Feeling anxious and stressed seems to be a big part of the average adult’s existence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many beautiful tools in the world to support humans to live with greater peace. One of these is breathwork.
What exactly is breathwork?
The term “breathwork” encompasses many different modalities- from yoga, to shamanism, to sound meditation, to talk therapy. If you’ve seen this word and wondered, ‘‘what exactly is breathwork?”, we’re here to help.
In this Q&A we’re doing a deep dive into breathwork and how it can support healing, personal growth and self actualization with the help of Carmen Ganne, an advanced breathwork practitioner who specializes in conscious connected breathwork, which is designed to provide emotional integration and nervous system reset. Let’s dive in!
Head + Heart: Please explain: what is breathwork?
Carmen Ganne: As your first line of nourishment, your breath is a direct path to a full system reset.
Working consciously with your breath brings you deeply into the present moment.
Yes, there are many interpretations and styles of breathwork out there, each bringing a slightly different energy and intention ranging from a focus on resolving past stored trauma, to accessing heightened states of consciousness, to deep soul remembrance, to understanding 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.
H+H: Can you briefly describe what a session looks like?
CG: A breathwork journey itself, as I’ve been trained to facilitate them, invites you to breathe into a relaxed body (typically laying down) with 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 creates space for what’s wanting to come alive within you as you naturally release what’s ready to move.
These breathwork journeys can be supported with music, instruments, toning, movement, affirmations and energetic and hands-on bodywork.
The safety and the integrity of this practice comes within a container of trust and expertise, so it’s wise to be clear on both the modality and the level of training of the facilitator prior to diving in.
H+H: On Head + Heart, we’ve seem many breathwork events added to the calendar lately, which made us wonder, what are the origins of breathwork as a healing modality?
CG: Breath is our life force and working with the breath to support our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves has deeply ancient roots.
Shamans and yogis have known the breath to be a potent medicine for millennia. Pranayama, a fundamental limb on the yogic path, uses breath as a way to cleanse and release as well as to support the entire system.
However, breathwork in the way that we are currently seeing it emerge, as conscious connected breathing, came onto the scene 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.
H+H When you work with people, how do you use breathwork to support healing?
CG: Because breath is your first line of nourishment, it’s a fundamental support for emotional integration, nervous system reset and connection with those deepest parts of yourself on a soul-level.
In my practice, I work most primarily 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. It 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 practicing 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.
H+H: Can you give an example of transformation you’ve witnessed as a result of breathwork?
CG: Absolutely! 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. My breath was survival. First working with it on a more western therapeutic level, I then started to get curious and explore the path of yoga and pranayama. I noticed more focus and flow. As I was introduced to conscious connected breathing, everything deepened and the flow in my body and life continuously blows me away.
H+H: What are some ways people can incorporate breathwork into their own wellness or spiritual practices at home?
CG: As you want to explore and go deeper with 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 practice 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.
I also recommend The Presence Process by Michael Brown, an incredible book that takes you on a journey into yourself through the exploration of your breath.
I welcome anyone to get in touch with me and I am happy to chat more to provide breathwork resources and support to support the journey home from the head to your heart. Learn more about Carmen carmenganne.com or on FB and IG @wildflowerretreats.
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Looking for a breathwork event or teacher closer to home? Explore Head + Heart and choose the category ‘breathwork’ and your state or province. If you’re in the Lower Mainland, this guide to breathwork in Vancouver offers a great list of the breathwork events and teachers we’d recommend exploring.