Recently, the International Breathwork Foundation sponsored a teaching session called “Befriending the Elephant in the Room: Recipes for Trauma Release in Younger and Older Bodies.” It was a pleasure to create the presentation with Joanne Lowell and The Breathing Classroom Team.
A fun and beautifully illustrated booklet is in production and will be available through the IBF soon. And if you’d like to view the Zoom Presentation, contact the IBF.
This is a very important topic, especially considering the state of the world these days. And since breathwork is such a powerful means of addressing the issue, I’d like to talk about it this month.
First of all, we need to realize that trauma is not a problem. It is a fact. It can occur when something negative happens without warning; when something happens that we are not prepared to deal with; when negative events occur multiple times; or when they leave us feeling powerless.
Trauma has many physical, psychological and emotional signs and symptoms, and we all respond to it in our own ways, such as anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, guilt, shame, hopelessness, self-blame, denial, disbelief, confusion, difficulty concentrating, loss of memory, having an extreme startle reflex, nightmares, insomnia, disturbing visual images or intrusive thoughts about an event, a feeling of being numb or disconnected from reality, withdrawing from social situations and personal relationships, aches and pains that have no explanation, and chronic health problems due to stress.
It sounds like if you have a belly button, you have experienced trauma! It may surprise you to learn that most people have been carrying trauma in their bodies since birth! And nothing clears it better and faster than Breathwork, especially when combined with other healing practices. In our little IBF booklet, we reveal some very powerful ‘recipes’ for clearing trauma.
Here is a quick overview of the elements in the approach:
- Conscious Breathing
- Identifying ‘Triggers’
- Body Tensing and Relaxing
- Body Scanning
- Touch/Self Massage
- Moving, Shaking, Dancing
- Making Soothing or Expressive Sounds, Toning, Singing
- Finding a Place Inner Stillness, Silence, Oneness
- Gentle Self-Soothing
Once you understand and practice these basic ingredients, and by trusting your body’s natural wisdom, you can combine them in your own unique way. When you do, you can help yourself and support others. This is by no means a complete list of trauma-related practices or interventions, but they are more than enough to do the trick!
What’s more, you can select and apply these practices in your everyday life whenever you feel fearful, tense, anxious, irritated, edgy, upset, when your fight or flight response gets activated, or when something causes a sudden increase in your heart rate or blood pressure. You can even practice right now.
Bring to mind a disturbing event. Close your eyes and tune into your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Get your breathing into the ‘therapeutic zone’ which is between 4 and 8 breaths per minute. You can use ‘Coherent Breathing’ which is 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. You can practice the ‘1-2 Breath’ which means your exhales are twice as long as your inhales. Or you can simply repeat slow exaggerated sighs of relief. Continue breathing consciously while you open your eyes and take in the details of your surroundings for a few moments.
Then close your eyes again and scan your body from top to bottom. Feel what’s happening in your jaw, neck, shoulders, belly, spine, arms, legs, hands… How does it feel in your body right now? Look for a place in your body that is warm, relaxed or comfortable. Allow your attention to rest there. Put your hand over this place and breathe into it for a few minutes and feel a sense of gentle peaceful expansion. Know that you can return to this soothing feeling at any time.
Next, bring your attention to a place that feels tense, uncomfortable, closed, or blocked in some way. Put your hand over this place and breathe into it for a few minutes. Bring in a self-soothing resource: a pleasant memory in nature or a loved one. Give the feeling a voice or play with sound.
Open your eyes again and notice your surroundings. Tune into something around you that brings a pleasant feeling, such as the sky, a tree, a plant, or a pet. With your feet firmly planted on the ground, invite gentle rocking or swaying, like a tree in the wind. Or you might want to loosen your knees and let your whole body shake up and down.
After a few minutes, return to simple stillness, and let your breathing be free and easy and natural before returning to your normal activities.
Wishing you much luck in your practice, and many blessings on your path!
(Guchu Ram Singh)