You know how to breathe, right? Breathing is central to life, and we are born with an innate understanding of how to take deep, slow breaths, utilizing the diaphragm and our whole lung capacity. Over time, we become lazy with our breathing, only using the weaker, intercostal muscles in the ribcage, which makes the process easier, but incomplete. In essence, as we age, we forget how to breathe properly.
“Poor posture, restrictive clothing, bad habits such as smoking, diets that lead to high blood pressure and racing hearts, increasingly rapid and emotionally stressful lives, lack of exercise, multitasking, polluted environments, and slouching in front of computers are just a few of the things that literally take our breath away, creating a lifestyle that’s incongruent with proper breathing,” explains Don Campbell, wellness expert and co-author of Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time, quoted in Men’s Journal.
According to breathing experts, most of us are taking at least 15 breaths per minute, starving our cells of oxygen and suppressing the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the body to relax, recuperate and heal itself. Optimally, we should be aiming for 10 deep, slow breaths per minute.
Breathing techniques have been touted by many people all over the world for having the power to:
- reduce anxiety,
- detoxify and heal the body,
- reduce the effects of digestive disorders,
- improve athletic performance,
- improve mental focus, mood
- improve heart health,
- help attain altered states of consciousness
- achieve harmony with emotions.
Emotional integration, or reconciling with ones thoughts and feelings, is the aim of a type of radial breathwork referred to as rebirthing.
The term rebirthing makes reference to the idea that our birth was a traumatic event in our lives, and by revisiting it, through various techniques, we may be able to heal ourselves of the buried trauma we begin carrying with us from the moment we are born. Rebirthing breathwork isn’t centered around birth, however, but refers to the idea that, through properly utilizing our breath, we can help to heal previous traumas that are creating psychological and emotional upheaval in our current lives.
When rebirthing was first invented by Leonard Orr, co-author of the book, Rebirthing in the New Age, which set the groundwork for this technique, participants practiced breathing exercises through a snorkel while being submerged in a hot tub full of warm water. The practice has evolved since then, and practitioners today work mainly exclusively with the breath.
The rebirthing breath technique is conscious, connected, rhythmic, circular breathing. Inhaling is an intentional activity, breathing deeply into the entire lung capacity. The exhale is a relaxed activity, allowing the breath to fully leave the body in a sigh. There are no pauses between inhaling and exhaling. Likewise, the technique involves no holding of the breath or forcing air in or out.
According to rebirthing breathwork proponents, a natural energy cycle is triggered, bringing tension to the surface, releasing it.
A kind of electric sensation fills the body, as old, pent up feelings of frustration, humiliation, anger and resentment are shed, and space is made in the body for fresh, new feelings and experiences. It is a kind of dissolving of years of stored emotional refuse. In the space of about an hour, many people are transformed, leaving rebirthing sessions feeling like they are inhabiting a new body. They report feeling lighter, more open and loving, and prepared to face the world with freshness and vigor.
Best-selling author Andrew Weil, M.D., is the founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and of the Weil Foundation which facilitates the spread of integrative medicine, and has appeared numerous times on popular television shows like Dr. Oz, and on the cover of Time magazine. According to Dr. Weil, “Breath is the key to health and wellness, a function we can learn to regulate and develop in order to improve our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.”
Whether you’re interested in rebirthing yourself, or in a more modest goal, such as reducing the effects of daily stress and allowing your body to heal more deeply, paying attention to the pace and depth of your breath might be a wonderful place to start.