Breathwork: WTF Just Happened And Why Everyone Should Try It!
Breathwork: WTF Just Happened And Why Everyone Should Try It!
If you read my blogs or follow me on Social Media you know I am not one to swear or use expletives to get my point across but for this blog’s title I am literally taking the words right out of my students’ mouth. The idea for this blog came from the Breathwork class I taught last Monday night at The Den Meditation Center in Studio City, California.
As I stepped outside the class and stood by the long cozy lounge bench waiting for students to exit as I always do, the first student who walked out was a big teddy bear of a man, eyes moist and full of curiosity, with his hand in his tousled, curly hair as he moved towards me and said, “Wtf just happened, everything is vibrating! That was amazing!”
Then behind him stood a woman whose eyes were still tear-filled as she walked straight for me and gave me a big warm hug, “Thank you so much, I needed that tonight!”
Then one of my regulars said, “How is it that every time I come to your class, you seem to say the right thing at the right time to help me drop back into my breathing and I always get exactly what I need.”
Another regular, a woman who travels across town twice a week to both Den locations I teach at to get a double dose of Breathwork, said, “I was out of town for a week and missed my practice, I was a mess without it!”
This is just a snapshot of what happens after every single Breathwork class I teach, and it’s not only my classes I bet if you were to survey all the Breathwork coaches everywhere, I am pretty confident this is a recurring theme.
So what the heck is this modality called Breathwork that Google Trends just announced has been searched more this year than it ever has before.
I will get to that but first I want to point out a couple of fun facts from these Google Trends stats. I think it’s interesting to note that Colorado comes in first place with the most Breathwork searches, hmmm, must be a connection between all the chill vibes from pot smoking that’s making peeps from Colorado more open to trying new things.
And of course, California – not really all that surprising, comes in second place, followed by Washington, Arizona, and Oregon. The West Coast leads the way it seems for curiosity with Breathwork which I fondly refer to as the gateway drug to meditation.
The Mind Body Green (MBG) website similarly refers to it as “the shortcut to meditation” and this video gives a fantastic look inside Breathwork and why it’s on the rise. MBG also lists Breathwork as the 11th rising Wellness Trends for 2018.
I am going out on a limb here and saying I absolutely do not think that Breathwork is a ‘trend’. I believe it is here in the West to stay and will only gain popularity once more people begin to experience the beauty of this life force as it continues to be harnessed in new, mindful ways.
Yogis, meditation masters, martial artists and many others have long understood the power of the breath and it is finally reaching the mainstream.
Here is a simplified explanation of what Breathwork is from the MBG website:
“Breathwork has been construed as the link between consciousness and the spirit realm. Some maintain that it’s a shortcut to meditation.
Whether you practice Breathwork in a yoga class or as part of a PTSD healing protocol, engaging in controlled purposeful breathing patterns can actually help control the inner workings of your body, from heart rate variability to calming anxiety.” If you want to delve deeper into the science of the breath The Yoga Journal has a great 3 part series article here.
I like to simplify it even more and as I say in my classes, Breathwork for me is the fastest way I know to get back to “good”.
In other words, when we are out there in life “banging around” (otherwise known as dealing with everyday stresses, pain, traumas etc.) and feeling completely off our center, if we can just practice a mindful breathing pattern for a few breaths, we can literally shift our mood and energy within minutes.
How this happens is two-fold, one is the spiritual, holistic reason and the other is scientific.
On the spiritual side of things, I believe that deep breaths tend to shift us because when we finally get to a place where we can focus on the breath and breathe in deep enough and slow enough, there is a vulnerability, a sense of deeper connection and understanding that occurs, that just doesn’t happen in our day to day hustle and bustle.
Simply put, when we let go of what I call our “brain banter” and tap into our breath, there is an opening for the heart and spirit to finally lead.
Which, unfortunately, due to the fast pace, over stimulating, social media addicted, ADHD style of operating that we all fall prey to in today’s world, that space is hard to tap into on the daily.
That’s why I believe EVERYONE should at least give Breathwork a try. And hopefully, that will lead you closer to also developing a Meditation practice that suits your lifestyle and personality.
While this blog is about Breathwork, the two practices in tandem, in my humble opinion, are a perfect recipe for mind empowerment, anxiety relief, clarity, creativity renewal, pain release, trauma healing, heart opening and so much more.
If you want to explore more about the benefits of Meditation and how it can literally change your brain. Business Insider breaks it down perfectly here.
Now, back to the subject at hand and the science of how Breathwork does it’s “magic” as Dan Brule puts it.
Dan is one of the most prolific Breathwork teachers in the world with over 40 years researching, teaching and exploring the benefits of this modality and also happens to be Tony Robbins’ personal breath coach. Yes, even Tony needs Breathwork!
Dan talks about the transformative power of conscious breathing and breath awareness in his book Just Breathe
Another fantastic resource for a deeper understanding of the breath and how it truly has the power to heal us is the book The Healing Power of the Breath written by Doctors P. Brown and Patricia Gerbarg, who say:
Studies now reveal how breathing may be used to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD as well as stress-related medical problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease. When we speed up or slow down our breathing, we activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses. (Any kind of breathing, not just “diaphragmatic breathing” affects the vagal nerves.)
