A Closer Look at Breathwork and the Conditions it Treats

Breathwork is a general term used to describe any type of therapy that utilizes breathing exercises to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health. Many forms of breathwork therapy exist today. Each has its own unique methods of using breath for healing purposes. It draws from Eastern practices like yoga and Tai Chi while incorporating Western psychotherapy techniques. To bring about self-awareness, breathwork can include elements of talk therapy, breathing exercises, art, music, and bodywork. This therapy can be used with individuals, couples, and groups. It should be facilitated by a certified professional.

In general, the goal of any breathwork therapy is to support people in achieving a greater sense of self-awareness and capacity for self-healing. It also helps people work toward overall improvement in mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Breathwork therapists, or Breathworkers as they are sometimes called, guide participants through various therapeutic breathing techniques.

Breathwork therapy is thought to benefit people experiencing issues such as:
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Anger issues
  • Depression
  • Trauma and posttraumatic stress
  • Grief and loss
  • Emotional effects of physical illness


There are several kinds of breathwork therapy available today. Many of these have similar foundations. Some well-known types of breathwork include:

Holotropic Breathwork. In this type of breathwork, the goal is to achieve “wholeness” of mind, body, and spirit. Sessions are facilitated by certified practitioners who have completed the Grof Transpersonal Training program. With the aid of “evocative” music and occasional bodywork, participants are guided through breath exercises while lying down. This is meant to induce altered states of consciousness. Holotropic Breathwork is often conducted with groups. This allows people to work in dyads and support each other’s processes. Participants usually create mandalas related to their breathwork experience immediately after the group breathing exercises. Sessions end with sharing and discussion. This helps participants integrate what they have learned about themselves.

Rebirthing Breathwork

This type of breathwork is also known as Conscious Energy Breathing. It is based on the premise that all humans carry with them the trauma of their birth experience. After allegedly re-experiencing his own birth in his bathtub, Leonard Orr was inspired to help others find the same inner peace. The goal of Rebirthing is to help people release energy blockages that have been stored in the body and mind due to suppressed trauma. In treatment, participants are asked to lie down, relax, and breathe normally. Through the use of “conscious connected circular breathing”, inhibitions surface. The tensions of past trauma are then illuminated. Deep relaxation is used to promote brain waves that lead to the release of subconscious issues and pent-up energy.

Clarity Breathwork

This type of therapy is based on many of the tenets of Rebirthing Breathwork. But it does not solely focus on the trauma of birth. Clarity Breathwork addresses any and all issues that hinder the healthy flow of energy and breath. Clarity Breathwork is based on the idea that most people do not breathe to their full capacity. The main goal of a Clarity Breathwork Practitioner is to teach people how to breathe fully. This may release the emotional energy that keeps them stuck. Therapy begins with an in-depth interview about present concerns and past experiences. Sessions include in-depth intuitive counseling, somatic exploration, and one hour of circular connected breathing practice.

Biodynamic Breathwork

Fully known as BioDynamic Breath and Trauma Release System, this modality integrates six elements. It seeks to release tension, support natural healing, and restructure internal systems. The categories of biodynamic breathwork are breath, movement, sound, touch, emotion, and meditation. This approach recognizes trauma is stored in both psychological and physical ways. Trauma may be stored through emotional patterns, chronic stress, and blocked energy. Biodynamic breathwork aims to restore balance to these systems. Treatment sessions might incorporate exercises like deep, connected breathing and revisiting ingrained memories and sensations. It might also include music or sound therapy, vocalization, whole-body shaking, and even dance therapy. Giten Tonkov, founder of the BioDynamic Breathwork and Trauma Release System, says the therapy focuses on self-transformation. “People become more capable of supporting others to do the same. It’s not a knowledge based on academics. It is based on creating space and relaxation in your physical body.”

Other types of breathwork therapy include:

  • Integrative Breathwork
  • Shamanic Breathwork
  • Vivation
  • Zen Yoga Breathwork
  • Transformational Breathwork

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