Breathwork is the science, art and philosophy of breath. It is a systematic practice of opening to life. Our bodies are vast ecosystems of teaming, steaming biochemical and bioelectric complexity linked by super highways of collagenous networks giving us some agency in this chaotic wonderment called life. Most of our bodies billions of processes happening every moment, are unnoticed, unacknowledged and subconscious. These form the substrate that a deepening self reflection and awareness may facilitate access to. Breathwork is at the unique interface between that which is autonomous and that which is conscious. It provides us with a powerful tool that facilitates a bridge into the world of the unspoken and unseen within us. It comprises a myriad of techniques with qualitative and measurable outputs. These manipulate the basic parameters of physiology to impact psyche and soma.
From a scientific perspective working consciously with the breath is a very powerful way of accessing and harnessing the autonomic nervous systems capacity to down regulate our over active frontal cortex as well as our emotional selves. There are a plethora of techniques and approaches which have been studied and a wealth of high quality evidence in the domains of pain, mood disorders, depression, anxiety and hypertension, amongst many others. With significant implications in the way that much of medicine is practiced, particularly as it pertains to health empowerment.
Owing to the foundational nature of breathing and its direct connection to cellular respiration. This cornerstone of health and life awaits multiple secrets and wondrous scientific and personable discoveries.
The art of breathwork entails the sensitive and judicious use of breathing to bring colour, life and joy to the lives of those who practice it. There are many approaches that have been used for millennia (including fast deep hyperventilation type breath and rhythmic vocalised breathing etc.). The realms of psyche and interiority that are accessed through the art of breath are often spoken of in philosophical terms. These states are the much studied and revered altered states of consciousness. Breath affords us access to a cosmos of inner states which in turn can guide our “living” making life more joyful, coherent and authentic.
I feel breathwork (like much of complementary and integrative medicine ) needs to walk an integrous path; being informed by science but not relegating itself into the deadly boring grips of rationalistic and dogmatic scientism. Breathwork must maintain its relevance by proudly owning the the niche domains of psyche and soma which it bridges. Breathwork heals the strained links between our evolutionary dissonances – the reptilian automaton, the mammalian furnace of feeling and force, the cortical clarity and the ghost in the machine – soul.
Now; more than ever; we need to experience our living selves as united, coherent undivided. We need to honour the profundity of the trauma of disconnect, the destructive disavowing of our feeling selves, the treacherous amnesia of our bodily joys. We are living lives of painful desperation- disconnected disavowed and forgetful. Breathwork, movement and touch may be the deep powerful inexpensive technologies which can bridge the divides between body and mind, mind and soul, soul and society.