How is it ‘advanced’?
One great gift of advanced breathwork is its effectiveness in helping us to access and self-heal the emotional pain body. The emphasis on emotional release is why it is sometimes called cathartic-style breathwork. The catharsis in advanced breathwork signifies authentic, spontaneous emotional release, not a superficial, forced, or artificially-created emotional response.
Early in each of our lives, we were confronted with experiences that we interpreted in painful ways, overwhelming our capacity to cope with such feelings. We avoided feeling them by tensing our bodies and restricting our breath, locking the emotional energy in. We also developed an array of defenses against this internalized pain, defenses which may have served us very well to survive the trials of childhood. Over time, those same defenses that once protected us often become more of a liability than an aid to survival. For just a few examples, defenses might take the form of numbness, addictive behaviors, chaos, externalized judgment, or running away from ourselves and others.
Meanwhile, the feelings we avoided over so many years have not gone away — they remain locked in our physical and energetic bodies. This can result in symptoms ranging from physical ailments, to anxiety or depression, to recurring problems in relationships or work, to stuckness in spiritual pursuits, to sheer exhaustion from the expenditure of energy required to keep emotions suppressed. The avoidance of the emotional pain body results in energy and consciousness not residing fully in the physical body; we can become ungrounded, disembodied, living in our heads or avoiding full presence in other ways.
In a breath session, the pockets and layers of suppressed emotional memory can finally surface to consciousness and be safely felt, transformed, and dissolved. This seems to happen both because of the cleansing effect of the breath energy and because the breath energy helps to soften the barriers between the conscious and subconscious mind. The emphasis is not on mental-level analysis, though new insights often arise. Nor is the purpose to re-experience the pain on an artificial or superficial level (which could be re-traumatizing), but rather to integrate the energy formation of the pain in a way that renders it harmless. We discover that what we once believed was too painful to allow was just a feeling waiting to be received with self-compassion.
In conjunction with the breath, another important tool I use to work with defense patterns is neo-Reichian characterology as elaborated by Alexander Lowen and others in the practice of bioenergetics, by Barbara Brennan in energy healing, and by breathworkers like Jaan Sanaam and Jim Morningstar.
A skilled facilitator helps the breather work through their habitual defense patterns, both in the session and in their daily lives. The cumulative effect of this process over repeated sessions is a tangible experience of wholeness, integration, embodiment, and profound self-acceptance which is itself transformative.
Is it for me?
Everyone can benefit from one of the many styles of breathwork. Advanced breathwork is a relatively strong and potent style that most people experience as very beneficial. It is best approached with a spirit of adventure and a willingness to take responsibility for one’s own path of inner growth. Some people come to advanced breathwork after feeling stuck and frustrated with other techniques and find it to be the missing key for accessing and releasing emotional memory. It complements any program of spiritual practice, healing, or counseling.
Here are some examples of times when advanced breathwork may be for you.
Advanced breathwork has been transformative for many in these and similar circumstances. If your situation differs, feel free to contact me to discuss whether advanced breathwork may be right for you.
For those with certain medical or psychological conditions, a very gentle style of breathwork may be more appropriate and this can also be arranged. You will be asked about the relevant conditions during the free phone consultation. If you are not sure what style would be appropriate for you, call me and we can discuss your questions.
What happens in a session?
A typical session lasts between 1½ and 2 hours. The first session begins with a half-hour consultation, allowing time for us to get to know one another and to discuss your intentions for the session and your larger goals. The next part of the session is the breathing, which lasts for about one hour. Usually you will be lying down, though in some cases you may sit or stand for a portion of the session. I will support you to relax and guide you to breathe through the mouth at the optimal depth and speed. The breaths will be connected with no gap between the inhale and the exhale and you will relax deeply on each exhalation. This is called “conscious connected breathing.” Most of the time, I will encourage you to breathe deeply and energetically through the mouth into the upper part of the lungs. This helps to accumulate breath energy and to direct it to the heart area and lower chakras where we have locked away many emotional memories.
As the breath energy accumulates it naturally moves to the areas of blockage in the energy body that are ready to release. By this means, we can trust that we will receive only what we are ready to process and that the session will be just what we need. This also means that no two sessions are alike. Among the range of experiences that might occur, you may notice tingling or vibrating, tension and release of tension, trembling, sensations of heat or cold, vivid memories, insights, or release of emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, or joy. As each of these is resolved through relaxation and expression, a peaceful, alive, and open state is reached.
After the breathing portion, if appropriate, I may offer a complementary coaching technique. While continuing to lie down, you will breathe more gently while I guide you through this process to explore the early decisions made in childhood that still drive your behaviors as an adult, often unconsciously. This portion of the session lasts for 10 to 30 minutes. This technique is a powerful complement to advanced breathwork. It helps to facilitate the release of limiting patterns. This technique can also be done remotely with a shorter period of initial breathing.
After this, you will rest for about 5 minutes to enjoy and integrate the experience. Then we will have the remaining time to debrief and share about the session. I may also suggest exercises and practices you can take into your daily life to support growth and transformation, including the softening of habitual defense patterns that are no longer serving you.
On completion of an energy cycle, people commonly report feeling light, clean, open, rejuvenated, peaceful, joyful, or blissful. Usually a session ends at a complete energy cycle; however, in some circumstances a cycle may complete some hours or days after the session or it may require more than one session to resolve completely. In those cases, a session may end with the breather feeling somewhat raw, emotional, or with symptoms of detoxification. This is a good indication of deeper issues being resolved, a process which will complete once all the necessary conditions are met. Then the enjoyable feelings will arrive, along with deeper inner peace and strength.
How is it different?
There is often confusion around the different names and techniques used in the field of breathwork. The style of advanced breathwork I offer places special emphasis on release and transformation of difficult emotions. Like rebirthing-breathwork and holotropic breathwork, it uses the accumulation of breath energy to access non-ordinary states of energy and consciousness, fostering an environment for personal growth and self-healing. There is some difference in emphasis and approach among these forms. For example, holotropic breathwork aims to support transpersonal experiences and rebirthing-breathwork aims to support spiritual cleansing. However, each facilitator has their own style, each breather has their own path, and no two sessions are alike, so the distinctions tend to break down. Also, different approaches may be appropriate at different times in your path of growth.
How is breathwork different from potent healing modalities that make use of plant medicine or psychedelics? Psilocybin and ketamine are among substances that have been used skillfully in aid of healing through altered states of consciousness. I don’t have personal experience receiving or facilitating healing with these substances. My sense is that, as potent as advanced breathwork is, the experience is less intense, less lengthy, more natural feeling, and with more feeling of control than substance-aided modalities.
In any style of breathwork, it is important to find a competent facilitator with whom you feel trust in order to feel comfortable to let go of habitual defenses and explore deeper realms of consciousness.