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  • pamela2572

Connecting to myself through breathwork

It’s true to say that we never know which of the myriad of individual decisions we make on a daily basis will be the ones which bring about a significant change in our lives. One such decision of mine was signing up for a CPD event on how breathwork could be combined with the person-centred approach to counselling. Oooh, interesting! I wanted to know more. Working with my breath wasn’t new to me; a six-week mindfulness course for chronic pain got me through a very dark period of my life and the techniques I learned helped me manage spasms, panic attacks and helped ground me in times of stress. I love yoga practices that have a deep focus on the breath such as yin and yoga nidra. During lockdown I had discovered ‘Breathwork’ and played around with different techniques such as holotropic, transformational and, living on the Moray Firth, suddenly lots of people I knew were advocating the benefits of the Wim Hoff method of cold-water immersion.

Well, that 2-3 hour CPD event set me off on a new path. I was fascinated to learn some of the theory behind conscious connected breathing, the school of breathwork practiced by the facilitator John Paul at Breathing Journeys. We then did a short breathe, maybe half an hour, and that was me hooked. This simple, gentle practice of connecting the breaths, of feeling the energy of the in breath and release of the out breath felt natural, soothing, healing and deeply relaxing. I could notice how my brain and my body were responding somatically and I came away feeling energise and inspired. I felt like I had found my guides; the guide of my own breath and the teacher I wanted to learn from. Soon I had signed up to join a 6 month breathwork facilitator course with Breathing Journeys and was delighted to be accepted onto the course. It was a big commitment, but I honestly don’t think I thought twice about this (not typical behaviour for me at all), somehow I just knew intuitively it was right for me and that this was the right time to do it.

It’s hard to articulate just why this way of working with the breath resonates so much with me. It has something to do with the simplicity; there is no counting, no forcing of the breath, just a constant flow of circular breath with no pause between the in breath and the out breath It is beautifully accessible; I can tune in and consciously connect my breath at any time and in any place. Just a few connected breaths and I can ground myself, find my equilibrium, tune in to what is happening in my body or focus my energy before meeting my next client. I can do longer individual breathwork sessions and there is a cornucopia of guided sessions to be explored on YouTube and different phone apps, some with music, some just a voice to guide me, some with a particular focussuch as clarity or harmony. It’s just a case of finding the voice and the style that connects with me in that moment. In addition, there are loads of online group sessions to explore; Eventbrite is a good place to start looking. Most are low cost, some are free. Lots of facilitators will be fine with you leaving your camera off which is always a bonus if you’re camera shy. Group sessions are a great way to feel connected to others, everyone breathing together yet on their own individual journeys. Perhaps there are also face to face groups in your area. I’ve had some magical group breathwork sessions and would highly recommend this as a starting point for anyone who is curious to discover if conscious connected breathwork is something that works for them.

It is in individual one to one breathwork sessions, however, that I have had my most profound experiences. I won’t deny that I felt a little vulnerable going into my first session. If felt a bit exposed to be lying on my yoga mat in my living room whilst the facilitator watched me breathe. I had my blanket, and I was all cosy, so I worried about falling asleep and snoring (BTW, this is a perfectly acceptable thing to do in a breathwork session). I had already had an introductory session with my facilitator. but it still felt odd to have this new person in my life watching my lie on the floor breathing for an hour. But, oh my, there was so much more to the session than that. First, we spoke about my intention; what did I want to get from the session. That initial chat was so helpful in helping me articulate what I wanted to achieve and what I needed from the facilitator. What I hadn’t appreciated was how interactive the breathe itself would be. It started with some relaxation and grounding and then the facilitator encouraged me to connect my breaths, breathing deep into my belly, then my ribs and chest before relaxing the inhale and then going straight into the next in breath. What a difference it made to have someone else watch my do this and encourage me to breathe deeper and fuller, noticing if I had lost connection and simply praising me for breathing well. He asked what was happening in my body and we had frequent shares of what I was experiencing during the breathe. How to explain that while I was in this liminal, trancelike state, I was also able to communicate my experience verbally and have dialogue with another person? It sounds so bizarre, but it was fantastic, I felt so energised and alive afterwards. I had been fully heard in a supportive, non-judgemental way and my experiences validated. And more than that, I got answers to the issue that had framed my intention. There was then time for discussion at the end of the session-now I understood why individual sessions are between 1.5-2 hours long.

I have had some remarkable and astounding facilitated breathwork experiences. I’m a very visual person, so many of my breathes have been full of colour and imagery. I’ve connected with my inner child and my future self, I have been able to go deeper into past trauma than I think I’ve ever done before, I’ve felt connected with my body, with the planet, nature and with others. I’ve experienced a huge range of emotions. I’ve had fits of giggles and I’ve wept healing tears. Sometimes I’ve been very still, other sessions have been more energetic with lots of bodily sensations; no matter what has been happening for me, the facilitator has encouraged me to simply breathe with what I am experiencing, not trying to push it away or resist it, just to let it happen and notice any changes that occur. All of this has felt safe, supported and all of it has brought new meaning and insight into my life. And each breathwork session whether my own solo practice, in a group or individual session with a facilitator has brought me closer to understanding myself, feeling completely at one with the present moment and shown me the future paths I want to tread.

I’m now at the stage in my training where I am facilitating others on their breathwork journeys through groups and individual sessions. Each one completely unique but each instils such an amazing sense of awe and wonder at the breath can do for us.

 I can happily report that that the CDP session was correct. Breathwork can be combined with the person-centred counselling approach. That fateful day truly was a new beginning and I’m so excited to see where this new path leads me.


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