The Healing Power of Breathwork Therapy

Breathwork can only be understood once its experienced. It is a simple, yet powerful self-healing experience created by focused rhythmic breathing. Originating in India over 2000 years ago, the Pranayama Breath Work meditation is a perfect antidote for our busy western minds. As a culture, we have a hard time slowing down our thoughts and just being with our experience. Our minds are active, always thinking, judging, planning, analyzing, ruminating, remembering the past, or worrying about the future. Breathwork allows the mind to relax, giving you a chance to heal by accessing the wisdom inside your heart. Breathwork helps move stuck energy, be it mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual, bringing your life back into balance.

The first five to seven minutes of breathwork are usually very challenging and the most important. The mind is trying to stay in control and does not like this new unfamiliar breathing pattern, it does not want to let go. This is when all your resistance will come up. The mind will say things like “I can’t do this, it’s too hard, I don’t like this, I’m thirsty, my lips are dry.” But after five to seven minutes, enough oxygen has reached the brain that it begins to relax. The increased oxygen alkalizes the body by reducing the acidity in the blood. The hypothalamus gland begins to release endorphins, which in turn stimulates the other ductless glands in the body (the chakras) and your energy begins to move. Most people will begin to experience tingling in their hands, legs, or face because of the movement of energy in their body. As the brain begins to relax and emotions open and move more freely when the endorphins are flowing.

Anything that needs healing will be brought to the attention of the breath. Many people cry during breathwork meditation, as they release sadness from the past that has been keeping their heart chakra closed. Or there may be no awareness of what the sadness is about, just the experience of it moving through the heart. Some people will get cold no matter how warm the room is or how many blankets they have on them, as old fears are released from their bodies.

You may think of something you have not thought of in years and realize that you have been holding onto a painful experience your mind has forgotten about. You may realize how angry you have been about something, and suddenly be able to release it and forgive. Breathwork may seek out old physical injuries in the body that still have stuck energy. Or the places you carry tension and stress will light up and will feel uncomfortable for a while until the stuck energy is released.

Often times, breathwork will clear out stuck energy before physical symptoms have started to show up, preventing you from having to experience that illness or disease. Breathwork will continue to bump against the block until it finally breaks through causing a cathartic release. Once our awareness is brought to the problem, it will begin to flow. Breathwork causes this to happen automatically without us having to figure it out.

Anything the Breath discovers, it has the power to heal. The Breath is the fuel to moving stuck energy in the body. We all possess an innate wisdom capable of healing our lives, when we quiet the mind, we can access to this information.  Many people will have a spiritual experience during breathwork, feeling the presence of a loved one who has passed on, experiencing their own divinity, or the love of their higher power.

Former addicts have reported that the feeling they were always seeking is what they experienced during the breathwork and are so grateful to have found a healthy safe way to experience that inner peace. Breathwork raises our vibration so that our spirit can come into our body, and is a powerful journey that heals you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It clears the nervous system of trauma and pain from the past and helps detoxify the body.

Once everything from the past has been released, practicing breathwork regularly is like taking an internal shower that washes away daily stress. It becomes easier to think clearly and make positive choices. The need to self-medicate or numb out to cope with life disappears. Like exercising regularly, breathwork keeps you healthy, balanced, and helps develops your intuition. Life becomes less stressful and your ability to deal with things becomes easier. Self-compassion, self-love and forgiveness become automatic.

The negative thoughts in your head eventually just go away, leaving you free to live a more fulfilling life. Because of the resistance that occurs at the beginning of breathwork, most people initially need someone else to hold space for them and guide them through the experience. Breathwork can be done in individual sessions or in groups. Individual sessions are powerful because all the attention is focused on you; groups are powerful in a different way, because you can feel the energy of everyone in the room and it creates a powerful momentum.

Breathwork is just one of the powerful holistic healing modalities that we incorporate into our women’s addiction treatment programs here at Villa Kali Ma. Please contact us today for more information or to begin your own journey toward healing and long-lasting recovery.

What is Pranayama Breathwork therapy?

