How to Do Breathwork to Release Trauma

We often overlook the importance of breath because it’s an automatic function of the body. It is, however integral to our mental, physical and emotional health. Using deep breathing techniques stimulates the brain and body which can lead to powerful trauma and emotional releases. Let’s explore a little further;

    What is Trauma Breathwork?

    Trauma breathwork is a powerful technique that helps to bring awareness to the control of our breath. Through this conscious diaphragmatic breathing we can achieve emotional, physical and spiritual healing. But how?

    Breathwork is an active form of mindfulness meditation that activates the parasympathetic nervous system through stimulation of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the largest nerve in the body and is responsible for the brainstem’s communication to all of our major organs. It also happens to regulate emotion.

    When we engage in deep breathing we are signalling to the brain that everything is okay. This sets into motion a number of physiological and chemical releases that bring us to a calm and open state of mind.

    Through this activation you are bypassing the conscious mind and stimulating the subconscious mind which is where you store all of your memories, beliefs, conditioning and trauma. There are many different breathwork techniques, each with different goals including; shamanic, holotropic, box breath and somatic techniques.

    We will explore the pranayama mouth breathing technique, which is an active form of breathwork that aims to elicit a powerful and transcendental release.

    Do We All Have Trauma? Big "T" vs Little "t" Trauma 

    Everyone experiences trauma. When you first hear the word, you probably associate it with specific events, but trauma touches all of our lives in different ways. This is where we differentiate between big “T” trauma and little “t” trauma.

    Big T trauma is the trauma we’re all probably a little more familiar with, being experiences like; assault, emotional and physical abuse, war and displacement. Little “t” trauma on the other hand is related to; harmful childhood conditioning, family issues, prolonged stress, depression, anxiety and financial burdens.

    Though they are ostensibly different, both of these types of trauma can have a severe impact on our mental and physical health.

    Remember, my worst day and your worst day feel equally impactful to both of us, even if mine is objectively much worse. Subconscious and repressed trauma can manifest in a number of health issues; from poor gut health, problems with blood pressure, depression, anxiety and more.

    This repressed trauma is deeply connected to the subconscious programming that we all experience in childhood.

    Trauma & Subconscious Programming

    Though many of us suffer trauma throughout our entire lives and into adulthood, much of the way that we think and act can be attributed to our childhood conditioning.

    Between the ages of 0-7 years old both of the hemispheres of our brain are firing and wiring, absorbing all of the information that we observe from our families, friends, schooling and society like a sponge.

    During this time, we’re developing our personal identity, assumptions about the world and belief systems. By the time we’re 8 years old we have solidified our identity and belief systems which follow us into adulthood without us even realising. 

    Subconscious Programming Example

    Person A grew up with a dad who was very insecure and anxious. He was constantly talking about hardships, complaining about work and judging others. When it came to quality time with Person A, their dad would only partake in certain activities, would often discourage Person A from trying new things and complain throughout the entire day.

    By observing this behaviour Person A grew up with the belief that everything was difficult, life was hard and everyone was out to get them.

    As an adult, Person A struggles to put themselves out there, try new things, finds it difficult to find joy in life and often forgoes opportunities out of fear.

    This all goes back to the subconscious programming that they developed between the ages of 0-7 years old. Person A has never reflected on these self-limiting beliefs and doesn’t recognise their behaviour as small “t” trauma from childhood. In fact they just think “this is my personality”.

    This subconscious programming has been with Person A since childhood and continues to affect them in adulthood. By practicing breathwork Person A will unearth this subconscious trauma and begin to bring awareness to why they act the way that they do. This emotional release will lead to transformation and healing.

    How to Practice Breathwork for Trauma & Emotional Release

    This breathwork technique yields a transcendental experience to release trauma and emotional blockages. It is an active meditation which means you’re not practicing this particular technique to relax.

    It will be quite challenging to begin with but try to persevere through the breath. It has the potential to bring incredible insight to your life, remove energetic or emotional blockages and deep healing. 

    This breathwork technique uses the mouth only. Be sure to only inhale and exhale through the mouth for this entire process. It is a 3 stage pranayama technique using 2 inhales and 1 exhale through the mouth. 

    Both inhales and the exhale should be the same length. It is important that you continue with this pattern for the entirety of the practice. You may alter the depth of the breath depending on how deeply you'd like to go, deeper breaths will elicit a more intense response.

    Before getting started, please ensure that you are mentally ready to confront any trauma that may arise. Ensure that you are in a safe space and that you've told someone that you will be practicing this technique.

    If you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any point please stop the breathwork technique and return to a normal breathing pattern. You may want to listen to solfeggio frequencies or binaural beats while doing this breathwork practice to intensify the experience. 

    Mouth Breathing Technique for Trauma Release: 

    1. Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed (phone on silent) 
    2. Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes, ensure that the alarm is soft and low volume (you can increase this time to 10 or 15 minutes once you gain more experience)
    3. Lie down flat on the floor with no pillow, ensure that your spine is straight (this will allow the energy to flow seamlessly through the body)
    4. Settle into your space 

    You’re now ready to practice the pranayama mouth breathing technique:

    1. Close your eyes
    2. Inhale through the mouth and into the belly
    3. Without exhaling inhale again through the mouth up into the chest
    4. Release the breath through the mouth with an audible sigh
    5. Repeat this pattern for 5 minutes. 
    6. After your alarm sounds, lay in this feeling for an extended period of time (5 minutes)
    7. Allow any thoughts or feelings to arise and simply watch your thoughts
    8. Once you're ready slowly open your eyes

    After care: 

    1. You can lay and experience this new feeling in the body for as long as you please
    2. You may recite affirmations during this time
    3. If you had a powerful emotional response, journalling after this practice is also recommended

    It’s common to experience a powerful emotional release in the form of crying, panting, tingles in the body and a release of noise from the mouth. You may also feel slight body temperature changes during this process. 

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing this powerful pranayama breathwork technique can be quite challenging, but can lead to a transformational emotional release. Most of us have stored trauma in the body and this practice can help to restore balance leading to numerous benefits to physical and mental health.

    If you'd like to explore your energy blockages further, we recommend looking into chakra breathwork practices to bring greater awareness to where you're holding trauma in the body. If you are feeling particularly vulnerable, please ensure to practice this technique in a safe space. 

    If you have any concerns please ensure that you consult your health physician.

    If you practiced this breathwork technique, we'd love to hear about your experience. Feel free to contact us with your story or with any questions.

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    Author Bio

    My background is in law and journalism. As a lawyer I was stressed out and struggling through life, I discovered spirituality through meditation and breathwork in my late 20s and love to share what I've learned here.