What is Breathwork Therapy / Rebirthing?
Rebirthing is not something that I had come across before. As a science graduate / atheist / Londoner I have a tendency to err on the side of caution (/scepticism) when it comes to alternative therapies, spirituality, meditation, holding hands etc. My experience at Cala has probably changed this part of me for life.
The power of working with the breath has been known for thousands of years but it was rediscovered in the 1960s when it was found that it was comparable / better than the popular drugs of the time, in terms of affecting consciousness in a positive way. Rebirthing is a healing method which works by bringing unconscious feelings and emotions into awareness, making it possible to consolidate and heal them, and free up emotional energy.
There are three requirements on your breathing:
- Breathe in and out through the same air passage (mouth or nose);
- Active inhale and passive exhale; and
- No pauses between breaths.
Everyone’s experience is different, and even the same person will experience rebirthing differently on different occasions. We all have different issues and emotions hidden at different depths, and your experience may depend on your state of mind on any given day, or how willing and open you are to it. For me it was an extremely liberating and positive experience, although very emotional. It was far more effective than simply talking about memories, thoughts and feelings. Whatever emotional filters or defence mechanisms are normally in place were irrelevant.
How does it work?
Feelings? Emotional energy? Healing?.. Really? I have an irritating need to rationalise everything with scientific explanation so I’ll be the first to ask: er, how does it work? What exactly is happening physiologically? Scientific research, facts and published papers are not in abundance on this topic. As a biochemistry grad I covered some neuroscience during my studies: suffice to say that the human brain is the most complex living structure in the known universe, and that we (humans and specifically scientists) are not exactly brimming with detailed understanding on how things as complex as memory, emotion and conscious/unconscious thought actually work. What is known about rebirthing is this: by breathing continuously without break, your body takes in more oxygen than usual, which changes the CO2 level in your brain. Comparable to when you consume caffeine, alcohol or other drugs, it changes the chemical composition of your blood and within your brain, and you see and feel the affects in your thoughts and behaviour. In the case of rebirthing, this slightly altered chemistry puts you in a different state of consciousness, where you experience your thoughts and feelings differently.
My experience step by step
My rebirther, Purnima explained how to breathe, and that all I needed to think about was my breathing, that there was no other expectation of me. She said not to worry if my hands went rigid. She spoke very little throughout, only a few times to remind me of my breathing. I put an eye mask on and laid comfortably on the floor (with cushions and blankets). The eye mask helped stop me from getting distracted and looking around wondering what was supposed to happen and when. Initially I was simply concentrating on breathing deeply and continuously, which is harder than it sounds, as we’re not used to breathing like that for extended periods of time. After a short while I started to feel the physiological effects of this; a pins and needles sensation developed in my hands and a numbness in my feet. This continued for some time, I remember breathing for quite a while and my hands becoming rigid with that pins and needles sensation. I was completely conscious throughout, and my mind was active with normal thoughts (like is this working?).
At one point I got quite hot and flung the blankets off my chest. Not long after that, I experienced a chain of thoughts and emotions. I can’t compare it to hallucinating, or dreaming. I was conscious and my mind seemed to be producing thoughts as it normally would, however I seemed to be feeling those thoughts very powerfully, I was feeling everything about them. In part of my thoughts was a worry that I’ve kept for years. I felt all of the worst of it, I dwelled on it and let my heart break for it, and then I was flooded with a feeling of peace and positivity about it and my intentions and feelings about it were clear and bright. This feeling of peace and positivity stayed with me while my breathing slowly returned to normal. I had tears in my eyes but was smiling with a feeling of complete calm and clarity. And this feeling has stayed with me since. What was worrying me has been cleared away, it’s still going to happen in real life, I can’t stop it, but I feel at peace with it. I feel lighter and have a huge space for new and positive emotional energy in it’s place.