Breathwork for Clearing Trauma from the Body

By Robin Lee on Monday February 22nd, 2016

breathwork for clearing trauma from the body

Learning to heal ourselves with a practice of conscious breathing

There were ten of us in a circle, heads toward each other, the scent of sage swirling in ethereal forms above my body.

This is the first time. I’m in a geodesic dome (a partial spherical structure based on a network of great circles) in the backyard of a vintage store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn aptly named Narnia. I close my eyes gently, and follow directions.

Guided by a presence, a voice, that seems omniscient in the moment, I breathe all of the things I dare not speak about into a visceral hurricane at the base of my being.

The echoes of my belly, the hollows and molecules of my sacral space, become flooded with feeling. I feel deeply all of the unsaid words and best-left-lost experiences rising with the flow of inhale, inhale, exhale. Sacral, heart, exhale.

Moving the mass in harmony with breath. A dance between fear and surrender, a simple act taking over all action and leaving me with a simple, tingling, letting go.

Alt text hereBreath work can clear trauma. Photo from www.BreathBliss.com

The Power of Breathing Consciously

Inhale, belly. Inhale, heart. Exhale, breath. Linking ancient emotion with physical intention like gentle surgery on all of the deep wounds I’d left wide open. This space in the lower abdomen, energetically, is the harbor for our insecure thoughts and old traumas to swim in circles, sometimes for decades. In a familiar cacophony, what we resist persists, and it rises when we speak to it.

Pranayama is the magic of conjuring – states of being, deep releasing, the necessary melting-into consciousness that we so deeply crave when we notice we’re feeling alone.

It is the allowing of the very essence of life force to flow in a very conscious way – rather than many instances where, without knowing it, perhaps, we allow for the magic to simply carry us. Much like the heart beating, effortlessly, the filling of the lungs transpires all on its own.

Daily, moment to moment, the body is breathing itself. We need not do anything, but with conscious use, we are capable of many things. In an alchemical way, we can turn our dark matter into breath, to flow with breath, to release with breath.

On the conscious exhale, the willingness to sit with the rising up, we become capable of the letting go of weights. We held them so strongly that we had no idea just how heavy we were, until we’re floating.

Alt text hereLearning to exhale what is weighing us down

Learning to Heal Ourselves

On that first dedicated occasion, in the backyard of Narnia, with the sage and many tears, I found a freedom I could taste. I vibrated. I lost the assuredness I love to cling to about where my body ends and the Universe begins. My limits disappeared so that I could truly see the edges of my body as nothing more than an outline drawn in cosmic chalk.

What I carry is also carried by you. What you carry, I also carry.

Nine other beating hearts and breathing bellies laying with me in a geodesic dome, breathing away their old stories to be fed to the ether – the perfect handing-over, that eternal lesson, to just let go. Amidst proclamations of personal power, howling sadness, warrior cries and quiet wisdom – the collective expression was simply that this excavation must transpire.

The great, deep dive into our golden bodily vessels to see that the tools we most need are within us is an act of truth. There is a monumental power in a function we so often take for granted. There is the focused discipline of carrying breathwork as a daily practice, and then there is the unexplainable and tremendous quality of mindful inhale and open exhale that embodies all we may truly need to start to heal ourselves. This is important.

The answers are not beyond, but within. And our collections of dark matter are different, but not separate.

Alt text hereWith a daily practice of breathwork we can truly start to heal ourselves

Breathwork for Clearing Trauma Energy from the Body

Create a safe sanctuary by first clearing whatever space you will use with a sage smudge, lighting candles, putting on light music, and gathering blankets and pillows for your comfort.

Laying comfortably on the ground or in your bed, supported and warm, relax into your body.

Begin with natural breath, at which point you may feel into where your hands want to be – perhaps next to your body with palms facing up, perhaps one hand on your belly and one on your heart.

Begin by inhaling deeply into your belly, then a secondary deep inhale through your heart. This should feel like you are flooding these areas with oxygen. Bring your awareness to any thoughts or feelings that come up, noting them, inviting them to flow freely.

Exhale out of your mouth, bringing awareness to trusting in love and guidance.

Alt text hereInhale into your heart and bring awareness to feelings that arise

Breathe. Relax. Feel.

