Breathwork and Healing

It feels really weird, for lack of a better word, to write about trauma in such a personal way.  I prefer to write about it from the bird’s eye perspective.  Flying above the minefield.  It feels like it’s not personal anymore.  Like it happened in another life, in a land far, far away.  Maybe like it all happened to another person.

But, the past informs the present, and the present will no doubt inform the future.  We must make certain that we stay on top of that which tries to stay on top of us, or there is no future worth having.

It’s a little too convenient to write about trauma like that particularly when it’s your own.  How will anyone know if it’s possible to actually heal? How will I know? I’ve come this far, haven’t I? How much further can I go? I intend to take it to the absolute limit, and I took it one step further today.

As Providence would have it, I won a scholarship to work with a practitioner who does breathwork.  I didn’t really know what breathwork was outside of what I had done in physical therapy after a car collision.  Admittedly, I really hated that work.  I wasn’t too jazzed about doing more breathwork, but I had a feeling it could be beneficial.  Additionally, it wasn’t going to cost me much at all.  What the hell…

As it turns out, breathwork is a lot like EMDR for the body.  Just as trauma lodges itself in the mind, it also rests itself in the body.  The breathwork loosens the body memories and enables the trauma to pass from the body while tapping into core beliefs just as EMDR does.  On paper, this sounds perfect.  It’s a two-pronged approach to recovery and healing, and the timing was perfect.

In practice? I felt dubious.  What would it be like? Would I hate it as much as I hated the physical therapy?

My first breathwork session was today, and I was blown away.  I thought that it might be an emotional experience.  I was not prepared for what came forward.  Ten seconds into the actual breathing I felt a strong feeling of suffocation.  As I lay on the mat on the floor, I actually felt like I was going to suffocate.  I heard myself saying internally, “I’m suffocating…”  My rational self tried to reassure me by saying, “No, you are not suffocating.”  I told Sarah, the practitioner, what I was feeling.  She reassured me.  I kept breathing, and the feeling grew stronger.  I felt like I was going to choke.  I actually could not breathe even though I was breathing.  Hot tears were streaming down my face as I breathed in and out.  I was suffocating.  I was certain that I was suffocating.

Suddenly, the feeling passed.  It was easier to breathe, and I felt chilled.  I began to tremble from the cold.  A space heater was blowing on me, but I couldn’t feel the heat.  I only felt cold.  Sarah put a comforter on me as I continued to breathe.  She said, “You probably know that when trauma leaves the body, the body can become very cold.”

When the session ended, Sarah asked me if anything came to mind as I felt that I was suffocating.  Initially, nothing had come to mind.  All I could hear was a voice in my mind saying, “I’m suffocating.”  Then, I began to remember all the times I had awakened from surgeries with oxygen masks on my face, in pain, being told to breathe.  I recalled a particular time when I had almost died in an ICU from my airway closing.  I had actually almost suffocated then.

She then gently suggested, “Is it possible that your response was from pre-verbal abuse? Your father sexually abused you orally.  You would have choked and most likely felt as if you were suffocating then.”

I was stunned.  “Is that possible? To have that body memory? All this time?”

“Yes.  That is exactly what this work is for,” she said.

I was speechless and grateful at the same time.  To finally clear such a long-standing body memory is, for me, so unexpected.  I had no idea that such old, pre-verbal memories could be effectively addressed much less healed in meaningful ways.

I feel quite hopeful.

I left the session in a strange dreamy state.  This was not an easy thing to do. I have ten sessions left.  I don’t know what lay ahead of me, but I think the process will be very valuable.

Breathwork.  Consider this as another avenue for healing as you sojourn.

Resources:

Breathwork Alliance

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