Breathwork to release blockages

Our breath

Our breath is a faithful companion from the first breath when we are born to the last breath when our life comes to an end. Life is a constant flow and consists of many changes that can sometimes be dizzying and frightening. Our breath can give us support, we can return to our inner self and draw from it when too much is crashing down on us, when we look for happiness on the outside and realise that we can’t find it there.

People often ask me, especially after a KAP session, what else they can do at home to release blockages. For me, yoga and breathwork are techniques that can be practised at home.

Breathing is much more than just a survival function, it is a philosophy of life. The way we breathe is the way we live. Our breath is a precious gift with tremendous power. It is no coincidence that breathwork is a central component of spiritual practices and meditation in many ancient cultures, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Breathing techniques are used to promote inner calm, clear the mind and create a deeper connection with the self or the universe. A breathing practice can completely improve your mood, and therefore your day.

Breathing as an alternative to meditation

I find it relatively difficult to meditate. And I don’t think it’s just me. Meditation is definitely a great tool, but many people find it challenging. You sit there with your eyes closed and try to get into a deep state of calm and then you start thinking about all sorts of things. What happened yesterday, what still needs to be done, what’s worrying you at the moment, how uncomfortable your posture is and how your legs are falling asleep 😉 ….

Breathing exercises can be an effective alternative in this case.  You can easily influence your breath and bring yourself into a state that can be deeper than you can experience in a meditation.

In all classical systems of wisdom, breathwork was used as a portal to meditation and therefore has an incredibly important and central place.

Nowadays we are exposed to so many stimuli: the modern information society, digitalisation, increasing traffic and increased noise. Our nervous system is exposed to overstimulation and this makes it difficult to concentrate. This throws us off balance and can lead to dissatisfaction, depression, relationship problems and energy blockages.

The breath is the original method of controlling your nervous system.  Breathing techniques can have a positive influence on the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system consists of the vagus nerve, which has a calming effect, and the sympathetic nervous system, which has an activating effect on the body.

On average, an adult breathes in and out about 10 to 15 times a minute. If you want to calm yourself down, you should try to reduce your breaths to 6 per minute. To activate yourself when you are tired, for example, you can increase the frequency to 24 breaths per minute in a balanced ratio or even perform so-called fire breathing (Kapalabhati).

Breathwork to release blockages and traumas

Targeted breathing techniques can help us to access traumatic memories and emotions that may be buried deep in our subconscious.  Traumatic experiences are stored in our bodies and breathwork can help us to physically release and process these stored emotions.

Intensive breathing therapy such as rebirthing, holotropic breathing and biodynamic breathing therapy should be accompanied by a trained therapist. I use breathwork not only in rebirthing therapy, but also in de-armouring therapy together with energy work and facial therapy.

However, there are also breathing techniques that can be practised alone at home over a shorter period of time:

Box Breathing: This technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds and holding the breath for 4 seconds. This pattern is repeated for several minutes, focussing completely on every step and you could even imagine the 4 sides of a box. It puts us in a state of deep relaxation.

Circular breathing: This technique involves breathing in and out in a continuous circular motion without pausing between breaths. The breath should be deep and full, with the centre of gravity on the abdomen.

4-7-8 breathing: This technique involves breathing in for a count of four, holding for a count of seven and breathing out for a count of eight. This pattern is repeated several times, concentrating on the feeling of the breath and the body.

Some pranayamas (yogic breathing techniques)

Purna: Purna means fullness and in this breathing technique 3 breathing spaces (collarbone, chest, abdomen) are connected.

Bhramari: Bhramari breathing involves humming like a bee while exhaling with the mouth closed.

Nadhi Shodana/Anuloma Viloma: The meaning of Nadi is “energy channel” and Shodana means “cleansing”. This alternate breathing cleanses the energy channels and balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

Ujjayi: The meaning is “victorious” and with this throat breathing, the glottis is narrowed. This allows you to inhale and exhale in a very controlled manner. This pranayama is ideal for lengthening and refining the breath.

