If you can observe your own experience with a minimum of interference, and if you don’t try to control what you experience, if you simply allow things to happen and you observe them, then you will be able to discover things about yourself that you did not know before. You can discover little pieces of the inner structures of your mind, the very things that make you who you are. – Ron Kurtz
As the music shifted from dramatic and emotional to calm and soothing, a facilitator came over to my side to check in with me. When he asked me how I was feeling, I realized that I was in a haze and almost did not remember anything that had happened. The facilitator asked me how my body was feeling, and I mentioned that I had a slight pain in my pelvic region and on the left side of my upper body, under my ribcage. He then suggested some bodywork to try to resolve the pain or move the pent-up emotional energy.
I agreed to the bodywork and found it to be beneficial for releasing the tension and pain. I screamed, cried, I let go of so much anger and sadness. As I worked through the tension in my body, the emotional pain began to dissipate. I felt at home. I felt at peace with myself and the traumatic experiences that I had gone through in my life.
For once in my life, I felt whole.
After the session wrapped up, I went to the other room, where art supplies were set up. I created an image called a “mandala” related to my experience. As I looked at the blank white paper I just let my body and my hand express how I felt and tried not to think too much about it. I just let my emotions and spirit guide my hand.
Breathwork can be a very transformative experience that fosters healing on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. The breathwork experience is not only about reliving or re-experiencing traumatic events or processing deep emotional wounds. It can also be filled with bliss, joy, beauty, and love. It can open us up to a new part of our psyches and our souls that we did not originally know was there. It can allow us to develop a new relationship to ourselves and the universe.
Despite some of the powerful and transformative experiences that one may have, the concept of integration is important. We must learn how to bring these extraordinary experiences forward in our lives to create the wholeness that we were able to foretaste during the session.
The mandala is one of the first steps in the process of integration. It is very helpful to put the mandala in a place where it can easily be seen and to reflect on it over a long period. Sometimes people find new meaning and understanding that was not immediately obvious when they first drew the mandala. I have pictures of all my mandalas, and I have been very interested to see how my understanding of them has progressed over time. I see the mandala as representative of my own inner universe.
A Daily Practice
Since Holotropic Breathwork sessions are often emotionally and physically intense, it’s best to have someone present to provide help and support instead of attempting this experience alone. Many trained facilitators in the U.S. and abroad regularly offer workshops. I highly encourage you to search out such a person if you are interested in the full experience. A quick Google search will suffice for finding a facilitator.
I would like to end this series with a simple breathing exercise and meditation that I do regularly or when I am feeling anxious or stressed. This exercise fosters relaxation and a meditative state. I invite you to try it sometime to experience the tranquil effects of breathwork.
- Create a safe and comfortable space. I like to dim the lights and turn on my salt lamp. Burning incenses or sage is also helpful to cleanse the room of any negative energy.
- Create a playlist. I typically like to create a playlist that ranges from 10 to 15 minutes. I usually pick out music that is suitable for meditation or yoga. Get the music started before assuming a comfortable position. Here are a few that are on my YouTube playlist right now: Shama Drums, 15-Minute Meditation Music, Shamanic Journey Meditation.
- Find a comfortable position. I like to lie on the ground on my back. You can use a pillow to support your head.
- Close your eyes and place both of your hands on your sacral chakra or right below your naval. You can place your hands on whatever chakra you like, but I typically start by placing my hands below my naval because it helps guide my breath.
- Bring your attention to your breath and inner world. As you close your eyes and begin to relax into your body, feeling the ground supporting you, start to become aware of your breath. Begin to focus your attention on your body and how your body feels as you bring in each breath
- Focus on deep breathing for 10 to 15 minutes. As you ease into your body and listen to the music, begin to practice breathing deeply into your belly. If your hands are on your sacral chakra, feel your breath enter into that charka. Feel your belly rise and the sacral chakra activating. I invite you inhale deeply and visualize bringing in bright healing energy, holding in your body for a second or two, exhale and release, visualizing a black smoke representative of tension, stress, or toxins. This breathwork exercise is to help clear out any tension in the body.
- Let the music guide you. As you continue breathing deeply into your body and imagining that each breath is bringing in healing energy, let the music guide you. If your breathing pattern changes a little bit, do not stress about it. Let any expectations go and just focus on the music and your breath.
- Come back to your body. As the music ends, take your time coming back to your body. As you come back, just pay attention to how you are feeling. Are you feeling different from before? Do you feel lighter? Did any emotions come up for you? Just simply observe any noticeable shifts. When you feel like you are back in your body, slowly open your eyes and sit up. Remember to take it slow!
- Treat yourself! Now it is time to replenish your body, mind, and soul even more by feeding it something healthy. Indulge with kombucha, a fruit smoothie, tea, or have a small snack such as fruit or a granola bar—something that is grounding and nourishing.
Breathwork can produce different physical symptoms for different people. If you begin to feel a tingling feeling in your body or if you become dizzy, do not be alarmed, that is normal. Simply slow your breath and relax. This is about relaxing, not producing a cathartic experience, so experiment in a way that makes you comfortable.
Check out the first two parts of this series: “Holotropic Breathwork: A Pathway to Wholeness” and “I Relived My Birth Through Holotropic Breathwork.”
Kyle received his B.A. in Integral Psychology from Burlington College in Burlington, Vermont. During his time there, Kyle studied and researched the healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness, specifically the healing potential of Holotropic Breathwork, shamanism, and plant medicines. Kyle is currently a graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and somatic psychology. You can check out Kyle’s work at settingsunwellness.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.