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Background to Conscious Breathwork

Leonard Orr

Few people are aware of the powerful and dynamic transformational properties of the breath - even though Eastern Yogis have been practicing conscious breathwork as a route to self-awareness and spiritual purification for thousands of years. The last few decades in the Western world have seen a revival of interest regarding how conscious breathwork can be used to support increased levels of health - both physically, emotionally and spiritually. These recently evolved breathwork practices have included Stan Grof's Psychotropic breathwork, Buteyko Technique, Continuum Breath, Transformational Breath amongst others. The form of breathwork I practice is called Integrative Breathwork Therapy. It is based on the conscious connected breathing cycle of Rebirthing breathwork developed by Leonard Orr in the late 1970's.


The practice of conscious connected breathing has been likened to the ancient Yogic art of Krya Yoga, which has been passed from master to initiate for centuries. Spiritual leader Babaji said that Rebirthing could be seen as the Krya Yoga of the 21st Century, and breathing exercises recommended by Babaji remain a part of the practice today. Conscious connected breathwork is an effective practice in part due to it being predominantly non-dialogue based. Many people experience dialogue based therapy and discover that their conscious minds are extremely proficient at keeping them away from exploring sensitive feelings or incidents. Breathwork on the other hand is not dependent on the co-operation of the conscious mind. In fact it is possible to know nothing whatsoever about breathwork and still notice a tangible effect from a session. Having said that, breathwork is most effective when used in conjunction with a series of supportive beliefs. The most influential of these is the idea that Thought is Creative. In short this belief supports the idea that what you think, consciously or unconsciously, is what will ultimately manifest in your life.

Why Practice Conscious Breathwork?

Conscious breathwork is effective in connecting people to an awareness of their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy fields. The breath highlights places where energy has become stagnant or blocked and through increasing oxygen and life force energy (Chi) to the area it releases energy restriction or tension. The effect of this can be profound and instantaneous. The breather may experience a wide range of sensations during the course of a session from a heightened physical awareness of their body, through to emotional states and at times even a sense of being in touch with a spiritual presence.

In the region of 70% of the body's toxins are expelled through the breath - this is incredible when you realise that few people - opera singers aside - have ever learned to breathe completely effectively using their full breathing mechanism. As a consequence some people are very shallow breathers, which in turn means that the internal organs of the body do not receive vital massage for stimulating circulation of the blood. In women this can result in problems with reproductive organs. The way a person breathes also serves as an interesting indication as to the way they live. Interesting things start to happen when you gently guide a breather out of their usual breathing pattern and encourage then to breathe into a part of their body which is not usually active. Conscious breathwork works as an internal cleansing process, in much the same way as when you undertake aerobic physical exercise, although because the physical body is in a deep state of relaxation during the session instead of fuelling the muscles, the build-up of energy gets redirected into different parts of the body.