounds our planet and maintains a comfortable surface temperature for us, the powerful light energy sent to us by the sun, the cleansing tidal dynamic of the oceans and seas due to our moon, the air we breathe that gives us precious life, the winds that blow and circulate water vapour up into the mountains, the rain that quenches our thirst and feeds the plants and the animals that provide our needs, the ground beneath our feet, the seas and the oceans, all rich in essential elements and biological processes.
Being aware and grateful for the endless daily generosity of nature and its presence in our lives nourishes our spirit. We love and connect with nature and receive the energy of these processes. We understand the reasons why we are here on earth and recharge the natural balance of our bodies and minds.
When I disconnect with nature, I feel that I am depriving myself of an energy that is fundamental to my soul.”
Breathing as a connection with health and life.
Conscious Breathing techniques have been used for centuries in eastern cultures, but its use in the west, within the fields of psychology and psychotherapy are relatively recent. Breathing is one of the basic points in several practices of multi-dimensional health.
Q: Please explain what you mean by multi-dimensional health?
A: “Multi-dimensional or holistic health is a concept of health that includes all of the processes and functions of our beings such as our physical and biological entity as well as our spiritual, psychic and mental essence. The philosophy behind the holistic concept is that all these processes are interdependent and an imbalance in one will affect the harmony of all the others.
All the practices listed below follow holistic philosophy. Breathing and Breathwork are fundamental to most of them.
Ancestral practices are: Yoga, Meditation, Tai-chi and Chi-kung,
Modern practices are: Primal Therapy, Postural Integration, Bioenergetics, Gestalt, Rebirthing and Holotropic Breathing.
Ancient and modern practices both acknowledge the importance of breathing in processes of transformation.”
Rebirthing is a powerful tool in Breathwork Therapy.
Rebirthing therapy is powerful because it is simple and it is efficient. It was first developed and presented in the USA by Leonard Orr in the early seventies. Free from suggestion or coercion, rebirthing allows each individual to find their most adequate breathing rhythm. It stimulates the emergence of memories from our early childhood, from stages of our intra-uterine life and also from more recent traumatic experiences. Once these experiences re-emerge from our sub-conscious into the conscious, they can then catalyze powerful transpersonal experiences.
Q: Please can you explain how Rebirthing is “Free from suggestion or coercion”?
A: “A number of therapies depend on suggestions or persuasion (coercion) coming from the practitioner. In almost all of them, the therapist must be present during the therapy. The client is dependent on their knowledge.
Breathing, however, is something natural to all of us from the moment of birth. During the Breathwork session, the breath worker merely reminds each individual about something they know how to do very well and when they remember and begin to practice breathing in a conscious manner, they find their most adequate breathing rhythm and the healing can begin. Over a number of sessions with the therapist, the client learns how to work with their own breath process when they are alone, thus freeing themselves from their dependence on the therapist. The process is free from suggestion and coercion. Learning to practice Breathwork by oneself is self-empowering.”
Rebirthing is a powerful tool in Breathwork Therapy.
This conscious form of breathing is a gateway into experiencing altered states of consciousness and forty years of positive experience with Rebirthers around the world gives an eloquent testimony to the success of conscious connected breathing in therapy. Rebirthing creates access to forgotten inner spaces, heals past traumas and transforms those “limiting personal belief systems” into new paradigms of perception, creating better choices and greater freedom.
Q: At the end of this paragraph, when you mention “Limiting personal belief systems”, do you mean “negative thinking”?
A: Yes, negative thinking is the repetitive mental action that creates our “Limiting personal belief systems”. When I am constantly thinking negative thoughts concerning my creativity, the look of my body, the level of my intelligence, my capability to achieve results and complete projects, I should be aware that these negative thoughts are often simply personal beliefs developed as a result of my experiences of physical and mental traumas. These negative beliefs, which are more often mistaken opinion rather than fact, influence my choices and act to limit my possibilities and my efficiency. They form a mental system, which prevents me from developing my full potential.
Accepting stress is part of its healing.
As a natural and holistic process, rebirthing uses two very human actions, breathing and thinking. These fundamental elements help each individual to understand and accept that all the resources needed to develop their creativity and holistic potential are already within themselves. Accepting that the natural state of the Self is one of peace and awareness, the relevant balanced action (neither passive nor conformist) can be discovered. For this, we only need time, energy and space.
Q: Could you please develop the meaning of this sentence?
A: “Conscious breathing and positive thinking can lead us to the conclusion that peace and awareness are simply a part of our natural state. Accepting and implementing this conclusion creates a successful, creative and productive lifestyle centered on balanced actions rather than passivity, thoughtlessness or compliant conformity”.
There are different types of stress.
The most common one is a state produced by physical, mental, emotional or spiritual experiences that were neither accepted nor integrated. Such experiences did not include a satisfactory completion. They were situations generated by fear, the “I am not good enough to…” and/or “I cannot do it” syndrome. Therefore, the genuine completion of any such experience is a healing in itself. Rebirthing’s advantage is that it permits the completion of those experiences and we can then understand, resolve and integrate them.
Q: In this sentence about ‘genuine completion’, do you mean completion in a ‘satisfactory way’ or in ‘any way’?
A: “When we talk about ‘completion of an experience’, we are referring to the moment when we have assumed our part in the events making up the experience and understood the lessons to be learned from it. It is a genuine completion because the return to harmony and balance has been achieved with the help of actions motivated from within, as a result of conscious decisions. It is an interior healing resolution of a personal journey or process, it is genuine, totally personal, not imitation or fake.”
