Breathwork Changed My Life
Breathwork basically up-ended my life after one session.
Within weeks of my first class, breathwork blew through my life, threw out all the baggage I was dragging around, and helped me start saying no to the things I didn’t need and yes to the life I wanted to be living.
A friend invited me and another person to a breathwork class at Maharose, a healing studio in Brooklyn, NY. There was a large circle of 25 people or so, and when we were instructed to lay down, there wasn’t enough room for me to lay near the two friends I’d come with. I had a wave of anxiety at being separated from them and laying down so close to strangers. Embarking on a journey into the unknown was so scary. Sure, it was just a 90-minute class, but I had a sense that this would be so much more than sweating through a 90-minute yoga class.
All I knew beforehand was that we’d be breathing and meditating. In my head, I brushed it off, thinking, “I’ve done yoga! I know how to hold one nostril closed then the other for some pranayama meditation - this will be easy!” I thought I knew what was coming.
The teacher had us lay down, head to feet with people sardined into the small room and spilling out into the hallways. We pulled a blanket over ourselves and closed our eyes. She lit a single leaf of sage and wafted it, stepping over our bodies to reach the whole room. As the first notes of music started to take shape in the space, we began to breath with the technique:
“Into the belly, into the heart, and exhale. Belly, heart, exhale. Belly, heart, release.” She counted us into a rhythm, slightly faster than was comfortable: A big breath into my belly, a smaller breath into my chest, and then an exhale through my open mouth.
Tingles lit up my fingers, it felt like my mouth was frozen in place.
I wanted to stop within the first minute. It felt weird and strange, like I was out of control and panicking. I also couldn’t wrap my head around the experience: How could I be feeling all of these things just by breathing, something I did without thinking about it all day, every day?
I lost track of time, it felt like I was floating, dancing with the stars in outer space. The anxiety and fear would flip into euphoria and joy, then right back to anxious. At one point the teacher led us through a series of 10 faster breaths culminating in a yell. With my elbow bent over my mouth so as not to disturb the others near me, I let loose. And felt so free, so alive, like I was howling at the moon in a celebration of being human.
At that moment I heard one of my friends across the room as he yelled into the void. A vision of him standing on a colored stone surrounded by water, like a pathway of floating rocks popped into my head. The rock in front of him was lit up like a Simon Says gamepiece, beckoning him forward.
At dinner afterwards, I was nervous to share what I’d seen when I heard his voice. With some encouragement from them, I said, “Well, I saw you standing on a rock, like a series of rocks across a river. And the one in front of you is lighting up - you should jump. It felt like you were considering whether to take the leap to the next thing or or not, and you should do it, whatever it is.”
Nervous, I sat back. I barely knew this man. I had no idea where he was in life, and I’d never shared a “knowing” like this with someone before. Sure, I’d visited a psychic once or twice, and had read books on listening to my intuition, but I hadn't had something this clear and concise come in. I had a message for my friend who’d invited us too. When I’d finished sharing with both of them, they sat back, looked at me and each said, “Yes. That is so true. And exactly what I needed to hear. I'm deciding whether to leave my company or not right now.”
The class that night had closed with a period of rest, letting the breath be automatic and autonomous again. I had no sense of time or of self. I didn’t know whether I was asleep or awake - but when we sat back up and closed the session, I knew I felt more alive.
More alive than I had felt in years
Within 3 weeks I was in breathwork teacher training in Los Angeles - and while I told myself at the time that it was purely to deepen my own practice, I have resigned myself to the reality that breathwork had other plans for me. Since then, I’ve hosted breathwork sessions for a hundred people while watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, guided classes in New York, Portland, LA and cities in between. I teach online and in private homes. I weave it into my mentoring practice, my startup, and even into the teams I lead through intuitive business consulting. I deeply love sharing this practice, in all its simplicity.
One client sat up after her session and said, “What you do is resiliency training. I went right up to the edge of my anxiety and fear, and you helped me stand there.”
It’s true, we breathe to feel our edges.
We breathe to understand how we really feel, in any given moment, and we breathe through the feelings we’ve stored in our bodies. I’ve had weeks where I was breathing in joy and euphoria, leaving each session on a happy high. And I’ve had months where I felt like I was breathing though anger, shame, anxiety and fear. But at the end of each session, no matter what emotions I moved through, I feel relief. A profound relief at feeling more alive, for the perspective that breathing myself back into my body provides, and for this life I’m living.