By controlling our breath, we can willfully influence the brain and the autonomic nervous system and literally change our mind-body state. By changing the pattern of our breathing, we change the pattern of the information being sent to the brain.
In other words, how often, how fast, and how much you inflate your lungs directly affects the brain and how it operates.
Breathing affects every organ, system, and function in the body. Every physiological, psychological, and emotional state has a corresponding breathing pattern.
When you change one, the other changes. Therefore, Conscious Breathing techniques have the potential to transform the quality of your life on every level.
What’s important to note about Breathwork, is that under the main umbrella of the word Breathwork, there are so many different styles of breathing available that deliver various results.
There is a breathing pattern for minimizing stress and anxiety, there is one for stimulating energy when feeling sluggish and tired. And then, of course, there is meditation type breathing pattern to help you get into your Zen space.
Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder of Center For Integrative Medicine has a great breakdown of three different breathing styles along with simple to follow videos on how to do each of them.
I love how simple they are and the results are instantaneous.
While this blog is about Breathwork as a modality in general, there is one particular style of breathing I want to focus on now and this is the style of Breathwork I have chosen (or I should say has chosen me) to teach.
This style is a 3 part open mouth breath, most closely resembling Holotropic Breathing (developed by Stan Grof) or the Rebirthing method, that can put you into a bit of a mind-altered state and/or simply a deeply connected, mindful place where openness and clarity are readily available.
All of that without the use of any psychedelic drugs? Yes, it’s true! I guess as an ex-drug addict (oops yes, 25 years ago, but that’s an entirely different blog) that may be why I gravitated to this modality in the first place.
I mention that lightly, because, in truth, I ended up in a Breathwork class to help deal with heartache, not to get a high of any sort.
To say that in the first 10 minutes of breathing in this way I was in a puddle of tears is completely accurate.
I cried years and years of tears in that very first session. Ugh, yep as some call it, I did the “ugly cry” for the entire 45 minutes session.
Did it help with the heartache? YES, but what it also, and very unexpectedly did, was help release all of the other emotions I had been stuffing down most of my adult life, fear, regret, sadness, guilt, shame, anger, and loss. I literally floated out of that first session filled with love, inspiration and grateful for everything in my life!
Giving a big shout out to my friend and first breathwork class mentor Jon Paul Crimi who has an incredible gift for helping people go deep with their breathwork.
That being said, I need to add a disclaimer right here as in no way am I saying that in one Breathwork session do I have no more “issues” to work through. I am admittedly always a “work in progress”.
Nor am I claiming that Breathwork can “heal” people. I can only speak to what people share with me after coming to my classes regularly, things like:
“This class has been profoundly life-changing”, “One session literally feels like 10 years of therapy”, “I have never experienced anything in my life like this” and more.
So if you are ready to take the plunge and want to check out a Breathwork class in your area or maybe even here in LA with me, here are 5 quick tips to ensure you rock your first Breathwork class.
1. Empty Stomach
This tip is so important that you wouldn’t know necessary unless you read this blog or someone mentioned it to you prior to trying Breathwork. But your experience will definitely be comprised if you have a belly full of food as you are trying to connect deeply with your breath. It’s best to have eaten your last meal about 2 hours prior to class this way you can focus on the deep breaths without feeling uncomfortable.
2. Stay Warm
Wear layers and/or bring a blanket as you may get chills during the class due to the change in your physiology during the breath cycles. Some studios provide blankets but not all so best to err on the safe side.
3. Dress Comfortably
Wear loose clothing, no belts, no tight jeans etc. so you are as comfortable as possible and can connect deeply with your breath.
4. Open Mind
Go to the class not expecting anything other than 45 minutes of self-care time for you to let go of everything else going on in your life. Don’t go expecting to have this “big experience” and then if that does happen you will be pleasantly surprised. Just go being open to seeing what can happen when you let go of the outcome. Oh, also and even more important – check your brain at the door! Monkey minds will sabotage your breathwork experience almost every single time.
5. Commit Fully
If you want to get the most out of your Breathwork class show up and really pay attention to the teacher’s opening introduction about what to expect, how they conduct their class and most importantly how to do the 3 part open mouth breath. Then lay down and go for it!
If you do these 5 things I promise your first Breathwork class will be what I call a “Breathwork Win” and if you really drop in to your breath, you may just end being the next person walking out of class saying “Wtf just happened” and that is what I call a “Breathwork bonus breakthrough”!
Either way, you will leave having a new, easily accessible self-care tool to add to your mindfulness tool belt. This modality has truly been a life saver, heart saver, mood shifter, clarity creator for me and I am so grateful to teach it!
Enjoy and Breathe Deep! If you are in the Los Angeles area and want to come breathe with me – you can find me on Saturday evenings at 8:15 PM in Hollywood and Monday evenings at 7:15 PM in Studio City at The Den Meditation Center (www.denmeditation.com).
Or if you would rather do a private Breathwork session, reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org