What is breathwork?

Breathwork is a set of related techniques from yogic practices like kundalini yoga, to holotropic breathing, to connective breathing, also known as Rebirthing. While specific rhythms and settings vary, all these techniques have in common that you breathe more intensely, flooding your body with oxygen. Note that this is the opposite of hyperventilating, where fast-but-shallow breathing deprives your body of oxygen. The energy you build up through breathwork releases tensions in your body, often related to trauma or inner conflicts. It also lifts conscious controls, letting feelings, perceptions, needs and memories come to the surface. Physically, this likely happens because a high oxygen content in your brain silences the neurons that normally filter and inhibit communication between different brain areas. Subjectively, you may experience this as physical sensations (e.g. your body wanting to move), sudden cognitive insights, resurfacing memories and emotions, or even ‘visions’ (but not hallucinations).

What does a breathwork session look like?

A breathwork session lasts up to 120 minutes: 60 minutes of active breathing, plus preparation and integration. Once a session has started, you can encounter vastly different experiences. You may simply feel relaxed, and may not remember any concrete experiences. Other sessions are more physical – you may move, shake, cough, even dance. Others still can be very emotional – you may laugh, cry, or remember feelings from different points in your life. Some sessions can give you cognitive insights – you may suddenly see a question or problem very clearly, or change perspective on an issue. Most sessions are a surprising mix of these components. What they all have in common is that whatever comes to the surface of your consciousness is what you need to process at this time.