29 Mar Experiencing the Breath
Recently a student asked a question about the breathwork we offer and we responded as follows.
Thank you for your message asking about the “spiritual” nature of breathwork. Since these days people tend to focus more on the practices of physical yoga postures and sitting meditation, I suspect it is a question many have pondered.
As you likely know, the primary hindrance to knowing our True Self, (some might say their “spiritual nature) is the conditioning of the mind. Our identification and attachment to our thoughts and opinions prevent us from experiencing the Truth of who we really are beyond form (Divine Presence, Undivided Awareness, Love, etc) . Most of the practices of Yoga (physical asana is only a very small aspect of Yoga) are designed to help us let go of this conditioning and to know and live life from this Truth.
Many years ago people from all over the world sought to break free of the limits of the mind by various methods such as drumming, singing and ritualistic use of various plants and seeds. The plants and seeds were known as Soma. Thru experimentation they realized they could break free of their limited perceptions thru the use of this Soma.
At some point yoga practitioners in India investigated alternative means of reaching these states and developed breath practices that came to be known as Pranayama. They found they could know the deeper truth of life without taking substances. Many people feel that breath practices are the most profound aspect of yoga and that the breath alone is enough to accomplish this awakened state. Various ancient yogic texts emphasize breath awareness and practices as being central to knowing The Self.
The breathwork practices are both traditional yogic practices and an enhanced hyper-oxygenated connected breath to increase oxygen flow which often results in a person going beyond “ordinary mind” so that they can begin to experience who they actually are beyond conditioning. As I mentioned earlier, this is in fact one of the primary purposes of Yoga. Often in breathwork sessions, breathers have their first experience of embodied Divine resonance. This then can become a reference point for a more expansive and inclusive non-dual view and experience in life.
The other dimension of the breathwork is that a person may experience old and buried traumas. Although some are more obvious and impactful than others, we all have these so-called traumas. The release of these traumas is essential to knowing and experiencing our True Self as the trapped energy of the trauma keeps us reactive and stuck in old and unhelpful patterns.
Although “talk therapy” may have some place is healing these traumas, it is very limited as they are lodged in the cellular structure of the body. In Yoga we call these “samskaras” and the various practices are in part designed to release the samskaras from our body.
In the breathwork session, the breath itself helps reveal and release the energy trapped in identification with the story. This is profoundly healing as we allow the deep unwinding in the system in a safe supported environment which does not focus on story, but rather allows the body to free itself for deeper realizations. This can happen in many ways..a quiet internal way, thru releasing movement, and/or sounding as the energy frees itself. It is not “rolling in the drama of the story” rather it is staying completely connected to the breath and allowing the breath to guide the release. Everyone feels more open, less burdened, more insightful and a greater freedom when this happens in a session. Each session is different – one can be quite transcendent, another a quiet feeling of the body experiencing more energy, and yet another session one of releasing old stuck energy.
Of course we are all unique and there is no “right way” to know the “Truth” of who we are. Some people are attracted to the breathwork immediately, others come to it gradually over time as they experience the benefits. Most important is our openness to experience the full spectrum of our humanness and divinity.
As with anything in our life, each of us has to have faith in our own wisdom, listen to our deep knowing and to have the courage to follow that.
We hope this is responsive to your question, but please feel free to reach out if you have further questions.
Patricia and Surya