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How Breathwork Heals the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Why I Practice

After decades of filling prescriptions of antidepressant, mood stabilizing, and antipsychotic drugs, I finally rejected conventional psychiatric wisdom. Using ancient methods, I went against doctors’ orders to heal. Through these methods, I treated the root cause, not merely the symptoms. I charted my journey in a series of essays. 

I write bi-monthly articles, publish podcasts, and host workshops on healing, recovery, and the root causes of pain. Sign up for two stories per month, that’s it. I charted my journey and this first article is Complex PTSD: When Your Therapist Thinks You May Be F*cked. My second article is How Breathwork Helps Process Stress, Pain, and Trauma: Why I Practice.

I breathe. 

I cry. 

I scream.

I laugh. 

I roll over on my side. 

In short, I leave behind a lot in my garage during each session of breathwork. Laying on a worn-out, plush, olive green couch, I wear blue jeans, a zipped up green hoodie, a black Iowa golf hat, and unmatched colored socks. I am under the weight of a warm blanket. Resting on my back, my arms lay next to my body. The garage door is shut, the ceiling lights are dimmed, and the dryer is on pause. 

On the floor lie half folded t-shirts, my running shoes, and a box of Christmas ornaments. I am preparing for my nightly, pre-bedtime ritual of breathwork. Breathwork is a routine to heal the mind, body and spirit before sleep. 

The next thirty minutes are mine to enjoy.

This breathwork sequence is a regular, virtual class that I take during the Coronavirus pandemic:

I close my eyes. 

Taking a few deep breaths helps me to shake out the cobwebs in my head. I push play on my iPhone. The black bluetooth speaker connects, and I hear my teacher, David Elliott, talking.

How to practice breathwork 

He asks me to set an intention. Tonight, my intention is self-love. I create an I am statement to recite to myself: I am loved.

In my head, I repeat the affirmation three times. 

I am loved. 

I am loved. 

I am loved.

David explains that we will inhale through two parts, and then exhale. We will be focusing all of our breathing in and out of the mouth. 

I start a rhythmic breathing pattern with two inhales in, and one exhale out. 

  • I inhale through the belly.
  • I inhale through the chest.
  • I exhale it out.

My heart softens. 

I repeat in my mind: 

I am loved.

I am loved. 

I am loved.

After my diagnosis of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), breathwork has become a regular part of my recovery routine. Whether first thing in the morning laying in my bed, or in my garage on a couch before sleep, breathwork calms me down. It allowed me to stop taking pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by doctors. Natural medicine like breathwork, which along with sound healing, psychedelics, yoga, and other ancient practices help heal my mind, body, and spirit. 

These modalities help me to discover mystical ways to recover my aching soul. Stuck in a state of disease, and I found ease after my first breathwork class. 

Breathwork is a spiritual practice to help me find a deeper self-awareness. 

Back in the garage, I actively breathe with the two-part breathwork inhale and one-part exhale for around twenty minutes.

With the intentional breathing pattern, my thoughts slow down, while my heart opens up. 

I relax. I let go. My mind is distracted from my current state. I am at ease. The practice opens up a deeper consciousness. 

I expand my capacity to love myself. I repeat in my head: I am loved.

As I start the breathwork, I want to quit. It feels overwhelming at first. It’s like riding a horse, you have to get comfortable in the saddle. I fight through my urge to stop. Focusing on the breath, I relax more.

  • I breathe through the belly.
  • I breathe through the chest.
  • I exhale it out.

Within a few minutes, my arms buzz. From shoulder to fingertips, I tingle. My mind is wide open. It’s as if I am running a 5K race, and have a runner’s high. 

I love this feeling and do not want it to stop. The urge to quit the breathwork is gone. I am in rhythm. 

Breathwork releases stress

David asks us if we want to let out a yell. He counts to three, urging us to take a break and scream. Knowing my garage door is completely sealed off from the outside, I let go. Taking a deep breath, on the exhale I scream at the top of my lungs. 

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHA

I do not hold back on this yell. I am sinking deeper into the ground as I let out another loud and long yell.

AHAHAHAHHAAAAAAHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHA

I shake my head from side to side while I exhale out. The yelling opens up space in my head. 

I am free.

I yell one last time, and exhale during the scream. This yell is a shorter and higher-pitched scream. It’s as if I am back in high school, jumping off a bridge into a lake. I scream like somebody taking a risk, and not afraid of getting caught. 

AHAHAHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHHAAAAAAA

I shake it out. I wonder if my neighbors can hear me. I imagine them in the backyard next door. I remember how thick the walls are, and do not worry. I get back to the breathwork.

I ask myself: “What is going on with my body?” David is in the background, hyping me up, saying that I might be “drunk off oxygen and that “my body is warmed-up.” 

Coming to breath again, I go a little deeper. My lungs open up. I am more purposeful taking longer breaths. I am controlling my body. 

My arms continue to tingle by my side. My legs extend long, they start to tingle too.

I’m having fun and a smile cracks on my face. There is now a buzzing sensation coming through my tailbone. I am rooted to the couch, as if I’m touching the core of the Earth with my tailbone. It is like I am glued to the couch. I keep it up:

  • I breathe through the belly.
  • I breathe through the chest.
  • I breathe it out.

I repeat the breathing pattern again and again.

