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Transformational Breathing A new process for health & wellbeing

by David Thorpe(more info)

listed in asthma, originally published in issue 56 - September 2000

Summary – What, Where and How

Transformational Breathing is a powerful self-healing process. It opens up restricted breathing patterns, clears the subconscious mind, assists in connecting with higher states of consciousness and integrates body, mind and spirit experiences. "Happy and aligned with the One are those who find their homes in the breathing, to them belongs the Kingdom and Queendom of heaven" – Aramaic words of Jesus.

Close ups showing the rise and fall in the abdomen

Close ups showing the rise and fall in the abdomen

Close ups showing the rise and fall in the abdomen

Transformational Breathing involves re-training the body to breathe naturally like a child. Starting from the abdomen, the entire respiratory system is used in a relaxed and fully connected cycle. By breathing this way a natural self-healing response is triggered at three basic levels: physical body, mental/emotional field and spirit being. The technique works by combining body awareness with sacred sound, focused intent, affirmations, invocations, diagnostics and body mapping to create a well- balanced process that is perfectly suited to a 21st century lifestyle. The process is entirely natural and does not rely upon superimposing 'yet another breathing technique' upon already restricted patterns. Instead its objective is to free up the body's mental and emotional fields such that the correct individual breathing pattern arises automatically from within. In this respect it re-trains us to employ what we already know; herein lies its simplicity, beauty and greatest strength.

The process was co-developed by Dr Judith Kravitz, a pioneer rebirther from America. She found that by extending the range of tools used by rebirthing a whole new technique that is faster, more efficient and very exciting to use was created. Since 1991 more than 100,000 people have been trained in the technique, over 2,000 people have completed the Personal and Professional Facilitators Programme and more than 100 people have become Trainers. Since 1992 the technique has been taught outside the USA, including Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Russia, Turkey, and the UK. The Transformational Breath Foundation was established in 1995.

A breathing session is undertaken lying on our back, and lasts for one hour. The first three to five sessions are carried out with the assistance of a trained facilitator. It is during this period that the majority of our deep trauma is cleared from the subconscious; for example the birth trauma is typically released in the first or second session. After this time most people are able to self-facilitate; a tape is available to assist with this process. Unlike most other breathing techniques, which are employed on an intermittent basis, this process of open, connected breathing is applicable on a continuous twenty-four hour a day basis. It is a process for life!

Introduction – Why Breathe?

The human body is designed to take in 75% of its energy requirement through breathing; oxygen is the most fundamental unit of fuel that we take into our body. Further, we also eliminate 70% of our toxins via the breath; oxygen also cleanses the cells by oxidation and enables waste products to be carried back to the lungs via the bloodstream. Given these basic facts it is easy to see why learning to breathe correctly is one of the most fundamental things we can do to support and maintain our health and wellbeing.

Since we are not educated to become conscious of this fundamental metabolic process, over 90% of us are using less than 50% of our breathing capacity. The results of poor breathing practices and under-oxygenation are low energy levels, toxicity build-up, high stress and stagnant emotional states. It is well accepted that long-term emotional stagnation eventually leads to physical and emotional disorders. By becoming a conscious breather we can re-take control of our lives by fully oxygenating our system and maintaining a lucid state of emotional freedom. You may wish to experience some relaxed abdominal breathing right now. Sit back and put your hand on your stomach, inhale and feel your abdomen rise; let your breath flow upwards to your chest, then, as you quickly exhale with a relaxed sigh, feel the chest and the abdomen fall; repeat this cycle 5 times without any pauses. Note how you feel: more energized, lighter? Was it easy or difficult to access your abdominal muscles? Where are you tight and where is relaxed? Could your breathing benefit from re-training?

