Breathwork (also written Breath Work) as a distinct wellness, healing, and self-improvement modality arose in the late 1960s. It consists of breathing education, breath awareness activities, and a variety of deliberately performed i.e. conscious breathing techniques and practices — typically working with the flow of Vital Life Force Energy — which are thought to influence one’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and/or physical condition in a positive way.
Modern Breathwork may be practiced alone or alternatively as a guided modality under supervision of a therapist or Breathwork facilitator. Additionally, it may be practiced with individuals, couples, or with groups.
In general, the core of Breathwork modalities usually comprises of carrying out techniques of conscious breath control, while moving i.e. circulating energies through the body with the goal of achieving physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Depending on the type of Breathwork, different breathing techniques and breathing patterns may be used to achieve the desired results.
Although many forms of Breathwork existed already in various ancient bodywork, martial arts (for instance, Tai Chi), and spiritual traditions (such as the well-known well-known Pranayama exercises in Indian Yoga), it was first studied and practiced in the West by Wilhelm Reich, the founder of the Orgone Vital Force concept and Vegetotherapy, the latter today considered a type of Body Psychotherapy for Emotional Dearmoring.
Apart from simply promoting relaxation and relief of stress and anxiety, Breathwork is often used therapeutically to stimulate physical, emotional, and spiritual changes, to access special, altered, or non-ordinary — notably spiritual, hypnotic, and trance-like — states of consciousness, and to release traumatic emotional or sexual experiences. In some cases, Breathwork is also used in conjunction with Western psychotherapy techniques.
Today, you’ll encounter many types of Breathwork, such as Rebirthing Breathwork, Holotropic Breathwork, Integrative Breathwork, Zen Yoga Breathwork, Transformational Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Radiance Breathwork, Taoist Breathwork, and Tantric Breathwork, to name a non-exhaustive list of modalities.