For three years I breathed daily as a way to go into deeper meditation, but it was never ever like the times I stumbled upon a Breathwork class. Also known as Holotropic or Transformational Breathing, in each of the three classes that I’ve been to, the teacher described what was going to happen prior to facilitation. In each of these classes I quietly thought to myself that the experience would not work on me. How on earth could deep breathing have such an intense effect?
The first time I found myself in a class was at my senior yoga teacher training in Bali. The teacher mentioned that our faces & hands might contort, we may make strange vocal sounds and our bodies may move uncontrollably. I sat there wide eyed & dubious. I was interested, but fairly certain none of those things would happen to me. He talked us through it, cranked up the music, made us do some weird movements and within seconds I felt like I had been slipped a very strong and fast acting drug. We lay down and I went on the deepest trip I’ve ever been on.
Bringing Breathwork to NZ
The second time I tried it, the same teacher travelled to New Zealand and offered Transformational Breathing at the Yoga Sanctuary. I gathered a big bunch of clients and friends and told them just, “wait and see”. I was still finding it difficult to believe that what I had experienced in Bali would happen again. This time however I was excited. Once more the strangest yet pleasurable and uplifting experience occurred as my body was flooded with oxygen. When we emerged back from our journey, a childhood friend looked at me sideways and jerked her eyes down to her paralysed and contorted hands. “They’ll go back to normal eventually,” I joked to her.
Tonight, at least seven years after my first, I went to my third Breathwork session, this time with Kaity Gould. Once more, it was an intense and profound journey. Upon arrival we received a very warm welcome as we were led to a circle of cushions. We sat down while Kaity went through what was going to happen.
We were about to breathe deeply without pause in order to change the composition of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies. As we did this, trapped energy was going to begin moving in the form of physical sensations, vocal release and emotions stuck in the layer of fascia that covers the entire human body. She told us that if our hands begin to contort we could shake them out or massage them and she encouraged us to do so. “It’s called tetany”, she said and is very normal. She showed us how to release our jaw if we started to feel energy trapped in the face. She spiralled around her spine, rolled her neck and released her jaw. I realised that I was looking at her strangely when she caught my eye and laughed. It was then that I knew she was trustworthy. If she was willing to make herself look silly for us, I knew the vibe was good for us to enjoy the experience fully without judgement. I still felt awkward when she made us stand up and ‘just move’. I’ve been doing this stuff for 15 years and I still never feel comfortable with free flowing movement. Maybe at home while listening to music or doing yoga, but ‘moving intuitively’ with a group of strangers? I’ll pass. I still trusted Kaity’s guidance so I shut my eyes and did a few yoga stretches and by the time we lay down I was ready to go.
Within seconds I was in deep meditation. I could feel tremendous amounts of oxygen and energy flood my body. It all began to pool in my neck – a part of my body that has been tender ever since I did a drop back , slipped and landed on my head about ten years ago. I felt waves of release, and I felt energy awakening and moving through the fascia of my body. It flowed through my neck and the back of my head. I could feel energy unsticking in my tired and sore ‘Chaturanga shoulders’. This energy continued to move as the experience rose to a peak. As it got more intense I could feel my entire torso moving with the deep breathing, almost like I was mildly convulsing. I felt Kaity come close and lay her hand on my shoulder. My body immediately calmed, the breath slowed and everything became quiet. I lay very still as I felt dense stuck energy slowly beginning to awaken, move and integrate.
All around me I could hear deep breathing. A woman was making strange sounds and I could hear her body flailing. The woman next to me began to cry and I felt emotional for her. The yoga teacher in me wanted to comfort her but i soon heard Kaity go to her and put her at ease. It is a very intimate experience to have in a group of strangers, but everyone was in their own little world so I reminded myself all was well.
After I laid still for a while, my breath began to ramp up again. It began to course through my body once more. Pain in one of my shoulders began to increase. Not a scary pain, a rising of pain in order to be released. It’s called integration and it is where we allow stuck energy in the form of sore and tender muscles & joints or suppressed emotions & thoughts to come up in order to be experienced. Once felt and free’d, anything uncomfortable loses its power, liberating us from pain and suffering.
By now I needed to move my neck from side to side, the pressure building there was overwhelming. I gently moved it from side to side and felt exquisite freedom in the sore and tender tissue that lay there. The woman next to me started crying again and I felt tears spring to my eyes. Just last week my Bowen Therapist said there was emotion trapped in my neck. Was this related?
My entire body was stiff now and my feet felt cold. I slowed the breathing a little bit in order to allow the trapped energy to move. The music, which was pumping & adding to the atmosphere began to slow, and I drifted into the most ecstatic state of calm. Think Shavasana x 10. That’s where I went. In this place I felt bursts of encouragement to do certain things. I felt my passion for life. I also got confirmation that I’m doing my job okay – something that I question daily.
As we were invited to sit up, we were surrounded by candles. I was ready to go home and write this blog but we sat back in the circle and were given the opportunity to share our experience. Thinking that I’d save my words, as each person slowly began to talk I found myself taking part. Usually someone aloof in new situations, I enjoyed connecting with the others in the circle.
I can say that I’m a bit hooked on this weird & wonderful experience. Breathwork is for anyone who is open minded about the different modalities you can use to have ridiculous health and happiness. Go if you want to heal difficult emotions. Go if you want to heal a niggly injury that won’t leave. Go if you want to increase your creative intuition. Go if you want to heal pain in your body. Go if you need an internal reminder that life is absolutely amazing.
Want to get a natural (but really bloody good) high? Give Breathwork a go.
Kaity will be at the Yoga Sanctuary in August.