All traditional cultures have recognized the value of conscious breathing practices, ranging around the world from the Yogic Pranayama to the Ha Breath of the Hawaiian Kahunas. There are a bewildering number of breathing techniques to choose from, including contemporary practices such as Holotropic Breath, Rebirthing, Vivation, Buteyko, Mézières etc. It is very important to recognize that most ancient breathing practices, along with their modern counterparts, are either designed to induce altered states of consciousness, such as deep relaxation, bliss states and out-of-body experiences, or they are intended to induce healing of a specific disorder, such as asthma, or birth and trauma release. None of them are intended to teach us how to breathe correctly on a regular day- to-day basis. Transformational Breathing fills a very important gap in this respect. From the ancient practices, Leonard Orr developed rebirthing in the 1970s. Designed to heal the most fundamental of human trauma, that of the birth experience, rebirthing was largely responsible for raising awareness of the value of breath work in the West. Of breathing Leonard Orr has said, "The purpose of conscious breathing is not primarily the movement of air but the movement of energy. If you do a relaxed, connected breathing cycle for a few minutes you will experience dynamic energy flows within your body. These energy flows are the merging of spirit and matter." This simple truth is also clearly contained within the Latin word for oxygen, which is spiritus.

The main differences between Transformational Breathing and other techniques include the use of:

  • Circular Breath – Fully connected, no pauses and relaxed exhale
  • Invocations – For the perfect session, assistance, connection to spirit and for guidance
  • Focused Intent – Renewed for each session, gives clear direction to the subconscious
  • Hands On – Use of gentle pressure at key 'emotional release' points
  • Sacred Sound – Toning is used to clear stuck emotions and move quickly through trauma release
  • Tantrums – Kicking and pounding are also encouraged to release stuck energy patterns
  • Relaxed Exhale – No effort is used on the out-breath, thus avoiding hyperventilation
  • Body Mapping – Used to identify areas that are emotionally congested
  • Diagnostics – Used to understand the emotional nature of restrictions and the areas for growth

Spirit-Matter Interface – Creating a Human Body

It is well known that all matter within the universe is comprised of energy, as expressed by Einstein's famous equation E=mc2, which states that matter and energy are interchangeable. We are familiar with the conversion of matter into energy, such as occurs when we burn petrol in our car engine, or when we light a fire or turn on the gas cooker. We are much less familiar with the opposite process, that of converting energy into matter; beyond the process of photosynthesis in plants the conversion of energy into matter to create a human body is not well understood. Science tells us that at the heart of each cell we have a tiny atomic reactor that is constantly turning energy into matter (form building) and also releasing matter back into energy (conservation of energy). While the mechanics of this process are well understood, the subtle mechanism that carries life energy to our cells has yet to be well described by science. The key point to understand here is that – the primary method that humans use to convert energy into form is through the BREATH. When we stop breathing we die; the more we breathe the more we live – it is that simple!

Physical Body – How to Breathe Correctly!

Having established the fundamental nature of the respiratory process in maintaining optimum energy levels, let us now look at how to breathe correctly for maximum benefit; that is to say starting in the abdomen and finishing in the upper chest. Given that our strongest (primary) breathing muscles are the diaphragm, abdominal and intercostals, it makes good sense to use them as the prime movers in our breathing cycle. During the first level of Transformational Breathing our body is re-trained to breathe starting from the abdomen; the seat of our personal power and subconscious. By inhaling in this way our abdomen is pushed outwards causing the diaphragm to extend downwards, opening up the lower part of our lungs. This is extremely beneficial since it is the area with the highest density of alveoli – the small air sacks that transfer oxygen into our bloodstream.

Once it is full in the abdomen the breath wave moves across the diaphragm and up to the chest. It is within the diaphragm area that most restrictions are found. Known as the fear belt, it is the part of our body that carries most of our emotional traumas and muscular tension from fight or flight responses. Once across the diaphragm, the breath wave travels up the chest and across the heart. The heart is the second area that is often congested, mostly with the tight muscular responses from repressed emotions such as loss, grief, hate, bitterness, love and ecstasy. Once past the heart, the breath wave peaks into the upper chest/throat; the area of higher will. It is at the top of the breath wave that the secondary breathing muscles (scalenus, sternocleidomastoid, trapezius and pectoralis minor) come into play. The secondary muscles provide balance and stability to our breathing system, but, being much lighter than the primaries, they also tire much more easily.