Moving in this way – belly, heart, mouth – repeat for up to 30 minutes of active breathing, maximum, followed by 15 of regular, relaxed breathing.

Be mindful to stop if you truly feel uncomfortable, slow down when necessary, and tune in to your body. Allow yourself to cry. Scream. Vocalize however you need to. If messages – sentences, affirmations, mantras – come up for you, repeat them silently out loud as feels appropriate.

When you feel that you are finished, stay in a resting Savasana position and return to natural breath. You may feel tingling, tightness in your hands, or a sense of mild physical exhaustion. These are all temporary and are signs that you have really moved some things around.

Afterward, you may have heightened sensitivity, so it’s best to avoid substances and loud noise/bright light. Treat yourself with great reverence to keep the energy flowing, and pay attention to what appears in your dreams after this practice.




How Trauma Can Lead to Radical Growth

The Science Behind Breathing in Yoga

The Science behind Breathing in Yoga

The Art of Breathing

The Art of Breathing

Subscribe to UPLIFT

UPLIFT is dedicated to telling the new story of inspired co-creation.

Get free updates and news about UPLIFT events and films.

How will my data be used?



37 Responses to Breathwork for Clearing Trauma from the Body

  1. I love this article! So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing! I have been practicing breathwork at home throughout the pandemic and it has been such a powerful way to transform my experience of what is going on in the world. I have been using a platform called Inward Breathwork – highly recommended! http://www.inwardbreathwork.com

    • That’s so wonderful to hear it’s helping you Jean! And thank you so much for sharing this resource. It is incredibly powerful stuff.

      Team UPLIFT

  2. As a health professional teaching breathwork thats a lot of breathing in one session. The pins and needles or tingling are likely due to blowing off too much CO2. Same for any dizziness. Abds and diaphragm will have worked very hard so you will feel tired. Anyone with chronic breathing problems should check with their medical team before trying this.

  3. Here tantraoslo.no I read shallow breathing is a natural response to stress. And that deep conscious breathing ceases getting nervous. It allows to stay relaxed and focused at the same time and also enables us to dissolve inner blockages and tension that appear out of excessive self-control, and to increase the sensitivity of one’s body.

  4. I adore this article, except for the second last paragraph that is just irresponsible. I am a paramedic, a qi gong practicing, plant medicine dabbling outline of cosmic chalk. Tightness in your hands, tingling and numnbess in your lips are signs you’ve hyperventilated to the point of altering your blood chemistry. You may have moved held trauma but these things are not a sign of that. People need to know

  5. sorry i dont understand the steps could you explain please? 1) inhale (belly) 2) inhale (heart) 3) exhale (mouth). am i supposed to inhale 2x before exhaling or does it mean i am not focusing on the (not mentioned) exhaling step between 1 & 2? thanks.

    • It sounds like what has been described as a 2 stroke inhale (first filling the belly and then the chest) and then releasing the exhale through the mouth. I am assuming that the inhale is done through the nose since the mouth is mentioned in the exhale stage. I can see that this can be a bit confusing at first. It’s actually one inhale that starts in the belly and moves up toward the chest in a rhythmic cycle…like an ocean wave. It is split into two strokes to allow us to understand it better.

      Does this help?

  6. I went to a session in Ventura last night knowing nothing about it. It was amazing. I was like a coyote as things bubbled out of me like in childbirth!

  7. Breathwork is such a powerful tool. I know many people, including myself, who have had amazing experiences in breathwork sessions.
    There is a huge healing potential that comes with it if done the right way.
    A friend of mine has developed a modality that he now teaches to a lot of people worldwide. I can highly recommend his work. His name is Giten Tonkov and his modality is called Biodynamic Breathwork & Trauma Release. http://www.biodynamicbreath.com

  8. I think the woman who wrote this article just was not aware of placing a man-picture in it..please give her some credit!

