Depending on the type of Breathwork modality, both physical and emotional intimacy aspects will, can, or may come into play. In such case, appropriate management of ethical issues is a requisite when facilitating Breathwork.
In some types of Breathwork, touching the participant (the breather) is an integral part of the sessions. Intentional touch, massage, or other bodywork comes with the sort of touch that requires closeness, togetherness, trust, and confidence. It involves a kind of touch that is supposed to be gentle, kind, supportive, loving, nurturing, and healing.
To help, support, and heal people, it’s important to understand the reasons why they seek treatment. There are a variety of motives, and one of those is the fact that many people just miss to be touched physically — fully and wholly. Some people haven’t been touched kindly or closely for many, many years, and let’s not forget that loving, compassionate, and caring touch can work miracles.
Breathwork therapists and facilitators need to deal with this type of demand and act carefully, responsibly, sensibly and with integrity while giving sessions. The last thing any participant needs is to experience a feeling of abuse. On the contrary, the person needs to feel a safe and trusting space being able to open-up, relax, and genuinely let go of stress and tensions.
Another issue is that some participants may feel ashamed of their bodies or of certain parts of their bodies. They may have an erroneous idea about the “ugliness” of their bodies or specific body parts, or they may actually suffer from malformations or illnesses. The therapist or facilitator needs to show respect for this kind of feelings, but at the same time nurture the proper environment for participants.
Emotional and trauma release may be part (or even the explicit goal) of Breathwork sessions. Aspects of confidentiality, privacy, and trust apply here, and what comes up, is said, or talked about should stay within the boundaries of the session.
In fact, Breathwork facilitators are sometimes pushed in the role of a counselor and — except when they are actually licensed psychologists — they need to be careful, and know well where limits and limitations are with regard to giving psychological advice or guidelines.
In specific cases, the therapist may touch and manipulate the private parts depending on the aim of the session and the type of Breathwork. It goes perhaps without saying that it’s of absolute necessity to be very clear beforehand about the goal of a session and aspects of mutual consent, and subsequently set strict boundaries for both sides.
On the other hand, the participant also needs to have the space to a guilt-free experience of natural appearing feelings of arousal or even a sexual orgasm, without getting the feeling that it’s something wrong or to be ashamed of.
Mind that when giving or taking a Breathwork training course, one often works with people that touch each other frequently and intimately. Both students and teachers need to be aware of the dynamics and risks involved, and be clear about the boundaries. Some teachers address this issue explicitly before a training starts, other teachers only assume implicitly that the classroom should be a safe one.
In any case, the classroom is a space and place of learning, not one of emotional, sensual, or sexual release, although emotional or sexual release may happen spontaneously. A competent Breathwork teacher needs to handle those instances appropriately.