History of Breathwork

Breathwork is a general term used to describe any type of therapy that utilizes changes in the breathing pattern to improve the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Both therapeutically and as a path of spiritual awakening, Breathwork has been used in ancient traditions for thousands of years. This includes Pranayamas in Yogic practices and a variety of breath-centered meditations in Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, Shamanism, and martial arts. Breathing is, of course, nothing new, but it has had a big revolution in the last 60 years.

Most of the Modern Breathwork therapies used today got its start during the consciousness-raising era of the 1960s and 1970s, and they continue to evolve through different programs, scientific research, and studies.

Ancient Breathwork

Breath has been playing an essential role inmost traditional cultures. Among many similarities throughout them, they all have viewed and continued to consider the concept of breathing as being the air that is taken into the lungs, but also as the spiritual life force that creates life.

To give some examples:

In many languages and dialects, including Andean Quechua, Amazonian Quechua, Tibetan, Aramaic, and others, the word for breath is the same word that is used to describe life, spirit, and soul.

The connection between breath, mind, and spirit dates back through many ancient civilizations as we can see from the previous examples. Many of these cultures worked with the breath by creating and practicing different breathing techniques.  Some breathing techniques were meant to alter consciousness for various religious, spiritual, and ceremonial purposes.

Breathwork also served as a healing modality throughout many shamanic cultures around the world. Each breathing technique varies among cultures, but there is a universal theme: Breathwork is a technique that fosters a non-ordinary state of consciousness to facilitate self-discovery, healing, transformation, and much more.  For example, the Kalahari Kung Bushmen of Africa use rapid and shallow breathwork, along with dancing to attain kia, which is a powerful emotional and physical state of ecstasy. The men who reach kia during the ceremony can perform healing rituals for others.

Modern Breathwork

The re-emergence of Breathwork in Western culture started in the 1960s with two humans: Leonard Orr and Stanislav Grof, M.D.

Leonard Orr, was born in New York, USA, and founded the Rebirthing Breathwork movement. He discovered breathwork while sitting in a hot tub experimenting with deep breathing patterns. Leonard found that breathwork helped to reach a non-ordinary state of consciousness where memories, pictures, emotions, or body sensations can surface to be reviewed, released, and integrated.

Rebirthing Breathwork is based on nasal breathing and is practiced without any other exterior stimulus rather than the advice of the rebirther guiding the session.

Leonard had a rather practical approach created through his experiments both as a practitioner and facilitator. He wrote several books and essays on Breathwork, spiritual psychology, birth trauma, and physical immortality, among other topics. He entered the astral planes in 2019.

Dr. Stanislav Grof  worked with LSD for many years as a therapeutic tool back in the 1960s and found that the “non-ordinary states of consciousness” that his patients were able to access during these experiences had a tremendous healing power.  When LSD was banned, he believed that since these healing states could be accessed with a substance, that the receptors for that type of experience existed in our brains so there should be a way to access the same states without the LSD.  He then spent the next period of time researching both how traditional societies had accessed these states and he also studied modern consciousness theory.  From his research and then by working with groups of volunteers at Esalen over a period of several months, he developed a one day workshop modality that allowed participants to access these healing non-ordinary states through the use of breath and music.  He called this modality Holotropic Breathwork.

Holotropic Breathwork is based on mouth breathing and uses music as part of the experience.

Since the irruption of these two pioneers, the field of breathwork has expanded worldwide with several different breathwork masters, techniques, and brands.

Different types of breathwork

Many different techniques, methods, and brands have been developed in the last 20 years.

Regardless of the technique, all forms of breathwork therapy are centered on the act of consciously breathing in and out in a non-regular pattern to trigger a reaction in the body-mind-emotional state of the practitioner. Each model incorporates its own breathwork exercises.

The major difference between the practices is whether the breathing is nose or mouth focus, and many of the practices use a combination of both. Some other points of difference between them are:

The belief systems and spiritual frameworks vary from practice to practice. This is the reason that influences all the rest of the parameters.

Some well-known types of breathwork, among many others, are:

Rebirthing Breathwork, Holotropic Breathwork, Breatharian Healing, The Wim Hof Method, Respiracion Evolutiva, Transformational Breathwork, Biodynamic Breathwork, Integrative Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Vivation, Zen-Yoga Breathwork, Clarity Breathwork, Bioenergetics, Radiance Breathwork, and of course, Mána Breathwork!

How to choose the right type of breathwork for you

It’s advised that you do a session under the supervision of a qualified instructor. Practicing with a high-quality breathworker or reputable organization can help you pace yourself and get the most out of your breathwork.

There are several breathwork approaches. You may want to try out a few different techniques over time to see which type most resonates with you and brings about the best results. There is no better or a bad breathwork technique. It depends more on the person facilitating the session and how you feel. The core of The Mana Breathwork Method is to follow your inner excitement.

Follow your facilitator advice when you are beginning any technique. While there are many benefits to breathwork therapy there are certain risks of which you should be aware. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any breathwork therapy, especially if you have a medical condition or take medications that may be affected by the practice. This includes if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What’s the Meaning of Mana?

Mana is the power of the elemental forces of nature embodied in a living being. It is cultivation or possession of energy and power, rather than being a source of power. It is an intentional force.

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