It is important to understand that the role of the primary and secondary breathing muscles should never be reversed. If they are (which is quite common), the result is tension, fatigue, neck, throat, jaw and upper back problems, breathlessness and an overall tendency to gasp on the out-breath – a factor which can lead to hyperventilation, in a desperate attempt to get more air.

By completely relaxing on the exhale, the natural elasticity of our ribs and muscular system is allowed to collapse our diaphragm and lungs, thus effortlessly expelling the air from our bodies. No pauses are allowed between the out-/in-breath, for each pause represents holding on to the fear of letting go of negativity. Neither are there any pauses between the in-/out-breath, since this represents a reluctance to engage fully with life. In practice, most of us have severe muscular restrictions to connected, open breathing and need quite a bit of encouragement to re-learn the basic mechanics. It is at the level of our subconscious fears, doubts and insecurities that much of our resistance to breathing lies. By using a hands-on approach, a lot of these deeply embedded issues can be easily changed. For example, by pressing on the fear release point (the muscle located just below the sternum notch) a lot of old issues can be quickly integrated, without having to know the intellectual content of the issues involved. This ability to be free of unconscious issues spontaneously is one of the grace factors of Transformational Breathing. Indeed, Henry Rohrberg, a PhD psychologist from the USA, has gone on record as saying that one breathing session is worth a year of psychotherapy.

Mind and Feeling – Attitude and Self-Expression are Important

The second level of Transformational Breathing works on mind and feeling; in this case the breath works as a connective link between our conscious and subconscious mind. By using a focused intention, such as 'I connect to my Personal Power', or 'I connect to my Life Purpose, Abundance, Health etc.', the mental and emotional blockages that prevent the manifestation of such an intent start to clear. This process of integration works by a mechanism known as Entrainment; when high frequency energy is brought into the body via the breath, the lower frequency mental/emotional (energetic) issues become excited to vibrate at a higher rate, and thus are released more easily.

In order to understand this very important level more deeply it is necessary to have a clear picture of the relationship between breathing, energy, feeling and emotion. As we breathe, our life force or energy (called Prana or Chi by the Eastern philosophies) is drawn into our body. Interwoven upon this life force are our feelings, which arise in response to life experiences. The free-flowing movement of these feelings within our being is called emotion, energy motion or e-motion for short. When we restrict the expression of our e-motions, by drawing away from intense feelings and limiting our self-expression, we create stuck energy states, which, since they have no place to go, convert into more dense states, typically re-appearing as the neuroses and physical illnesses of our modern world. These dis-orders are nothing more than stuck e-motions that have been converted into matter through our conscious and unconscious attempts to protect ourselves from the intensity of our feelings; in their place we have created intense states of dis-ease and dis-order. One way that we fend off these old feelings is to shut down our breathing mechanism. Re-teaching our bodies to breathe correctly can clear this self-limiting dynamic.

Spirit – Creating a Clear Pathway

As we clear our subconscious minds of self-limiting destructive beliefs, outmoded behaviour patterns and repressed feelings and memories, our awareness automatically connects to our innate in-dwelling spirit. Transformational Breathing is a powerful integrator at this level. As conscious breathers we connect more deeply to our intuition and inner guidance, our body reverts to a natural state of bliss and wellbeing; our consciousness is transformed and we move effortlessly from a consciousness based on fear to one based on miracles. During this phase many practitioners report experiencing higher states of awareness, whilst at the same time staying well grounded in their bodies. Rudolph Steiner states: "The rhythm of breathing, more than anything else, shows man to be a microcosm, a little world. Man's breathing copies the process of the Great World, the macrocosm." In the book We the Arcturians the following statement is made: "...the breath holds the key to mastering the electronic force of the universe and the power to manifest in the fifth dimension".

Benefits – What's in it for Me?

