My interest in the nature of the mind, consciousness and all things esoteric has been steadily growing since I was at university. That said, I wasn’t exactly scientific in my approaches to this exploration. A few space cakes won’t make you an existential philosopher, even if you think so at the time.
I found yoga and through that, meditation, in my early twenties and I literally don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t. I’m not sure if I’d have a life.
But I never dove in very deeply beyond some Youtube videos and may be the odd class.
That was until I made my way to Brighton, where I found a community – in fact a city – of people who LOVE to have the big, deep conversations as much as I do, and who can teach me a whole lot more than a Youtube video.
So where has this led me? Well, for one it led my to Peru, which you might have hear if you’ve been following along.
It has also led me down less adventurous, but arguably as powerful for some, practises such as today’s YOF adventure: Breathwork.
I’d only come across this term 6 months ago, and since hearing about it on a podcast or two, I let it sit on my to-do list, but didn’t really take it further.
Until, I got back from Peru and decided I need to start exploring this stuff further. Partly because I think there’s a lot more to this world than what meets the eye, and partly because I’m bloody dubious about many of the practises that are offered, and I want to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.
So last week, in the name of science, and fun, I tried a breathwork workshop.
When I first heard of breathwork, I just assumed it was some variation on the kind of stuff you might do in a yoga class. Breath of fire, lions breath – these are all different techniques that I’ve dabbled in, not without some resistance, when in a yoga class.
Much of a muchness, if I’m honest. But what I’d heard about this kind of breathwork, more specifically known as Holotropic Breathwork, is that it takes you a LOT further. And by further, I mean it doesn’t just calm you down for 10 minutes. I mean it can take you to places in your mind (or to some, other realms) and do as much work on your psyche as you could in an hour or two with a therapist.
Naturally, I went with an open but skeptical mind. (Yes, it’s possible to have both at once.)
To explain what I was getting myself into, i’ll read from the website that I booked the workshop through:
“What if there was something right under your nose that could change the way you see the world and offer you health, harmony and peace of mind? Wouldn’t you want to know what that was?
Alchemy of Breath is a system of breathing practices that restore your self-awareness, love and compassion. By working with Anthony you will discover breathing techniques that will have an immediate effect on your wellbeing, and can be incorporated instantly into your daily life, improving your relationship with yourself, and therefore with the world around you.”
OK. Not bad considering breathing is free (though the workshop definitely was not.)
I’ll also point to Stanislav Grof, who you might be familiar with, but for everyone else: he’s a Czech psychiatrist, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche.
And he is responsible for bringing holotropic breathwork to the wide world. Interestingly, he developed it as a kind of legal-successor to his LSD-based psychedelic therapy, following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960s.
According to a 2009 publication from the American Cancer Association, “Breathwork has no verified beneficial effect on health, although there is some evidence it may help relaxation. However, some people find its effects distressing.”
OK. Fine. I’ll take my chances I thought…
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