Barratt Breathworks is a unique fusion of meditative and mindfulness practices designed to unleash the healing and transformative power of the breath. Rather than advocating breath control techniques, our approach focuses on a discipline of pranayama, or “conscious breathing,” aimed at rediscovering the natural state of the breath and liberating it from the tensions imposed on it. In freeing the natural breath, we not only revitalize our life energies, but we also open a gateway to higher consciousness and our own inner powers of healing.
Breath and Energy
In addition to supplying oxygen during the process of respiration, the breath simultaneously draws in another energetic quality, known as “prana.” This “prana,” or “Qi,” as it is called in China, is the vital energy of life. Eastern adepts have long been aware of the rejuvenating power of prana, recognizing it as an essential link between the mind and body. For centuries, they have used specific breathing practices to harness and direct this life energy in order to facilitate healing and self-development. It is these breathing practices that form the basis of the Barratt Breathworks model.
Benefits of Breathwork
Modern scientific research demonstrates what Eastern traditions have known for centuries. When we breathe effectively, we create optimum conditions for restoring overall health and well-being. Breathwork has been known to achieve remarkable results, including:
Relieving stress and fatigue
Inducing deep relaxation
Restoring physical health and vitality
Balancing blood pressure
Improving sleep patterns
Increasing mental concentration
In recognizing that the breath is a primary vehicle for our life energy, we begin to understand how the quality of our breathing literally reflects the quality of our lives. When we begin to cultivate an awareness of our breath, many of us notice that we are unable to breathe fully, and that our breathing is labored or erratic. Most of these tensions in the breath grow out of highly complex breathing habits caused by chronic stress and suppressed emotions. Our unhealthy breathing habits inhibit the body’s natural ability to draw in and absorb prana, creating energetic disturbances within the human energy system. These energetic disturbances deeply affect the intricate balance of the mind/body continuum, ultimately undermining health and well-being.
Letting go of old patterns of holding and resistance requires an effortless inner attitude. It is not about controlling the breath but rather about developing a relationship of receptivity to the breath and learning how to open to the breath’s natural rhythm. As tensions in the breath are released, we also stimulate and redirect the movement of energy through the human energy system, balancing excesses and compensating for deficiencies of energy flow. In dissipating these energetic blocks and regulating energy flow, we restore a synchronistic balance within the human energy system. This enables us to improve our health, balance our emotions, and cultivate the skills needed for personal and spiritual growth.
History and Origins of Breathwork
Since ancient times, the breath has been a central theme in many spiritual and religious traditions, both literally and figuratively. The Hindu word prana signifies breath, wind, and air, the vital life force; in ancient Greek, pneuma meant breath, soul and the spirit of life: and in ancient Hebrew, ruach meant both the breath and the creative spirit. In Western thought, the link between breath and spirit is expressed in Genesis 2:7, “And God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
The relationship between the breath and the state of our health, and even certain states of consciousness, has been explored for thousands of years through yoga and Taoism as well as through the medical and meditative practices of India, Tibet and China. These ancient cultures have long recognized the breath as a primary vehicle for prana (“life energy”) as well as being a vital link in the mind/body continuum. For centuries, these cultures have worked with the breath to harness and direct prana as a means of facilitating healing and self-development. These Eastern practices have evolved over the centuries into a sophisticated meditative science often referred to as “the science of breath.” Among the best-known forms are Vipassana meditation, Pranayama, Qigong and Tai Chi., with Pranayama being perhaps the most familiar to Westerners.
Despite its proven value for healing and self-development, until recently the practice of Pranayama has not been utilized in Western culture. The vast and ancient knowledge associated with the science of breath has traditionally been a closely guarded secret, shared only with a few select students.
Today, the cultural lines between the East and West are becoming less distinct. The respective cultures are learning from each other, combining, and synthesizing acquired knowledge. Teachings that were once reserved for a select few in the mother culture are being openly offered to anyone in any culture who is ready to receive them.
This cultural metamorphosis has given birth to a variety of breath-related techniques and therapies throughout the West. These innovative breathwork therapies are best known for their ability to initiate personal healing and transformation and are quickly becoming an important element of the human potential movement. Most approaches to breathwork share the common elements of deep rhythmic breathing, evocative music, bodywork, guided imagery, and affirmations. Some methods encourage strong emotional and physical catharsis, while others advocate a more subtle release by incorporating techniques based on mindfulness meditation.
Originally the science of breath was an oral tradition taught by skilled teachers who carefully monitored the physical, emotional and psychological health of their students as they experienced various stages of healing and transformation. Some of these practices can trigger strong physical and emotional cleansing, possibly resulting in unexpected side effects. Because of this, breathwork should not be used by itself, but rather should be part of a systematic approach which encompasses other supportive techniques that serve as a container for integration. It is highly recommended that one seek out the guidance of a competent teacher before engaging in any breathwork technique. Breathwork has powerful potential as a therapeutic practice and, when used wisely, can have astonishing effects on consciousness, physical health and well-being.