Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts- A Breathwork Therapist

Breathwork refers to many forms of conscious alteration of breathing, such as connecting the inhale and exhale, or energetically charging and discharging, when used within psychotherapy or meditation. Proponents believe breathwork technique may be used to attain alternate states of consciousness, and that sustained practice of techniques may result in spiritual or psychological benefits. Breathwork may also relate to optimal healthy breathing in a healing context. [Source: Wikipedia]

It is said that becoming conscious of your breathing, normally an involuntary action, can 
help to release old emotions, pent up feelings and allow happiness, joy, peace and love to fill your daily life- to breathe yourself whole. I have been curious about this idea lately, especially since I have incorporated yoga into my well-being routine. So, I contacted my friend Lauren Chelec Cafritz, a certified Breathwork Therapist who leads breathwork classes and workshops at the Mindfulness Center in Bethesda, MD, to learn more about this old world mindfulness technique for the nurturing your whole self for optimal well-being series. 
Lauren Chelec Cafritz, TBF, IBF
DC based Breathwork therapist
Can you please tell us about what you do. What exactly is breathwork? 
Breathwork is a self-healing tool that, once learned, you can use to deepen your breath—and with it, your life.  Breathwork is the foundation for getting the most out of our exercise routines and mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, or tai chi.  This practice teaches you how to break old breathing patterns and take deep diaphragmatic breaths.  Once your breathing is full and open, you can take this skill with you to your yoga class, the gym, work, meetings, traffic jams—or, whatever comes along in life.

How and why did you become a breathwork specialist? 
Stress, anxiety, and worry can inhibit breathing and create unhealthy breathing patterns over time.  When I started breathwork, my breathing was shallow and only in my chest—in what might be called “bare survival mode”.  (I have found most of us breathe this way on a daily basis.)

Physical pain and anxiety brought me to the practice of breathwork.  When my son was 9 months old, I could not turn my neck and, if I managed to, it felt like an intense sciatic pain in my neck.  A friend brought me to his breathworker.  With her, I learned how to open and deepen my breath and explore the issues and tension that had originally constricted it. Through breathing and learning, over time, I watched the pain miraculously disappear.  Once I learned the power of the breath—how it can heal someone on so many different levels—I wanted to learn more.  That was the beginning and I’ve never turned back.

How can breathwork help me (a fitness professional, fitness enthusiast, busy, often stressed mom or a beginner exerciser...)? What are the benefits. Are there contraindications? Breathing deeply helps you release tension on multiple levels—physical, mental, and emotional.  It gives you clarity—because when you breathe well, you think clearer.  If you focus on the breath, as in meditation, it clears the mind.  Paying conscious attention to your breath helps you remember to live in the present moment and brings more joy into your life.

I’ve learned that correcting non-optimal breathing patterns is not always as simple as telling someone to breathe deeply.  Muscle and connective tissue that have been held in patterns of tension for long periods of time actually change shape—some tissue lengthens, others shorten.  Through coaching, a breathworker can help you to reform tissue to support healthier, fuller respiration.

Now, I always tell my students and clients that our sessions are “labs”—I want them to feel their emotions fully and release their tensions in our lab, so that it’s much easier out in the world—in traffic, in an attorney’s office, in a doctor’s office.

Anything else you'd like to add, share with our readers. We all need something to keeps us aligned, balanced, and present.  Self-healing is about using and having the tools to get us back to that open, flowing, and joyful space wherever we find ourselves.

Thanks Lauren for sharing your expertise with us. 
I know I learned a lot! Next-up, we'll hear from a hypnotherapist on how hypnosis can help in weight loss and more.

Be active. 
Be happy. 

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