It’s important to note that if a person “freely expresses emotion,” this does not necessarily correlate to an absence of trauma. It just means that both the breather and facilitator can approach the session by taking into account the breather’s access to emotion. Similarly, “repression of emotion” does not necessarily mean that a person is hiding something very volatile, or is “on the edge.” Repression is a natural outcome of social conditioning, because average people have been trained not to express themselves in certain ways in “polite society.” They might be repressing feelings related to love or fear, but anger and rage are more common examples. These “negative” emotions often arouse fear or distrust in others, and so are more likely to be repressed. And repression causes us to tighten up, literally—which causes us to breathe more shallowly.
In working with thousands of breathers, we see that healthy breathing habits are essential for a healthy body and healthy emotional expression. We see people who want to be emotionally alive beings, who don’t want to feel disconnected from their internal lives and from the environment. When we live with tension and restrict our breath, we cannot feel touch, we stop tasting food, we don’t experience orgasm when making love—we don’t enjoy the things we once enjoyed. We stop enjoying life.
Therefore, consciously using the breath can influence a person’s emotional state. Although scientists have documented the correlation in many applications, we also intuitively “know” that a person’s emotional response and corresponding level of tension are directly tied to how that person breathes. The more relaxed we are, the more freely we breathe. The more freely we breathe, the more relaxed we become. When we encounter a difficult situation, or are just simply tense, we breathe shallowly. Sometimes even hold our breath. In emergencies, we often breathe quickly. We might even “overbreathe,” or hyperventilate, causing the body to lose carbon dioxide. Hyperventilation triggers gasping, choking, and the feeling of being smothered—which makes people even more emotionally upset. In BBTRS, we have found that the connection between emotion and the breath is a crucial element in successful trauma release. It is a two-way street, or a game of dominos, with emotion influencing both the breath and tension, and successful tension release influencing both emotion and the breath.
Breathwork paves the way to improved quality of life. By helping to remove what’s holding us hostage, it naturally lifts our spirits. By connecting so intimately to our emotions, breath provides the direct path to making us feel better.
The breath does more than connect us to our emotions. It also connects us to the divine. In Latin, both “inspire” are and “expire” originate from the Latin spirare, or “to breathe.” Spriareis related to spiritus, the root of “spirit,” which means “breath.” The word “inspire” was originally associated with a supernatural being’s “breathing into” or imparting a truth into a human being, while “expire” means the end of something, including a life. Of course, inspiration and expiration can be considered as synonyms to inhalation and exhalation, whose root is halare, also “to breathe.” It’s possible that the semantics of the time differentiated between spirare and halare, with the latter referring only to the physical act of breathing. Still, “breathing in”—with air or ideas—invites spirit into our bodies. It is our primary connection to prana, or Qi or life force—and therefore our primary connection to our emotional center. In BBTRS, we think of the breath as our moment-to-moment connection to everything that matters.