Villa Kali Ma’s signature approach to working with women to heal their trauma, addiction, and mental health challenges is to integrate the very best methods and mindsets of healing practices from around the world.

We’re open to the insights, wisdom, and techniques offered by any and all traditions that have been proven to work, through scientific testing and/or anecdotal evidence preserved in collective memory over generations.

In many cases, the methods we weave into our treatment have been working well for thousands of years. This is the case when it comes to Pranayama breathwork therapy.

As everyone knows, breath is the core of all animal life, and as long as we’re alive, we breathe. How we breathe relates deeply to whether we are experiencing our life as optimal, balanced, and full, or as burdened, suppressed, and restricted.

All illness relates to constrictions to the breath in one way or another, and health blossoms alongside the full and balanced breath.

Once we understand how breath relates not just to physical health, but also to the flourishing of our nervous system (and therefore our emotions and perceptions), it is obvious we would all benefit from remembering how to breathe as nature intended us to.

It is more about remembering rather than learning because as babies we breathed perfectly. Restriction of our vital life force is a learned behavior. The good news is, we can unlearn bad breathing the same we way we learned it – through repetition.

Pranayama teaches several different breathing patterns, all of which affect the body in specific ways according to variations made to the pattern of inhalation, retention of in-breath, exhalation, and the pause at the end of the out-breath.

The ultimate goal of all breathwork is to gradually empower the individual with choice when it comes to what state of being our body is in, including which emotions we feel in response to events of our lives.

How Pranayama Breathwork helps

The Sanskrit word prana means universal life force energy, that which circulates in all living beings and causes them to be alive. By definition, all living natural beings (including plants) are filled with prana, whereas inanimate, synthetic, expired, or artificial beings are not.

The word root -ayama means to lengthen and regulate. Pranayama, therefore, is the science and practice of lengthening and regulating our vital life force through the breath.

Literally speaking, pranayama is not breath control, but rather control of the vital life force through the pathway of the breath.

It’s important to understand the intimate connection between breath and vital life force to understand how and why Pranayama works.

From the Western scientific lens with which most of us are relatively familiar, Pranayama works because the breath is in a direct and causal relationship with our nervous system. When our nervous system shifts from one state to another, for example from agitation to a state of peace, our breath naturally reflects this change in terms of its shape and length.

The reverse is also true, that we change the breath, we change our nervous system to reflect the shape and pattern of the breath. We can reverse-engineer states of peace by simulating peaceful body states.

By practicing breathing patterns that support a healthy, relaxed state, our body follows suit and creates this state for us. Our brainwaves shift, changing wavelength and frequency. We downshift to more pleasant states, where healing, reverie, and creativity can best take place.

At the body level, our muscular tension, heartbeat, blood flow, hormonal releases, and neurotransmitter functions all cooperate with the breath. We feel it in the body as mild, positive sensations of peace, safety, and balance.

Our emotions, which can be thought of as bridging the world of our mental experience with our body sensations, likewise align and attune to the program of “all is well”.

The Benefits of Pranayama Breathwork

Pranayama has many benefits for the mind, body, and soul.

At the mental level, Pranayama brings clarity, focus, and calm. It gently brings on the state of present-moment awareness. This peaceful state of presence happens naturally as a consequence of following structured breathing patterns, rather than being the product of striving or effort.

In addition to being a pleasurable state of mind, now-moment presence increases mental focus and clarity, so that we are able to experience concentration and flow states.

Pranayama clears brain fog, leaving behind a clean, relaxed mind able to pay gentle attention to the chosen object of focus, whether that be a work task, listening to the person sitting across from you, or any other activity.

Pranayama is linked to more positive and productive experiences with the creative process as well.

Pranayama also affects emotions, bringing greater feelings of positivity, lightness, and enthusiasm. Just as a brisk wind may clear out the dusty corners of a room, the wind of the breath sweeping through our bodies removes crusty, stuck, old detritus and leaves our emotions feeling brighter and freer to shine in their natural state. The state of calm alertness induced by Pranayama breathwork is characterized by a feeling of well-being, absent of worry, depression, rumination, or anxiety.

