Understanding the differences between breathwork modalities

Breathwork is gaining in popularity for a good reason: it is always available to you in any situation. Breath can regulate your nervous system, support your meditation, allow you to access other states of consciousness and increase your vitality.

With the increase in popularity comes a wide offer of breathwork modalities, and it can be overwhelming for a beginner to know how to choose the suitable modality for your specific needs.

I hope this blog will help you find clarity and help you find a modality that works for you.

Breathwork has been used in various cultures and traditions for thousands of years, including yoga, meditation, and different spiritual practices. However, modern breathwork as a therapeutic tool has its roots in the work of Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst who developed a technique called “magnetotherapy” in the 1930s. Reich believed that emotions and psychological issues were stored in the body and that releasing these issues required working directly with the body’s physical sensations and energetic patterns, including the breath.

Over the years, various breathwork modalities have emerged, each with its unique approach and focus. Some of the most commonly practised modalities include:

  1. Holotropic Breathwork – developed by Stanislav Grof, this technique involves a combination of deep, rhythmic breathing, evocative music, and focused bodywork to access non-ordinary states of consciousness and promote healing and personal growth. The term “holotropic” is derived from the Greek words “holos”, meaning “whole”, and “trepein”, meaning “moving towards,” suggesting the integration and movement toward wholeness. The practice aims to facilitate self-exploration and self-healing by accessing the deep inner wisdom and experiences held within the psyche. A session goes for 3 hours, lying on a mat.
  2. Transformational Breathwork – developed by Judith Kravitz, this technique involves a specific pattern of breathing that is designed to increase oxygenation in the body, release physical tension and emotional blocks, and promote overall health and vitality.
  3. Rebirthing Breathwork – developed by Leonard Orr, this technique involves a specific pattern of conscious breathing that is designed to release birth trauma and other deeply held emotional patterns, leading to greater self-awareness and personal growth.
  4. Integrative Breathwork – developed by Jacquelyn Small, this technique combines various elements of different breathwork modalities, including conscious breathing, bodywork, and guided visualization, to promote healing and personal growth on multiple levels.
  5. Wim Hof Breathing – The practice typically begins with several rounds of deep, rhythmic breaths, where the individual inhales deeply through the nose and exhales fully through the mouth. After a series of power breaths, the individual exhales fully and holds their breath for as long as possible, followed by a deep inhalation. This process is repeated for several rounds. The Wim Hof Breathing technique is often followed by exposure to cold, such as taking a cold shower or immersing oneself in icy water. This combination of controlled breathing and cold exposure is believed to increase oxygen intake, alkalize the body, reduce stress, improve focus, enhance immune system function, and increase energy levels.
  6. Biodynamic breathwork for trauma release – developed by Giten Tonkov, combines conscious connected breathing, bodywork, and trauma release exercises to facilitate emotional healing, personal growth, and transformation. BBTR also incorporates the principles of Somatic experiencing into the practice ensuring that the nervous system is regulated, thus activating the body’s innate healing capacity and accessing more profound layers of the unconscious mind.

To summarise, Wim Hof’s technique focuses more on physical healing, increasing vitality and immunity resilience, while other modalities focus on releasing emotional blockages and psychosomatic phenomenons. Biodynamic breathwork for trauma release is the only modality that incorporates nervous system regulation techniques to increase a sense of safety and resilience and make the experience easier to integrate.

Understanding the different breathwork modalities

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