A Brief History of Breathwork

The focusing and adjustment of breath has been employed for thousands of years by cultures and religions worldwide to transform consciousness.

Pranayama is an ancient Indian yogic discipline, concerned with the control of breathing. Pranayam, meanwhile, refers to the science of breath and is the foundation in all forms of yoga. For hundreds of years, indigenous cultures in Australia have used circular breathing in a variety of cultural and spiritual rites. In Buddhist tradition, focus and control of the breath is referred to and used extensively in Buddhist texts and meditations.

The term “breath” is often interchanged with the “Holy Spirit” in Christian texts. In Judaism, “breath” is referred to as the Hebrew noun “ruacḥ” (רוח) or wind, and is often referred to as an invisible moving force (“spirit”).

In traditional Chinese culture, “qi” or “chi” is described as a vital energy, the flow of which must be balanced for health. It also underlies Taoism, the ancient and current martial arts and traditions coming out of East Asian countries like Japan.

The breath is both automatic and conscious, and it’s the invisible source of our life on earth. Breathing is both the first thing we do when we leave the womb, and the last thing we do when we leave the physical body Throughout time, wise sages have told us that in order to master our soul’s purpose on this earth, we must first cultivate our breath and then learn to value our words—both spoken and unspoken.

The easiest approach to fulfilling our destiny is to learn how to use and control our physical breath. Only then can we create a subtle stillness in our mind to open our sensitivity to our words and emotions, which shape our lives and our consciousness.

How Breathwork Changes Your State of Mind

Breathwork allows a person to achieve a state that activates a natural inner healing process of the psyche. This can bring a person to an internal experience that is incredibly profound. Because the psyche’s internal healing process is taking over and guiding the process, the quality and type of experience is unique to each person. Some people report recurring internal themes during breathwork, but no two experiences are alike.

In the 1970s, Dr. Stanislav Grof—a psychotherapist and inventor of transpersonal therapy—was one of the first people to use LSD as a psychotherapeutic tool. However, when LSD was made illegal, he needed an alternative and discovered that through breathwork techniques, he could stimulate a similar psychotherapeutic effect.

He found that that by breathing more quickly, more deeply, and by placing your attention on the breath, a person would ultimately move into a non-ordinary state of consciousness. He coined the practice “Holotropic Breathing”, which basically means “moving towards wholeness” (wherein Holos = whole, and Trepein = moving in the direction towards something).

In Dr. Grof’s own words, Holotropic Breathing causes the participant to go into a simulated “near death” experience, which processes past traumas and makes the participant feel like they are “reborn”. This experience may be stimulated by the “respiratory alkalosis” generated by excessive hyper-oxygenation of the bloodstream, which changes the pH of the blood by making it more alkaline. Your body has a very strict control mechanism for blood pH levels. If this changes even by a tiny degree, your body goes into panic mode and does whatever it can to correct the imbalance.

Holotropic Breathing is very similar to another type of Breathwork practice called “Rebirthing,” which was created by Leonard Orr. It is nearly the same process to Holotropic Breathwork, but without using dramatic music. The emphasis is on the relaxed exhale. This is because we tend to force the exhale or breathe out under tension, and Rebirthing practitioners believe that the exhale should be as relaxed as possible—as this helps liberate stress and tension from the body.

There are many other types of Breathwork practices, including the Wim Hof method, Pranayama (which includes many different Breathwork practices that are based in the Yogic tradition), and Soma Breathwork (which is a complete holistic system of Breathwork techniques). All of these techniques have their own merits, foundation, history, and variations, but while they are all different in origin and style, they all use the breath and controlled breathing as the common denominator.

Our Breathwork Method

The Breathwork method taught by The Art of Sound Healing consists of a 3-part circular connected mouth-breathing exercise that takes place over the course of 30 minutes to a carefully-curated playlist.

It most closely resembles a combination of the Holotropic Breathing technique and the Rebirthing method technique. While less intensive, our method can put you into a mind-altered state and/or a deeply connected, mindful place where openness and clarity are readily available.

Want to try a Breathwork class? Click the button below to view our Breathwork Event Schedule!