I'm writing this in response to the common question I receive -- "which Breathwork do I need to do, and why?"
With the advent of so many different modalities arising on the scene of "Breathwork", I felt it was important to offer my opinion on this topics and provide what is hopefully some insightful education to help people use their time more effectively.
So, where do we start?
I'd like to begin by acknowledging the complexity of this question. Although I am in no position to be an absolute authority figure in anyone's life, I can share what has benefited me and has shown to be effective in my teaching methodologies. I defer to the yogic tradition as my own personal authority and am a practitioner of this ancient art, determined to understand & authenticate the effects of these practices in my own system so that what I learn can be transmitted and shared with value and wisdom to back it. To claim authority position and offer absolute guidance to anyone through words on an internet blog would be childish. My wish here is to offer some insight to my fellow practitioners regarding the deep question -- "what practice should I do and why?", and to take a closer look at how we examine this question, and the answers to it.
We can start by contemplating a useful analogy: assigning a particular Breathwork practice is a bit like a doctor suggesting medicine to a patient. Accurate assessment of the question "what Breathwork should I do?" would be like trying to diagnose someone in the same way a doctor would a patient... if the doctor has never met the patient and only knows them through some exchanged messages, it would be a difficult, if not impossible, task. Imagine if you have something wrong with your body and you sent a message to some "doctor" on the internet asking them to diagnose the problem and give you a solution? Or imagine you had some weird noise happening with your car and so you sent a message to a "mechanic" on an internet forum asking them to tell you which tool you needed to fix the issue?
The responses would be hit-or-miss at best, and even potentially dangerous (or at least ineffective) at worst.
Thus, my general approach here when answering this question is to avoid specificity. If I do not know a person, which means that I do not have personal interaction with them and the ability to "read" their energy field through direct contact with my own nervous system, then I am largely shooting in the dark. I cannot make accurate assessments with only a few bits of information.
What I DO like to do, and this is something that I've had success with over the years, is provide general guidelines and offer teachings that support one's personal practice and the development of their sadhana and their own spiritual system.
I do this a variety of ways. I try, as much as possible, to avoid coming up with a random solution about what I "think" in my head is "good", and instead use the foundations set by the yogic systems in which I have been trained and perform my studies. This gives me generations of backing to support my own research and conjectures. Of course, I am an innovator (as we all are) and stand on the shoulders of my teachers, thankfully, which means that as I practice and discover on my own, I am guided to find creative ways to address old problems, or new insights, or new inspirations. That is to say that none of us are bound by the dinosaurs of tradition, but that tradition serves a very important and functional role in this process. It gives us something to fall back on and rely upon. I spend a lot of time trying to understand what the yogis were conveying with their ideas and modalities as I feel that knowing this is extremely helpful to me as a teacher and a practitioner. I understand that we cannot re-invent the wheel, and that Breathwork has been around for thousands of years as a healing and transformative modality, so I seek to honor the tradition from which is comes (Yoga), and find ways to communicate and translate this ancient art through modern science. The yogis knew the incredible power of Breathwork practices and documented some extraordinary results, and if we are after even a fraction of these results, then it would be wise for us to defer to the experts in the field. Not just armchair experts or scientists, but real people who had developed complete mastery over their life energies. These are the folks who can give us good advice on Breathwork, and I think they would have a lot to say about the huff-and-puff hyperventilation that is usually the case nowadays!
Without getting lost in the minutiae here and going off too far on a tangent, what I'd like to do now is bring us back to the topic at hand. "What Breathwork to do and why?" Hopefully by now you can see why this is a tricky question to address. So how do we address it?
Well, for one, as a guide to others in this way, I've found it be extremely beneficial and effective to offer a sort of "multi-vitamin" approach. Just as a health expert may suggest to the general public what are great guidelines to follow around supplementation or diet ("eat more green leafy vegetables and drink lots of water", I can confidently suggest basic Breathwork practices as staple to create a robust and healthy nervous system. Along with offering the techniques, I can offer nuances that support one's deepening in said practices and allow them to become sensitive enough to their own intelligence so that they can apply the practices in a masterful way to address different issues that may arise.
After all, this is about awakening to our own innate intelligence, and empowering ourselves to become the teacher we need. The external "teacher" is really only ever a guide to the awakening of the inner teacher, the true guru -- gee, U R U (you are you) ;)
So what I like to do instead of giving specific guidance here is create containers of safe practice space where we can ask questions, get support, and dedicate time to the "multi-vitamins" of Breathwork, and empower people to have their own research. The goal is that we actually practice, because it through deliberate, conscious breathing that we become aware of what is in the way of the flow of our breath and life-energies There are so many different techniques we can use to become aware of this... not any of them is as supremely important as the intention and effort to sit down and simply BREATHE. Once we begin with this process, we can then leverage the different modalities that are available to us, coming from a range of traditions (not just Yoga, although Yoga gives us an excellent framework), and start to remove specific blockages in our system.
We are trying to get energy to flow freely in the system. Where it is stuck, dis-ease builds up. Where it is stuck, the mind stays fixed on ideas (oftentimes this is self-limiting). These are simple ways to look at the "problem". From here, we can do what we need to do to get the energy to flow once more, and for our mind to "loosen up". As the mind loosens and the energy begins to flow, nature takes over. From here, results arrive. Knowing why we want to engage in Breathwork is a good place to begin.
The breath and the mind are interwoven into the fabric of the body. Once we understand, truly, how interconnected it all is -- which arises through experience -- we start to adjust our efforts accordingly, and with specificity and nuance. Until then, we apply basic guidelines and practices which are systematic and scientific to get the energy to move and flow effectively.
This is what I do in my weekly group sessions and in personal 1-on-1 work. This is an advanced science and takes time and effort to truly understand, but this doesn't mean that a little bit of time each day won't go along way. You don't need to study so intensively to benefit, but if you are looking to cultivate a powerful and robust nervous system -- a nervous system that lends itself well to whatever you do in life -- then a few minutes a day of effective Breathwork practices will take you far. My work is to simplify and deliver what is most effective for people so that they can heal, transform and live truly extraordinary lives.
I appreciate your time today in reading this and hope that it is helpful you. I look forward to seeing you soon and... until then... happy breathing.