10 Breathwork Takeaways

Last October, I participated in an online live event with Gabor Maté about his recently launched book with his son Daniel Maté The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture, which I have not yet read to its entirety. At the end of the live, there was a session with a few specialists including Keli Carpenter from The Other Side of Average. I asked a question and was answered by her and then set up a follow up chat with her a few days after where I learned that she delivered a free monthly session on healing trauma as well as a Breathwork course, which I knew nothing about. After the session and call with her, I was convinced I wanted to know more and decided to invest time and $ into a certification in Breathwork, which I completed in December. 

I am still digesting the learnings and feel that, like yoga, this is a practice I want to continue to learn and practice all my life. Here are a few takeaways I can share: 

  1. Most of us use only a small percent capacity of our lungs – I’ve learned that this is due to many factors in human evolution such as posture, the foods we eat that are ‘softer’ than our ancestors, the shapes of our teeth/mouths, along with others
  2. There are differences between breathwork and meditation. The little I understand is that in breathwork we consciously direct our breathing in a certain way, usually accompanied by a certified trainer who can hold space for you physically and emotionally. Breathwork is also an amazing process of meeting what is.
  3. Practicing in a group setting is extremely valuable. 
  4. Holding space for emotions we often want to block or tuck under the carpet either because of how we grew up or what we want is so powerful. I had a very strong 1:1 experience allowing space for my fears, which I think I had never done before. I was also guided to ask if it had a message and it did. If you are able to do this in a space where someone can support you, I highly recommend it. People often block emotions such as anger, sadness, envy, shame and guilt. 
  5. Tuning into your physical body and silencing all the rest is a great way to seep into the practice. We often were guided to do this and were invited to share whatever came up with the group such as tingles, itches, warmth in certain areas of the body, discomforts, etc. 
  6. Conscious listening. Each session we broke out for a few minutes with either one or a few partners and were given a prompt to share. We were encouraged to actively listen without judging, interrupting or commenting such as “oh, that happened to my cousin!” It was very humbling to see how challenging it was for me to do and such a gift to receive in that context. 
  7. Emotions take 90 seconds to move through us, especially if we tune into them without judging or connecting our narrative to them, which can often lead us to feel ‘stuck’ in them  -> this realization was powerful for me. 
  8. “Suffering is avoidance of pain” this came up often throughout the course as well as the need to meet it. 
  9. One of the inquiries we had before breaking out was: What were endings like growing up? As well as: What emotions weren’t acceptable growing up? And: What emotions do you find challenging?
  10. Aftercare of each session included: drinking water, being gentle with yourself, avoiding intense stimulation, resting, time in nature, journaling and reaching out if we needed support. I’d like to include most of these in my daily self care habits.

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