Breathwork, whether in the form of pranayama or kriya, is the modification of vayu – air -– as it enters and exits the body.
This modification acts as a vehicle to presence, both for the therapist and for the client. Therapists are therefore trained to notice and focus on their own breath as a way to anchor their attention to the client’s unique needs in the moment.
Yoga therapy is directly linked to breath, whether one is addressing the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual layers of self. Obvious uses for breath-as-therapy are: taking the breath off autopilot to calm the body or activate the parasympathetic nervous system, utilizing specific pranayama techniques to change mental patterns, and using the breath as a simple object of awareness to support meditation. Breath, and specifically conscious breath, is the fundamental tool for a yoga therapist, providing much more accurate feedback from the client than words or thoughts can offer.
Breathing consciously is one of the most effective ways to invite presence into a healing modality, which is why breath therapy is often referred to as “presence therapy.”
This applies to presence in both the therapist and the client, resulting in both parties participating rather than the client feeling like they are there to “be healed” passively.
Breathwork is also about enhancing the client’s life experience; it encourages people to reach their full potential. Yoga is the science of human potential and as such, uses tools readily available to the client to empower them, increase their self-efficacy, and remind them that they are in the driver’s seat of their own healing and self actualization journey. Breath is one of the simplest and yet most powerful of those tools. Pranayama encourages energy, vitality, reassurance, calmness, mental well-being, physical relaxation, and spiritual growth.
Breathwork helps heal past trauma and injury, aids in discovering a harmful pattern, and provides a new and healthier pattern one can perform anywhere, anytime; this empowers clients to physically shift their programmed reactions to more enlightened responses.
Breathwork puts space between the practitioner and what they feel subject to. Therapists can then help make those trials and traumas into objects of awareness, using breath as a buffer.
Correct and conscious breath helps us identify breathing patterns that induce different stressors. Then we can change those embedded patterns, replacing them with new and more parasympathetic breathing techniques. These practices facilitate emotional release, physical relaxation, and mental spaciousness.
About the Author:
D’ana Baptiste is a teacher, trainer, author, and influencer, and pioneer in the yoga community, D’ana inspires others to find their own way in the “mind-body” world. She organizes regular workshops and retreats in North America, and is a co-founder of HelloYogaWorld. She’s the author of four books: The Yoga Sutras: One Woman’s Personal, Practical, and Playful Perspective, Sutra Study Guide: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, The Real Yoga: Life, and Practices Inspired by the Sutras: The Companion Book