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The Experience: I Learned How to Breathe to Heal

When I went to Maha Rose for a breathwork session, I had not done my homework. I thought that "breathwork" sounded like a fun way to help me perhaps learn to breathe during yoga classes and also serve as a relaxing break in my day. I’m so glad that I didn’t realize what it actually was, because I doubt that my skeptical self would have signed up.


The day of my breathwork session, I was having one of those days where I felt like I had two million things to do and no time to actually do them. I showed up at Maha Rose feeling like a frazzled mess and anxious about taking time out of my day (when I could be doing my two million other things!) to ‘breathe’ for an hour. I felt a little calmer as I walked into the oasis that is Maha Rose. Smells of sweet incense and sage wafted through the dimly lit rooms, and crystals and books filled every nook and cranny of the walls.


I met Debbie Attias, who would be guiding my session, and was instantly drawn to her energy and calming presence. We spent some time talking about what was on my mind and what was causing me stress, and then she explained what we were about to do. By definition, breathwork can be described as a “purposeful application of conscious, connected breathing, guided by a skilled practitioner, and held within a sacred container of a therapeutic intention, relationship and community.” Basically, breathwork is a type of self healing that can be used as a tool to help with anything from daily anxiety to deeper-rooted emotional distress.


Debbie explained that she was going to teach me a simple breathing routine that I would do repeatedly over the course of what “might feel like forever,” but that she would be there to guide me the whole time. The only thing I needed to focus on was staying in the rhythm of breath, and everything else would unfold on its own. She explained that breathwork is the opposite of yogic breathing -- in yoga, you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, calming your parasympathetic nervous system, telling your body that you’re safe. In breathwork, you breathe in more oxygen than you exhale (and all breaths are through the mouth), over-oxygenating your brain and in many cases creating an altered state of being. Debbie told me that for many people, it’s an emotional journey and if you’re able to push through and allow what needs to surface actually surface, it can be a profound experience and release of unnecessary emotional baggage. She explained that it’s completely normal to feel light-headed and tingly sensations throughout your body, and also explained that because of the intense emotions that commonly surface, many people are brought to a place that they cry (which at this point I thought no way, no how).


I laid down on the table and Debbie taught me the breath exercise (a deep breath into your stomach, a second breath into your lungs, followed by a forceful exhale) and I began repeatedly doing the breathing. The first few minutes were hard. I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to keep up this breathing for more than another minute. Minutes began passing (maybe 2 minutes, maybe 10? I lost complete sense of time) and something crazy happened. Part of me felt like I was no longer in my body, while another part of me had never felt more present. My forehead and hands began to tingle, and suddenly emotions started flooding my mind. Memories and events that had happened years prior in my life came racing in. I felt like I was the most raw version of myself, seeing my value and spirit from a different perspective. It felt as if my mind was making me aware of past things in my life that had been suppressed yet were weighing heavy on my subconsciousness, and in the craziness of life I hadn’t recognized the effect they were having on me. At one point, I realized that tears were streaming down my face and I was crying. The only way I can think to describe the subsequent moments is that feelings of loss, pain, frustration and intense joy all came bubbling to the surface at the same time. I felt like I was on another planet, but I also felt grounded in my body. After what felt like both an eternity and no time at all, Debbie began guiding me out of the intensive breathing and into a meditation. Around 15 minutes later, the session was over.


Despite the craziness of the experience, I felt very safe the entire time. Debbie played music and talked me through through how I was feeling and checked in on me every few minutes. I could sense her healing energy pulsing through my body the entire time. I had walked into this session feeling stressed and bogged down by the little things that tend to plague our everyday, and walked out feeling like a rejuvenated (and may I say even somewhat enlightened?) human ready to take on the world. I never could have imagined that breathing alone could create such a profound experience, but I am here to tell you that it absolutely did. I felt like I went through years of therapy (that I didn’t even know I needed!) over the course of an hour, and at the end it felt so clear what needed healing and where to focus my energy.


I would recommend the experience to anyone who’s open to learning more about themselves and who is willing to go into a completely new experience with an open mind and heart. Choose a practitioner that you feel comfortable with (I would highly recommend Debbie Attias) and get ready for a wild ride.

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