I recently participated in a 3-hour breathwork event at lizard yoga (facilitated by Danny Hallam) in Austin, Texas.
Why do breathwork – what are its benefits?
- stress relief
- creative inspiration
- improve focus and energy
- process emotions
People do breathwork for different reasons and there are many different forms of breathwork that people practice.
I think it’s best to approach breathwork like you would meditation: without any specific goal in mind. Instead of focusing on the desired effect or outcome, simply focus on the process and accept (and explore) what comes out of it.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork is simply controlling your breath.
This contrasts with mindfulness meditation in which you would focus on the breath without controlling it. (Ie, being mindful of the breath.)
Whenever I do a guided meditation and am tasked with focusing on my breath without controlling it, I fail. That is, as soon as I turn my focus to my breath, I control it.
My standard breath is 6 seconds in and 8 seconds out. This is something I learned from my time at the intense nuerofeedback training, 40 Years of Zen, in which a device was used to measure my optimal breath (for relaxation, mindfulness, etc).
What is rebirthing and shamanic breathwork?
I had never experienced rebirthing or shamanic types of breathwork – and actually had no idea this was the style of breathwork we would practice going into the event (because I didn’t have an info).
I had heard of rebirthing breathwork and even had one or two people request it for my workshops.
The shamanic breathwork description
Here’s the event description from the lizard yoga website:
Shamanic Breathwork Journey with Danny Hallam
Our monthly Shamanic Breathwork Journey includes a stack of:
- primal movement,
- guided breathwork, and
- soundbath meditation
then ends with a sharing circle.
Danny and his team of facilitators hold a loving and safe container allowing student to dive deep on their journey inward.
What is Shamanic Breathwork?
It is a combination of circular connected breathing, toning, visualization, and affirmation. This breathwork style takes you on a deep ride within. It offers opportunities to release pent up emotions, opens channels of creativity, and deep states of relaxation.
What to bring:
- Yoga mat
- Notebook and pen
My experience with rebirthing / shamanic breathwork
When my friend, Kevin, invited me to join this 3-hour breathwork event, I was both curious and hesitant. As a breathwork practitioner and facilitator myself, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn and experience something new and/or different. At the same time, I felt some resistance in committing to 3 hours and not knowing what it would entail.
Kevin said one of his friends would let him to the events free of charge. But, when we arrived, we found that the breathwork wasn’t a freebie offer. (Makes sense for a 3-hour event.) The price was about $40.
We paid and went inside the studio and I was surprised and impressed to see that it was nearly full. We found open yoga mats in the front row near some of the sound chimes, spent a few minutes settling in (I grabbed some pillows for us) and the event began.
Part 1: The warm-up
The first part of the event was a kind of physical warm-up with various yoga movements and poses. I’m not much of a yoga fan, mainly because of my lack of flexibility. Some people see just how inflexible I am and will offer to help and offer that I should practice more. This may be true, but I think there’s a risk of doing more harm than good due to my body structure limitations (hip impingements) that keep my hip joints from moving laterally.
As the yoga poses were impossible for me to achieve (without tearing the tissue in my body!) I was relieved to move on to the breathwork.
Part 2: The Breathwork
Danny took over to lead the breathwork explaining that we would breathe in through the nose, fill our chest with air and shortly release. And repeat. He mentioned that it was a rebirthing breathwork.
The setting was impressive – with moving lights and sounds that included various sound instruments – to make for quite an immersive experience.
I was recovering from a head cold and sinus infection so the breathing was difficult for me. I’m also not accustomed to chest breathing because all the breathwork I teach and practice is in the belly and chest.
Because of the challenges breathing, I decided to sit up and that made it a little easier to breathe.
After going for what seemed like a LONG time (perhaps 30-45 minutes) we inhaled and held our breath. As is often the case when I do group breathwork, I was relieved to take a break from the rapid breathing and I spent a few minutes holding my breath and going to my happy place.
I eventually laid back down and peeked my eyes open a few times, once seeing the woman holding some instrument over my head (so I could feel the vibration of the sound). I think we went another 30-45 minutes or so (I’m guessing), held our breath again and then ended the breathwork.
Part 3: Sharing
There was time for about 10 people to share their experiences and then we hung out and chatted a while before leaving.
My takeaway on Shamanic Breathwork
I didn’t experience any deep emotional or psychadelic experience. But I did feel good after – noticeably better considering I was fighting a cold.
And then I saw the next day my HRV was much higher than usual and I slept well that night.
Would I do this again?
Definitely. With the overall immersive experience of sound, light, movement and breathwork, it’s well worth it.
I now have some ideas on how to improve the workshops I offer.
What about you?
What are your thoughts and experiences with breathwork?