Benefits accrue at all three levels of body, mind and spirit simultaneously and often at a level beyond conscious awareness. While no specific medical claims are made, nearly all known dis-orders have been seen to respond favourably to conscious breathing, ranging from cancer to digestive dis-orders, migraines, heart and circulation problems, addictions, high blood pressure, sluggish immune system, depression, chronic fatigue, lack of self-empowerment, relationship problems, aggression and stress-related issues; the list is endless. The simple truth is that complete oxygenation of our cellular system is essential for good health.

When oxygen levels increase in the blood the potential for dis-ease is reduced. High levels of oxygen kill germs, parasites, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Nobel Prize Laureate Dr Otto Warburg has proved that cancer cells live by fermentation. They are anaerobic and thus can only proliferate when cells are getting little or no oxygen. Their degenerative nature influences the cells around them as well. Dr Warburg stated that if you deprive a cell of 60% of its oxygen it will turn cancerous. This discovery has been instrumental in recent treatments for cancer and other incurables. Placed alongside the empirical observation that over 50% of us breathe at less than 30% capacity, it is not surprising that there are such a large number of cancer cases in society.

Oxygen is also essential for the biological release of such secretions as endorphins, serotonin, neuropeptides and hormones. These organic chemicals produce blissful and euphoric states and are normally released during peak experiences such as intense athletic activity, appreciation of a beautiful landscape, making love, a massage or a tender embrace. These natural secretions are more powerful and far healthier than any artificial substance that is taken to get high.

Correct breathing is also a significant self-help tool for those applying oxygen healing therapies to such issues as immune disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, HIV/AIDS, candida and others. Even childbirth can be transformed from a trauma into an ecstatic event by breathing with the contractions and not against them. Equally so, asthma sufferers can enjoy a better life by learning that it is safe to let go of the exhale and that there is another breath coming on the in-breath. They learn that it is safe to breathe!

Apart from the obvious personal benefits, the social system as a whole probably has the most to gain from systematic use of this process. Although the financial benefits have not been calculated the potential savings must be very high in terms of reduced medication, lower operating costs (heart / lungs etc.), less prison care, faster rehabilitation, decreased absenteeism, less stress at work, school and play, and greater commitment to the family and social order. These are all tangible benefits that could arise from correct and widespread application of this fundamental, life-changing process. The simple truth is that when individuals begin to feel better by taking care of themselves, they in turn care more for society; with the result that a lot of the social chaos we experience could eventually disappear; not through any legislation or use of outside rules and regulations, but through powerful individual change from within.

The Key to Circular Breathing is

Three Simple Steps:

  • Belly Breathing – Starts in the abdomen
  • Connected Breath – No in/out or out/in pauses
  • Relaxed Exhale – No blowing or controlling

Success in this technique is achieved by releasing emotions that are causing muscular tension and breathing restrictions. The correct breathing pattern then arises as a natural body response. It DOES NOT involve superimposing a new 'breathing technique' over the top of existing stress patterns.
Once fully activated breathing becomes an effortless joy; we have the feeling of being breathed rather than breathing ourselves. "The perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing" – Lao Tse

Case Studies – Real Life Experiences

TMJ – Repressed State Caused a Locked Jaw

Olga came to one of my workshops in Moscow. Her breathing was very shallow and weak, mainly in the upper chest area, with no abdominal response. She also had a strong control on the exhale, symptomatic of hanging on to a lot of anger and unexpressed grief. Her feeling centres were virtually all shut down. She had been suffering from an extremely tight and painful jaw since she was a student. An operation had failed to resolve the problem and she was spending her life in agony, only being able to open her mouth about 1" wide. Eating was difficult; a trip to the dentist was a nightmare.

During her breathing analysis her jaw went cold and suddenly fell open; for the first time in 20 years she could hold her mouth wide open, without restriction. During her breathing session she experienced severe tetany around her lower jaw, cheeks and neck area. From the contortions on her face it was clear that she was releasing a lot of old repressed anger that had been stored in her jaw; although she could not talk at the time she later confirmed this to be the case. After about 35 minutes the tetany subsided and her jaw stayed loose and flexible. She finished the session in an elated state, feeling that at last she was taking back control of her life. Four months later and her jaw is still free and loose.