At the physical level, Pranayama is known to boost immunity, supporting the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and optimum health. Practitioners experience greater physical energy and an overall feeling of rejuvenation, restoration, and refreshment in the body.

At the spiritual level, Pranayama is a valid form of meditation, enhancing our ability to have connective, healing contact with our indwelling spiritual dimensions. Connecting more deeply to our own inner spiritual aspects brings many benefits, including greater trust in the unknown, and in the magic and mystery of our lives.

For people looking to expand their consciousness, and/or connect with their own inner divinity to build a relationship with a higher power or God Self, Pranayama is a powerful tool for clearing away the noise and angst of ego consciousness and aligning into a more truthful, freer, happier side of one’s own energies.

In sum, Pranayama benefits the totality of one’s being, at physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels, improving work, relationships, and qualities of personal meaning in life.

The Role of Pranayama Breathwork during recovery

At Villa Kali Ma, Pranayama is used in all of our yoga, breathwork, and meditation modalities. We also integrate some form of breathwork into nearly all of our psychoeducation, therapy, and skills practicing groups, as a support for inducing a state of relaxation and calm.

The balancing, soothing effects of Pranayama make it easier to be receptive and open to learning, connecting with others, and looking inwards to see the contents of our minds without becoming triggered by what we find there.

Pranayama opens up our social engagement pathways, making it possible to co-regulate our nervous systems through the power of the group, and through the healing environments we create for our participants.

The clarifying effects of healthy deep breathing assist also in fostering mental alertness, eliminating brain fog and headaches. It’s no secret that when we’re making deep changes in our lives, we need to go through stages of not feeling particularly well, temporarily, whether that’s because we are detoxing from substances, repatterning trauma pathways, or working with our psyche’s oldest habits of negative thought and painful emotion. The pain that can accompany the early stages of getting better is cleared, supported, and tolerated through the breath.

Pranayama has an extraordinary ability to detoxify and restore the body, again and again. When breath is stimulated to circulate through the body it whisks out debris and dust that the body no longer needs, allowing residual chemicals and waste to be better metabolized and to ultimately exit the body in its right time.

All portions of the body respond well to the presence of sufficient oxygen, as well, so airing out all of the body systems through deeper and more energetic breath has beneficial health impacts.

All in all, Pranayama helps through the mechanism of making deliberate alterations to the breath pattern. Depending on the desired result, Pranayama typically stimulates and energizes the body through the increase in the amount of oxygen circulating, or on the other hand stimulates greater release and relaxation through the prolonging and intensification of the out-breath.

Pranayama Breathwork programs

Women who are seeking to recover from mental health problems, trauma, and/or substance addiction can benefit greatly from the tools and techniques offered by Pranayama, and at Villa Kali Ma make we sure that women who come through our doors get to experience the transformational effects of breathwork while they work with us, for that very reason.

At Villa Kali Ma our Pranayama breathwork programs teach the ancient, powerfully transformational tools of this millennia-old tradition in practical, easy ways so that anyone encountering our treatment offerings learns to use these skills and apply them in multiple areas of her life.

There are many different Pranayama sequences, but the three techniques you are likely to come across at Villa Kali Ma are:

  • Abdominal breathing, also called Diaphragmatic Breathing. Learning to breathe like a newborn baby or a soft puppy is one of the most accessible and helpful changes to our breath.
  • Ujjayi Breath, sometimes likened to an “ocean sound” breath because of the soft, whispery sound it makes. This form of Pranayama involves slow, smooth breathing that equalizes the in- and the outbreath. Ujayii breath is soothing and works to regulate the vagus nerve within just a few breaths, helping us to calm down after a trauma trigger.
  • Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breath, which calms and balances both components of the nervous system. Nadi Shodhana has an enormously beneficial effect on multiple body systems, and it’s a surefire way to get back to balance after anything that has thrown you off.

Villa Kali Ma offers deep, holistic, revolutionarily compassionate treatment for women recovering from addiction, mental health struggles, trauma, and any combination of these. Throughout our modalities, education programs, treatment, and hands on practitioner work, Pranayama breathwork programs are integrated into our offerings.

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