Sitali: This breathing cools the body and can be used for all circumstances that have to do with too much heat (e.g. fever, menopause).

Benefits of breathwork

Breathwork can be a useful tool

  • to reduce stress and anxiety,
  • to improve mental well-being,
  • to promote the metabolism,
  • to strengthen the organs,
  • to improve heart and lung health,
  • to activate the self-healing powers,
  • to improve concentration and sleep,
  • to accelerate cell regeneration,
  • to strengthen the diaphragm,
  • to increase the ability to perceive,
  • to expand consciousness.

“The breath that the ancient texts speak of is the expression of a dynamic experience of that vital force that is awakened with every breath. It affects our bloodstream, transforms itself into finer inner forms of energy, it creates a new kind of body awareness” (Lama Govinda)

Safety considerations: what to bear in mind

Trauma breathwork in particular is not suitable for everyone! Breathwork is very powerful and can trigger intense, deep processes on a physical and emotional level.

High blood pressure: As breathwork can be stressful and can raise blood pressure, it is not recommended for people who already suffer from high blood pressure and do not control it with medication.

History of panic attacks or psychosis: Although breathwork can help with anxiety and other mental health issues, people with a history of panic attacks or psychosis are strongly advised to only do breathwork with a trained therapist.

Cardiovascular disease: Individuals with cardiac arrhythmias or a history of heart attacks are not advised to do breathing exercises for trauma. Due to the rapidity of the breath, the exercise may be too strenuous for people with a weakened cardiovascular system.

Epilepsy: The rigorous nature of breathing work to heal trauma and the potential for hyperventilation and rapid breathing can increase abnormal brain activity and potentially trigger seizures and should therefore be used with caution and under supervision.

What can happen during breathwork?

It should be noted that all kinds of emotions and feelings, physical sensations such as tension, tingling, vibrations, temperature fluctuations, yawning, drowsiness, etc. can occur.

These are normal reactions. You are in control at all times and can slow down your breathing, lengthen your exhalation or stop completely. However, transformation usually occurs when you stay present and continue breathing.

Increased breathing can also lead to so-called tetany. Tetany is characterised by cramps, spasms, tingling, paralysis or numbness in the hands and/or feet (also known as lobster hands).

The main reason for the development of these symptoms is the increased exhalation of carbon dioxide during breathing. This causes the pH value of the blood to become more alkaline, resulting in neuromuscular excitability, which leads to the above-mentioned symptoms.

These symptoms can also occur spontaneously during breathing therapy as a result of tense (pressed) exhalation. This form of breathing is understood to be the result of a basic stress posture. As soon as the exhalation relaxes, the symptoms disappear again. If the relaxed breathing is transferred to everyday life, the basic stress is sustainably reduced.

Many people who experience tetany during the first breathing exercises seem to become accustomed to the physiological changes that occur with subsequent breathing work.

Tetany can also be understood as a symbol of holding on to something. Lack of forceful exhalation may be a sign that there is something that needs to be released. So instead of trying to avoid tetany, it should be understood as a gift and a message from the body.  It is showing us that there is a threshold waiting to be crossed and we should ask ourselves the question “What do I need to release now?

Perhaps it is a fear of losing control, a grudge, a fear, a childhood trauma, …… Whatever it is, it is probably keeping you in a state of resistance and preventing you from experiencing your best life.

Answering the above question and addressing the emotional background of this muscle spasm can help us move forward. The more pronounced the sensation, the more difficult it is for the affected person to relax and surrender to everyday life. It is worthwhile to move on and practise patience.

Guided breathing exercise for more bliss

Last but not least, I have a little gift for you. This guided breathing exercise is designed to activate your root chakra and we will be using what is known as conscious, circular abdominal breathing.

Create a cosy and optimal environment (not while driving!) in a sitting or lying position and let yourself go …..

 

“The mind and the breath are the king and queen of the consciousness.”
Leonard Orr – “Founder of the worldwide breath movement”