Around 30% of conscious breathers experience tetany once, or maybe twice, during their first few breathing sessions. Tetany occurs when large amounts of life force are trying to flow through a meridian that is choked by repressed energy and subconscious trauma; it is simply unable to cope with the flow. It is a bit like everyone trying to get off an aeroplane all at once; it ends up in a big jam, but given time it will eventually resolve itself. The secret is to stay with it, and let the power of the breath clear through the repression; it will always clear and does not recur. In Latvia I worked with people who had extensive experience of Holotropic Breath. Several of them told me that each time they did Holotropic breathing they experienced strong tetany, it never went away and was always waiting for them in the next session. It was a real pleasure for me to watch them permanently clear their tetany by using the power of the breath coupled with toning, affirmations and loving support.

The following two case studies are accredited to Dr Judith Kravitz and are extracted from her book Breathe Deep, Laugh Loudly.

Juvenile Delinquency – Young Man Bound for Jail

Danny's stepmother was enrolled in our Maryland training programme. His dad called me at home one evening sounding quite desperate. He said that Danny was in big trouble with the law and had a long history of mental and emotional disturbances. He and his wife had tried everything they could think of and nothing seemed to help. Danny had been prescribed numerous medications for suspected schizophrenia. They were now facing the possibility that, at the age of 16, Danny might be tried and sentenced as an adult for a fight in which one of the other kids had been badly hurt. I agreed to see Danny provided he was willing to do the breathing.

When they arrived at my office in Boston, he was visibly stressed. He paced my office floor like a caged animal. It was impossible for him to make eye contact and he literally could not sit down. When I asked him questions, his answers were short and unfocused. His eyes were gazing everywhere but into mine.

I could tell that this young man was deeply troubled. I knew that the sooner we could begin breathing the better, as Danny was unreachable in his current state. He went deep into the process very quickly, and I could see that he was processing some very intense feelings by the look of agony on his face. His session lasted almost two hours. It was as if some part of him wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity to heal and clear as much as possible.

Of all the sessions ever facilitated, I have never experienced such profound transformation as in that first session with Danny. When he was done he sat up with tears in his eyes. Making full eye contact with me and smiling, he shared many of the realizations gained during his session. He said he had found great understanding and forgiveness during those two hours, and he knew that he was now very different. There was a sense of peace that filled him. Danny and I did a few more sessions and the reports from his father filled me with awe of his progress. His very way of being had become more peaceful and inwardly reflective, at the end of the third session I recommended to his father that Danny take the training programme, especially since he wasn't able to attend school at that time.

Danny became one of the first teenagers to enrol in and graduate from the Foundation's Personal and Professional Training programme. He soon started doing Transformational Breath sessions with his friends, realizing that he had something very wonderful to give. During the course of the training programme, Danny went to court on the pending legal matter. It was determined that he would be tried as a juvenile, and because his demeanour and behaviour had changed so much he was given a suspended sentence and probation. This was a dramatic demonstration of how intentional breathing can turn a young life around. Danny transformed his destructive, antisocial behaviour and became a positive and loving force in the world.

Child Birth – Carol's Experience

Carol, a 30-year-old mother of two, used Transformational Breathing extensively during her third pregnancy. The births of her first two children had been difficult experiences. When Carol was 18 years old the delivery of her first child was a hospital nightmare. She had very little support or information on what to do and what to expect. The long labour was full of fear, pain and ultimately drugs. And after all of her efforts, she chose to give the baby up for adoption.

The second pregnancy and labour were somewhat better, since Carol knew more about what to expect. This time she chose to birth at home and used Lamaze breathing, which was helpful during early labour but proved ineffective during hard labour. After 10 hours of intense labour, she gave birth to her second child, a son.

Shortly after his birth, Carol learned about Transformational Breathing and began to practise it. She felt its immediate effects on her stress levels and her ability to stay centred and calm, even in the worst moments of raising a small, active child. Before long, Carol felt drawn to the facilitator training and began sharing it with others in her community. When she discovered that she was pregnant for the third time she knew that it would be a valuable tool during the pregnancy and delivery.