A Rebirthing Session
With some practice, the client learns to breathe, relax and remain aware with an (1) attitude of acceptance. An inner atmosphere is created that allows (2) repressed “material” to come to the surface of the consciousness. These thoughts and memories also have their emotional counterpart and a (3) physical reference point in the body. As the associated energy emerges and circulates throughout the body and the mind, physical tensions are softened and eventually dissolved. Emotions are expressed and conscious decisions are made. As this physical and emotional relief is produced, breathing becomes deeper and flows fully and spontaneously. The client is assisted to resolve and (4) integrate past experiences and to progressively release the old traumas and develop a breath that circulates easily and freely.
Q: (1) Does ‘attitude of acceptance’ refer to accepting one’s weaknesses, strengths etc?
A: Yes, accepting my weaknesses and valuing my strengths are a fundamental component of my personal development. In this particular context, the focus is more on the details of the breathing session. We never know what processes and experiences await us as we begin a Breathwork session. A useful philosophy on starting to breathe is to have no expectations; whatever happens is bound to be beneficial in the long run. By assuming an attitude of awareness and acceptance of whatever is about to happen during the session, I welcome and facilitate the possibility of change and personal growth.
Q: (2) An inner atmosphere is created that allows repressed “material” to come to the surface of the consciousness. What does ‘material’ refer to here?
A: It refers to traumatic experiences and events that occurred in the past. The painful and potentially damaging memory of these experiences are often repressed by a subconscious attitude of self-protection of the psyche.
Q: (3) These thoughts and memories also have their emotional counterpart and a ‘physical reference point in the body’. Could you elaborate on this please?
A: During the breathing session, we can sometimes feel a number of very particular physical sensations. This could be a flow of tingling energy, like a fluid movement of “pins and needles” around the arms, the legs, the abdomen, the lips, the fingers etc. It could also be a movement blocking sensation, referred to as “tetany”, which locks up the movement of the hands, the jaw or the neck for example.
The thoughts and memories that surface during the breathing trigger emotional release and also the physical sensations as described above. It is felt that the location (hands, mouth, legs, neck etc.) of these sensations are indicative of energy blocks in those particular places. This raises the question, “what do I not manage to express”? (create, say, run to, observe etc). Most traumatic experiences (Injury, humiliation, sexual abuse, beatings, etc.) were accompanied by physical discomfort or pain and the related memories will be stored in the body ‘memory’, specifically at the point where the pain was felt, as well as in the mental memory.
Q: (4) In what way does ‘Integrating an experience’ differ from ‘accepting an experience’? or is it synonymous?
A: “No, these two words are not synonymous. Accepting an experience is an important first step in the learning process. It follows on from the initial state of denial, the refusal by the person to believe what really happened to them. Integration of the experience will follow acceptance as the whole being gradually assumes the multiple consequences of that acceptance. The barriers are then lowered and the initial resistance dissolves. When an experience is fully integrated, a new personal energy and awareness develops in the person as the learning acquired from the experience settles in to its natural place in the consciousness”.
Essential steps to the transformation of stress.
Essentially, breathing and thinking are two personal inner resources that are available, simple, natural and powerful. Both open doors towards recognition of the state of our inner Self. A third resource comes from the talents and the natural gifts that every person possesses; it is part of their own raw material. Whether developed or not, these three resources will always be people’s allies in times of crisis and in times of creativity. Healing processes that have assimilated and developed the expression of these three inner elements, internally as externally, will always be valuable and successful.
Q: ‘Assimilation’ seems to have a negative connotation. Is that the case here?
A: “Assimilation is the incorporation of new concepts or elements into existing schemes. Depending on where you are looking from, assimilation can have both negative and positive connotations. We could rewrite this sentence in the following way; ‘Healing processes that have facilitated the integration into the psyche of the newly recognized elements of breathing, thinking and personal talents will always be valuable and successful’. Here, the connotation is definitely positive and beneficial”.
Essential steps to the transformation of stress
We live, breathe, relax, and breathe, live, relax, in a circular rhythm. Life not only has a beginning but also an end. There are multiple points, in the midst of this rhythm, that are connected to other directions of expansion. A person who keeps their intention and attention focused on their feelings, emotions, thoughts and memories, experimenting with and accepting these different phenomena will accept and heal their stress.
Q: Could you explain what is meant by ‘connected to other directions of expansion.’
A: In the circular rhythm of breathing and relaxing, (inhale connected to exhale connected to inhale……etc) there will be moments when the possibility will present itself, to set off in a new direction with a new intention, to assimilate a new belief. By focusing attention and intention on the feelings, thoughts, emotions and memories generated during the breathing process and by experimenting with them and accepting them, the healing of stress can take place.
Consciousness of abundance.
Q: Could you explain the meaning of this paragraph heading please?
A: Abundance is the opposite of scarcity. It is the presence of a significant quantity of material or abstract entities.
This is a practice of positive thinking. Feelings of satisfaction and tranquility are rooted in the realization that we are surrounded by abundance rather than scarcity. Whatever today’s difficulties might be, there are always so many things to be thankful for. If we choose to be aware of how much we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, we are developing our consciousness of abundance.
If you are interested in deepening your knowledge about “Breathwork and healing stress” you can participate in sessions with Viola and Michael. We would love to hear from you with your comments, experiences and questions. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mob. 0533 867 3685. FaceBook: ViolaEdward Coaching.
You can download a free copy of Viola’s book “Breathing the Rhythm of Success” and find a collection of previous articles in this series from http://www.violaedward.com
About Viola & Michael.
Viola came to Cyprus from Venezuela in 2002 to join Michael who was born on the Island and returned from France in 1999. Viola and Michael are both trained therapists in Breathwork and they founded Kayana Ltd in 2003. Viola specialises in Relationship Coaching, Business Consulting and Colour and Image. Michael has an Engineering background and specialises in Massage and Watsu.
About Fatma: She is a conference and interpreter translator since 2005.