Written by Monica Krake, Founder of Head + Heart. Follow her on Instagram.

Breathwork is a powerful tool to support physical and emotional healing. In this article Carmen Ganne explains the benefits of breathwork and how this practice can be used to support healing and emotional release. While feeling anxious and stressed seems to be a big part of the average modern day adult’s existence, it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to explore the benefits of breathwork.

What is breathwork?

In this Q&A we’re talking about active breathwork, a form of active meditation that can help you let go of your overthinking mind, relax deeply into your body, and access subconscious wisdom. Out of all the wellness practices I’ve tried, active breathwork has been the one that’s most helped my own emotional wellbeing, and my own ability to tap into my intuition and Higher Self.  Below, Carmen Ganne, an advanced breathwork practitioner who specializes in trauma-informed breathwork, explains what breathwork is, and the incredible benefits of this practice.

Q: What is active breathwork?

Active breathwork is the practice of working consciously with your breath to bring yourself deeply into the present moment. Breathwork is a powerful and direct path to a full system reset.

There are many interpretations and styles of active breathwork out there, each bringing a slightly different energy and intention. Active breathwork is generally used to help people resolve past stored trauma, access heightened states of consciousness, access deep soul remembrance, understand the mechanics and physiological impact of breathing well – and everything in between.

As you work consciously with your breath, you have the ability to reset your nervous system and uncover and integrate unconscious patterns, blockages and barriers in your body and life. This is because, how you breathe is a direct reflection of how you show up in life. So as you work to open your own breath pattern, you are able to bring deep awareness and flow into areas in which you have held dense, stuck energy, old stories, tension and dis-ease. You drop into the truth and beauty of who you are. As you allow yourself to feel deeply, you open to more energy, flow, freedom and clarity in your body and your life.

What does a breathwork session look like?

A breathwork journey or session invites you to breathe into a relaxed body (typically laying down), with an open mouth, and an emphasis on an expansive inhale and a surrendered exhale. The flow that’s created within your system from consciously connecting your breath in and out of the mouth without a pause allows you to feel deeply and express freely. This form of open mouth breathing creates space for what’s wanting to come alive within you and supports you to naturally release what’s ready to move.

Breathwork journeys are typically supported with music, instruments, toning, movement, affirmations, energetic and hands-on bodywork.

The integrity of this practice is upheld by the container of trust and expertise, so it’s wise to be clear on the level of training of your facilitator prior to diving in. [Read about four top breathwork facilitator training programs here].

What are the origins of breathwork?

Shamans and yogis have known the breath to be a potent medicine for millennia; working with the breath to support physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing has deeply ancient roots.

Active breathwork in the way that we are currently seeing it emerge became more popular in the mainstream in the 60’s and 70’s through pioneers in the field like Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray (rebirthing), Jim Leonard (vivation), Judith Kravitz (transformational breath) and Stanislov Grof (holotropic breathwork). From there many styles have continued to emerge, including the work of Robin Clements of Breathwave.net, with whom I have done extensive training and appreciate both the depth, compassion, spirit and science of what he shares.

How does breathwork support healing?

Because the breath is your first line of nourishment, it’s a fundamental support for emotional integration, nervous system reset and connection with the deepest parts of yourself on a soul-level.

In my practice, I work with conscious connected breathing, focusing on opening the breath pattern to support coming fully into the body and shifting blockages and patterns that are also showing up within your life. This process brings to the surface any old stories or patterns that are circulating in the system for integration. Some call it trauma release. I like to steer clear of the dramatics of it, keeping in mind that trauma simply refers to unprocessed emotion that’s needing to be felt – breathwork supports its flow out of your system.

Through practising a continuous flow of breath within a supported container, my role as a breathwork facilitator is to guide you in bringing breath and flow into areas where you are holding or feeling blocked or stuck. This process encourages the free and safe expression of emotion, always coming back into a relaxed nervous system to remind the body that it is now free and safe to release whatever it was previously holding onto. This naturally creates spaciousness within the body which will show up within your life too.

Breathwork is also linked to supporting overall physical health. The science shows that the oxygenating effects of breathwork serve to put the body in a more alkaline, anti-inflammatory state, which is linked to supporting a stronger immune system and lowering anxiety.

How can breathwork transform our lives?

I’ve witnessed the integration, resolution and release of childhood trauma, sexual trauma, grief and loss, death of loved ones, guilt, regret and shame, feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm, uncertainty in how to move forward, as well as lifetimes of pattern replication both with self, ancestral and collective.

I myself have been working consciously with my breath in some form or another for over 20 years now. As a young one, I knew my system to be hyper-sensitive to and aware of everything that was happening both around and within me. As I was introduced to conscious connected breathing, everything deepened and the flow that’s come into my body and life continuously blows me away.

What’s the best way to try breathwork?

I always recommend to experience a full breathwork journey within an integrous container held by a trained facilitator when you are starting out. Conscious connected breathing is incredibly powerful and it’s important to have support as you open fully and release because sustainable shifts happen when you feel safe and fully held.

In the meantime, however, one simple way to become more breath-aware at home is to take three deep, full breaths. This is enough to reset your system and create space to choose how to respond versus react. When you’re able to incorporate this on a daily basis, you’ll see remarkable shifts happen. Consciously connecting your breathing for even 10-15 minutes a day creates deeply positive support for your body, mind and soul.

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If you’d like to book a session with a vetted Breathwork teacher, there are several in our wellness directory that offer 1:1 sessions, including Carmen Ganne, Tai Hubbert and Ana Lilia. Take a peak at this list of Virtual Breathwork journeys we’ve tried and love. And if you’re considering breathwork facilitation, I profiled four top breathwork teacher training programs.