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What is Breathwork?

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

The first time I'd ever experienced breathwork, I truthfully had no frame of reference for it. Nor was it something I was expecting to do at a 3-day training with Jeff Primack in Florida on Qigong, Reflexology and nutrition. I can honestly say I count the experience among the most significant, life-changing milestones in my life.

In addition to being something new and unexpected, it was initially challenging (I remember thinking, "I can't keep up with that breathing pace...what is this guy trying to do to us??") But Jeff's steady, calm, continuous cadence, threaded with gently interjected cheerleading "you can do it!"..."just breathe"..."don't let anyone tell you that you don't know how to breathe" kept me and about 800 other students continuously striving to keep pace with his breath, gusting in and out of the giant convention hall speakers along with the occasional "Inhale....Exhale...Inhale...Exhale...keep it up..."

So if you've never experienced "breathwork" please key in on the WORK portion if you have notions of inhaling and sighing luxuriously for relaxation. You (probably) won't break a sweat, but you will probably experience your body in a whole new way.

At one point several minutes in, the vibrations concentrated in my hands were so strong and fast they felt like super sonic cartoon-like paddles capable of powering a race car.

I also experienced this thing called tetany in a way that made me resemble the Joker from the Batman movies as tears of gratitude and healing streamed down my happy, creepy-looking little face. The science of tetany is that the body's CO2 levels drop, causing the blood's pH level to become more alkaline. What I experienced did not cause me alarm, and I intuitively understood that the effects would wear off as we came toward the end of our session. Trust yourself and the process to breathe through it.

If these temporary effects do cause a response of concern that you cannot shake for whatever reason, the experts suggest relaxing your exhale (though you may also reduce the overall effects of your breathwork, better to be your own captain so to speak and do what feels best to you for your experience.)

I had an ecstatic washing over of energy of my physical and subtle/energetic body that felt like an ocean wave the size of the Lincoln Tunnel crashing through my system to carry away limiting beliefs long held and trapped in my system.

So is this "normal" as a breathwork experience? Pretty much.

Some people have physical sensations that include a wide range...pleasant, euphoric, intense, painful, panic/anxiety, orgasmic. There typically are psycho-spiritual effects related to releasing energy during breathwork. For those of you who have done deep reiki/energy healing sessions, the overall effects are similar. Breathwork tends to be a great experience of your own nervous system functioning in full!

Is it safe? Yes. (Check out these resources for research and safety precautions for known health conditions.)

Some teachers suggest that tetany is literally showing us what we are holding onto and gives us the chance to ask: what can I allow myself to release or let go? I definitely discovered (without having to think!) that my body was holding stuff that wasn't serving me and my growth from that moment forward. It was incredibly healing.

That, in the nutshell, is breathwork. But that's just the experience I had. It may not be like that for you (and that specific experience was not recurring for me.)

While not an everyday practice, incorporating breathwork into mindfulness practices that help you along your spiritual journey of self and life can be invaluable. I hope you'll have the opportunity to try a breathwork class when it's right for you. And, if you've done breathwork and want to experience something unique, check out the special events and workshops schedule for Sacred Fire Somatic Breathwork, a new 2-hour collaborative workshop with one of my favorite breathwork facilitators in RVA, Frank Cordovano. We have a little preview for you:

And regardless of when we see you, in the meantime, remember to breathe!



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