I am safe in my garage. I snuggle deeper under the blanket to warm my body.

Breathwork can bring up old thoughts and memories

During breathwork sessions, old thought patterns come up. Faded memories emerge.

I have flashbacks from my youth. An old memory comes up as I breathe and I emotionally travel back in time: 

I am eight years old visiting my Uncle Seamus and his family in Connecticut. My cousins, aunt, uncle, and family are having fun. In the background, MTV is showing a music video for the movie Ghostbusters. It’s the Ray Parker Junior version of the theme song. Like a soundtrack to my life, I hear:

“If there is something strange, in your neighborhood. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

My family and I are on our annual summer road trip. We drive from Iowa to the east coast in a wooden station wagon, with a roof top carrier on top of the car. We usually pass through Connecticut to see my relatives. Tonight we are having fun, eating dinner. 

I am happy. I am loved.

I recently called Uncle Seamus after we had lost touch for thirty years. I am grateful we chatted. I forgot this memory. I enjoy reconnecting with the emotions. 

A side effect of my C-PTSD is that I blocked out memories from my childhood. Until recently, I could not recall some of the best memories from when I was a kid. 

I tear up as I reflect on my childhood. I loved being a kid. My nose sniffles. I think about my life as a child. 

I find my child-like spirit in this memory. 

Breathwork reboots my operating system. It cleans-up my mental hard drive. 

Breathwork releases joy

As we continue the breathwork, my teacher asks us to laugh. He recommends I let out a big belly laugh. I am tired of breathing. I welcome the laugh to break-up the session. 

Breathwork over-oxygenates my brain. I am pushing through to finish the class. I let out a big laugh:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHA

Again, I laugh one more time. My mind, body, and spirit are free:

HAHAHAHAHHAAHAHHAHAAHAHHAHHHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHA

I acknowledge that I’m laughing so hard my neighbors may hear. I don’t care. During the laughing I imagine: 

I am twelve years old. I am at my friend Jay’s house. We are drinking Coke from a bottle in his basement. We are in his furnace room that doubles as an indoor tool shed. We are sitting on the floor, enjoying our drinks. It’s Friday night, and it’s NBA basketball time. I am laughing hysterically with him. I am laughing.

HAHAHAHHAHAHAAHHAAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

Breathwork calms anxiety and worry

I go back to the breath. I have another episode. This one flashes forward:

I think about my to-do list for tomorrow. I worry. I have a job interview. I am anxious in anticipation. 

The voice in my head panics. Stressed, I think about the job interview. The voice says: “I haven’t done this before” and “I haven’t interviewed in years.” I accept my feelings. I acknowledge my concern. I am gentle as I breathe. I think: “I’ve done this before. If something comes up in this life, most likely I have done it before.”

The voice in my head calms down. I think: “Hey, you got this. You interviewed for a job recently and it went reasonably well. You weren’t the right fit, but the interview went well.”

I reason with myself. I am calm. I stop concerning myself with the job. I am happy. I heal. I am grateful to have a job interview. I am happier the more I heal.

I continue breathing:

  • I breathe in through the belly.
  • I breathe in through the chest.
  • I exhale it all out.

I am buzzing from head to toe. I do not want this session to end. My nose lets out its remaining sniffles from when I cried earlier. I am okay with that. I accept that it’s okay to tear up. I am grateful for my life. I am connected to my roots. My tailbone is vibrating. 

The session ends. I stop actively breathing. I enter the cool down portion of the practice. For ten minutes, I lay in silence. I think to myself:

Breathwork heals the mind body and spirit

I love myself, and admittedly I haven’t loved myself previously like this. I am ok with my life. 

I am on a runner’s high. It’s like a completed a 5k.

My consciousness is expanded beyond my own self. I am rooted in the world, as my tailbone keeps vibrating. My entire body is buzzing. I am profoundly loving myself, that is the biggest difference in my life.

Breath in. Breath out. I cool down. My body feels cold and I wrap myself up more in the blanket. I am intoxicated by the world. After a few more minutes, I gently open my eyes. 

I sit up on the green couch. I grab my journal and pen to collect my thoughts. I take a sip from the cup of water next to me. I jot down some notes, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I have spent thirty five minutes jump-starting my mind. I am exhausted, and whole.

Breathwork is a spiritual practice. Yelling, laughing, and crying are common experiences during my sessions. It feels good. Breathwork helps to process the unconscious. 

Whether it is emotional, spiritual, mental, sexual, or physical healing – breathwork brings up a lot of stuff. It is about healing, forgiving, and loving yourself. Through the classes, I expand my to a deeper consciousness. 

Breath in through the belly. Breath in through the chest. Breathe out. 

Breathwork helps the mind, body, and spirit recover from the ups and downs of life. 

I open up my heart, filling myself with radical self-love. Breathwork heals the mind body and spirit.

Breathwork heals my mind, body, and spirit. It could bring you to the same too. Sign up to take a class with me Thursdays at 6:30 PST.

Link:

Listen to my teacher David Elliott’s breathwork here

Editors:

Big thanks to the writers who helped edit this: Asad Badruddin, Stew Fortier, Tom White, Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee, Stephen Scott,  Chris Angelist,  Philip Thomas, Kelly Walborn, Brett Friedman, Kyla Scanlon,Ergest Xheblati, and Chris Holinger.