How to breathe to release, heal, ...or just get some sleep.
by Kiki Athanas
April 08, 2019
Last month I attended my first "breathwork ceremony" and I was truly surprised at just how enjoyable, powerful, and emotionally cleansing it felt - both during and in the moments and weeks that followed.
I connected with the facilitator, Jenn Mansell, to learn more about the practice she runs in her monthly circles but also to understand how we can all implement more of this amazing ‘Conscious Connected Breathing’ into our daily lives. Jenn has spent her entire career in the wellness field, with her start as a Health Coach supporting women all over the nation to lose weight. Not long into her journey, she realized that in order to truly help people create lasting change in their lives she needed to look at their underlying stresses, beliefs, history and emotional states and address these areas in conjunction with the physical. As she began to explore and uncover ways to help people transform their lives (and bodies) at the deepest level she became fascinated with meditation, mindful movement (dance), body-based coaching/therapy work, energy healing, and most recently breathwork.
The breathwork modality she is trained in is called Alchemy of Breath, which uses the specific breathing technique called Conscious Connected Breathing in a safe and comfortable environment to guide people into a relaxed state of consciousness where it is possible to have deep experiences of release, transformation, healing, and spiritual awakening.
What follows is just a small (but juicy!) sampling of her wisdom, of which you can utilize to start making some powerful shifts and upgrades to how you live and breathe starting today.
I think the most special thing about this work is that it doesn't require anything other then your attention and commitment to breathe. We all have this incredibly transformational tool right under our noses (literally) and yet most of us spend our days barely breathing or taking in less than a quarter of our lung capacity. By breathing in large amounts of Pranic energy, blockages and tensions on all levels (physical, emotional, mental, energetic) can naturally release, healing issues that may have plagued you for years at the root cause.
To me the magic is that in laying down and breathing for only 45 minutes it is possible to breakthrough major blocks that have been holding you back for many years or possibly your entire life. That's efficiency! It also works so wonderfully for those of us who have a really hard time getting out of our heads (ummm hello, all of us!), so unlike talk therapy breathwork is a way to heal on the body level through a felt experience instead of an intellectual one.
How can we incorporate breathwork into our everyday lives?
Because so much of how we feel and experience life depends on the state of our nervous system, whether it is in a state of fight or flight or resting and digesting, using breathwork to manage and regulate the nervous system is so very helpful. For instance, when you wake up in the morning you can use big deep mouth breaths, or quick and powerful inhales and exhales to wake up your system and perk you up for the day. Match your big breaths with some movement and you have a recipe for a good day. Take in more air, generate more energy! You can also learn to use the breath to calm down your system. Ever feel wired at night time? That's the best time to breathe. You can support your body to relax and down regulate by taking long and deep nose breaths (as I describe below in more detail).
What's a special tip you can share to help ease stress and anxiety?
Breathing long deep breaths through the nose has been studied to help calm the nervous system. I like following a pattern of breathing in for the count of 4, holding the breath in for a count of 5 and exhaling slowly for a count of 8. I often use this breath when I can't sleep. Truth be told I have never made it past 5 rounds as I always pass out! You can also use this first thing in the morning if you wake up with anxiety.
Jenn runs monthly group breathwork ceremonies in Toronto where conscious men and women gather in community to breathe and do the deep work together. She also offers private breathwork sessions and body-based somatic coaching where she incorporates movement, music, and breath together in deep dive sessions to help people break free from their pasts and develop more self nurturing and love.