  9. This is a poetic and very beautifully written piece. It is inspiring to say the least. I have been a breathwork facilitator for over 25 years, trained in several modalities and have trained others. Breathwork (Holotropic, Radiance, Maitri…) is amazingly powerful and can lead to profoundly altered states of consciousness. The article fails to distinguish between Pranayama practices and Breathwork techniques, this I believe is an honest mistake but a mistake none the less. It is not considered safe or good practice to do ‘Breathwork’ (deep, full, rapid and sustained breathing) without a facilitator present. It is quite possible and highly likely that the ‘breather’ will have a major cathartic experience and will need support in expressing, processing and moving through it in an emotional, mental, physical and spiritually healing way. Like I shared earlier I have been facilitating breathwork sessions (group and private) for over 25 years now and I would not even consider for a moment doing this practice alone. What the author suggests is something just below a full on ‘Breathwork’ session. Deep breathing and exhaling your ‘trauma’ is of course good and healthy for us all but suggesting we “Allow yourself to cry. Scream. Vocalize however you need to.” is in my estimation an invitation to go deeper and could easily lead to a cathartic experience that could be quite healing or quite damaging if not handled properly. Facilitators train for years to learn how to handle these events for their ‘breathers’. Please get more information before you attempt to do this on your own. Blessings!

    • I’d love to know more about the whole process. I am an EFT user and the breath is a big part of the release mechanism. If it had not been for your comment, I would not know of this practice.
      Thank you

  10. Rainbow fumes coming out of mouth (?) Significance of that ~I don’t know. I guess occasionally flowing randomness is good. The article stimulated some thought seeds. Thank you. ^?^

  11. How do I feel about this article? It’s seriously badly written. Overly prosaic in the first instance ie. writing for writing’s sake instead of communicating anything useful. Followed by contradictions and using language I have never heard of.

    Conclusion – lots of empty words and I’m still clueless. Sorry!!

    • In response to the question, “How do you feel about this article?” The following is how I feel because, from the title, I was expecting to be educated about breath work.

      This article was written as if the author is teaching a yoga class. It is not written for the sake of writing, nor to educate someone who is not familiar with yoga.

      With that said, there are some eloquent sentences here, especially in the first paragraph. I appreciate the author’s ability to express to the student the depth of what is happening in the moment. It is a well-written expression of what we hear in my weekly class. I can almost hear the speed of speech and tone of voice.

      However, I thought I was going to read about the purpose of the practice – why I might want to attend this type of class. If it had been written to educate, I might have shared it with my clients who could benefit from yoga and breath work, in order to encourage them to attend yoga and/or pranayama classes.

        • I have been practicing pranayama and meditation for twelve years.
          I have recently stopped and instead now receive appropriate treatment for PTSD.

          There is academic research which shows that for some people, some pranayama appear to worsen symptoms.

          I am especially researching dissociation as a symptom of PTSD and how the freeze parasympathetic response appears to mimic a meditative state.

          Clearly this is an enduring health issue and I would appreciate a thorough and more nuanced general introduction to the subject here.

          • There is a general misunderstanding that meditation is for healing. Meditation is for Self realisation. If you need healing go to a doctor or therapist otherwise you may be wasting your time.

  12. Judging by that fact that all the photos show women practicing these methods, I would have to think that this is for women only, as is yoga in general, from what I have seen on this site, and the internet and Yoga Journal,,, C’mon,,,include MEN,,,we also practice Yoga and other awareness expanding disciplines!!!

    • Right? We need to include both genders in stuff like this. We had a male in our ECE class and everyone almost crapped their pants when they saw a picture of him before he graduated in the class. Everyone assumed it was a girl class.

    • How ironic that a female model is being used to demonstrate the very thing that would release your butt hurt.

    • Agreed – I have been a practicing breath worker for over 15 years and the majority of my clients and practitioner apprentices are men. Its kind of obvious, if you witness your gender group doing it, you can imagine yourself doing it. (Thus why not too many women are found in civil engineering perhaps?) ; ) Anyhow, I digress – the upshot is – breath is for all life forms, all genders… breath is life. http://www.first-breath.co.uk

    • I did not really even notice the pictures were of women, or at least assign any importance to it or feel that somehow this wasn’t for me. So no, pictures are not at all my cue one way or another of whether this is right for me simply because someone else I identify with is doing it.

  13. Couple these techniques with healthy foods and a totally unadulterated plant derived cell feeding supplement and be truly healthy. Try out arogalife.com then /canelsonwellness4u

Leave a reply