Says Carol: "During labour, my partner, who had also graduated from the facilitator training, coached me with the Transformational Breath during the contractions. This made them much easier to handle and some were even enjoyable. The labour went quickly and before long it was time to push. I knew that as this was my third child, things would be easier. But I could also feel how much the breathing integrated the energy of each contraction to the point that I could co-operate with the labour process, rather than resist it. My midwife said it was one of the smoothest deliveries she had ever attended and later said she was interested in learning more about using Transformational Breathing in her work."

Breathing Diagnostics

There are a few simple rules for breathing analysis, which, if correctly interpreted by a combination of common sense and intuitive insight, can teach us a great deal about the e-motional and mental patterns that are restricting our breathing muscles.

  • Inhale – Represents our ability to take in our good, our vitality and life force. Shallowness represents a lack of self-worth, self-acceptance and a reluctance to engage in life.
  • Exhale – Represents the flow of negativity and fear. Blowing – means pushing negativity away. Controlled – controlling life and negative feelings. Holding on – hanging on to the fear of letting go of negativity. Relaxed – like a quick sigh is ideal.
  • Breath Flow
  • Weak or closed in Abdomen – Spacey, not grounded, not wanting to be here, possible lower back and digestive problems.
  • Weak or closed in Heart Area – Closed to love expression, both giving and receiving; can arise as a result of having strong-willed parents; can lead to heart, lung and upper back problems.
  • No breath in the Mid Section – Represents a split between heart and will; leads to difficulty in decision making and relationships; low sense of self-worth.
  • Tight Jaw – Repressed anger, often accompanied by strong control of the exhale.
  • Upper Chest puffed out/rigid – Holding on to old anger and grief, outmoded beliefs and pride.

Parting Thought – The Fun Starts When You Commit to Conscious Breathing

"Blessed are those that are refined in breath: they shall find their ruling principals and ideals guided by God's light" – Prayers of the Cosmos, Aramaic words of Jesus.

Further Reading

Kravitz Judith. Breathe Deep, Laugh Loudly. Free Press Ink. USA. ISBN 1-929271-01-8. 1999.
Farhi Donna. The Breathing Book. Owl Books. USA. ISBN 0-8050-4297-0. 1996.
Ramacharaka Yogi. The Hindu Yogi Science of the Breath. Taraporevala and Sons. India. 1996.
Sky Michael. Breathing. Bear & Co. USA. ISBN 0-939680-82-3. 1990.
Altman Nathaniel. Oxygen Healing Therapies. Healing Arts Press. USA. ISBN 0-89281-793-3. 1998.
Prem Raja Baba. The Joy Book. Prem Raja Baba. USA. ISBN 0-9645010-0-7. 1994.
Steiner Rudolph. The Karma of Materialism. Rudolph Steiner Press. Berlin. p40. ISBN 0-88010-129-6. 1917.

Acknowledgements

Thanks are given to the Transformational Breath Foundation for permission to use information from their Website, located at www.breath2000.com e-mail: info@breath2000.com and also to Dr Judith Kravitz for permission to cite two case studies from her book Breathe Deep, Laugh Loudly.

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About David Thorpe

David Thorpe is a degreed Engineer with 20 years' exper-ience in the Oil Industry, as well as 20 years' experience in the fields of healing, alternative health and spiritual research. He recently founded Heart of Being™, an organi-zation dedicated to the Unfold-ment of Human Potential. He is a Certified Spiritual Healer; with the NFSH since 1987, a Transformational Breathing Facilitator and also special-izes in Dream Integration using Process Work techniques developed by Arny Mindel. He undertakes lectures, seminars, workshops and individual therapy. He lives in Suffolk, UK and travels extensively teaching, healing and dancing the path of life. For further information including Breathing Facilitators in your area see www.heartofbeing.com or dave@heartofbeing.com Tel: + 44 (0)1493 488360.

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