Feb 23, 2016 | By Tim Powers

Holistic Therapy Profile: Breathwork Therapy

Recovery Relapse Prevention

The Benefits of Breathwork

The daily grind can be an absolute bitch.

We live in a society in which we must find time when there is no time, and it often feels like we are cramming ten pounds of you know what in a five pound bag. There is no doubt that the stresses and frustrations of everyday life can wear us down and can leave us feeling adrift and spent. If you are recovering from the ravages of substance abuse, these daily stresses can lead your mind to thoughts of using substances if they are left unchecked.

In order to minimize the nastiness of backsliding back into active substance use, our relapse prevention and long-term recovery game has to be on point. Our proverbial recovery tool belt needs to be chock full of those resources that will help us minimize stress and help us recognize the emergence of cravings which can lead to relapse.

There are a multitude of relapse prevention tools at our disposal–some well-known and others that are more under the radar but just as effective. An example of a lesser-known yet intriguing relapse prevention tool is breathwork therapy. Breathwork therapy is a powerful holistic therapy practice in which people learn to focus on controlled and conscious breathing in order to bring their mindset to the present in order to bring balance and harmony to the mind, body and spirit. Often used in conjunction other holistic therapy disciplines such as yoga therapy, breathwork therapy helps calm the anxiety that is often found in those who are in the early stages of recovery.

What Exactly is Breathwork Therapy?

Breathwork therapy is a therapeutic and meditative practice in which people learn techniques to consciously alter their normal breathing patterns which aim to improve physical, mental and spiritual health. The practice of breathwork draws from Eastern based practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong while incorporating Western psychotherapy techniques. The practice of breathwork had its origins during the 1960’s and 1970’s when there were significant shifts in cultural awareness concerning consciousness-raising practices such as yoga and meditation.

Breathwork therapy can be done either in a one-on-one basis or in a group setting. Guided by an experienced breathwork therapist, clients learn specific breathing techniques and go through specific exercises in which they are able to alter their breathing patterns. This form of breath control has been used in various medical and spiritual practices for thousands of years.

Many who study, teach and practice breathwork therapy believe that by changing the rate and flow of the respiratory cycle people can bring forth profound shifts in consciousness, spiritual awareness, cognition and self-identity. When utilized in drug treatment, the use of breathwork can help lead clients to a deeper sense of inner connection, a sense of groundedness, emotional empowerment and an overall harmony of body and mind.

What Are the Main Goals of Breath-Work Therapy?

The use of breathwork therapy in an addiction treatment setting is used primarily as a complimentary therapy to other holistic forms of therapy. There are three main goals that breathwork therapists hope to instill in client who use this holistic discipline

 Goal #1: Integrate Both Body and Mind

One of the main goals of breathwork therapy in addiction treatment is to help clients become more aware of the body-mind connection. To align the body and mind in complete harmony, clients learn how to breathe an open and healthy breath by focusing on the natural and uninhibited breathing patterns that most people started with as infants. Once that is achieved, breathwork therapists help clients learn to focus on what is called “picking up the inhale” or starting on the next breath immediately and closing that momentary gap between breaths.

This circular form of breathing allows clients to increase their focus on what they are feeling at the moment and it acts as a gateway for them to think about how the events and traumas of their past had shaped the progression of their addiction and them as people up to that point. The ability to open up their breathing allows clients to open themselves up, and as a result their defenses slowly come down. As a result, they can begin to heal the wounds of their past.

In addition to circular breathing, other common breathwork techniques include having the participant become partially or fully immersed in water and asked to breathe deeply, either above the surface or with the aid of a snorkel. Additionally, clients may also learn the technique known as 20 connected breaths in which participants are asked to breathe in and out 20 times, and the breathing pattern consists of four sets of four short breaths and one deep breath. When performing this particular breathing exercise, participants may experience “non-ordinary” states of consciousness.

Goal #2: Personal Development

A second goal of breathwork therapy is to help clients work towards new and healthier levels of self-awareness. This increased awareness allows clients to truly assess their relationship with themselves, others and the environment they live in. Breathwork therapy also helps participants develop a deeper and healthier relationship with their bodies as well as others.

Goal #3: Spiritual Empowerment

Lastly, breathwork therapy can help clients become more spiritually empowered and aware of themselves, others and the environment around them. This allows people to heal themselves and engage in meaningful self-discovery of who they truly are and how they are a part of something larger than themselves. It is said that deep and connected breathing can stimulate longer brainwave patterns that are present during deep sleep or other meditative states of consciousness.

During sessions, clients are encouraged to become aware of these moments of transcendence and explore their deepest feelings. When clients are in this deeper state, the therapist acts as a sort of mediator and encourages clients to assimilate and integrate these profound experiences into their understanding, and eventually into their day to day lives.

Breathwork therapy may not be a well-known technique, but it nevertheless deserves a deeper look. If you or a loved one is about to enter drug treatment, you may want to check out if the treatment facility you are attending offers breathwork therapy as part of treatment programming.

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