The breath, it is believed, acts as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious, between the mind and the body. One of the leaders in using breath-work in the modern therapeutic field was Stanislav Grof.
The therapy known as re-birthing breath-work is a specific breathing technique credited to metaphysical teacher Leonard Orr, who wrote the first book on the subject in the 1970’s, although re-birthing forms part of natal therapy originated in 1969, by Elizabeth Feher. Since Orr and his first clients relived their births while engaged in the breathing and the term re-birthing was coined, the therapy has undergone many changes to become a more holistic process, addressing our entire childhood and life experience.
Its popularity is due to the simplicity with which people can get quickly past the mind and open the doors of the heart. Often the clients are referred by psychotherapists and the therapies are used in conjunction with each other. It is claimed it aids personal growth by releasing past traumas on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
Sessions usually last 2 to 2 and a half hours. It is recommended a person has 10-12 sessions. Re-birthing breath-work is unrelated to other techniques also named ‘rebirthing’.
Although controlled studies on re-birthing breath-work are hard to find, anecdotal evidence suggests it offers a major contribution to psychology in that it provides a non-verbal way to heal. It is used to treat depression, anxiety, addictions, burnout, recovery from illness and past traumas. In addition to gaining an understanding of the effects of your birth on your self-esteem, relationships, family dynamics, as well as issues such as addiction and abuse, re-birthing has been found to be effective in enabling a person to feel again.
Sometimes we learn to numb ourselves in order to avoid feelings as a result of early life being too traumatic or intense for us to ‘stay present’. Some use substances, some use behaviours, some use both to escape. Re-birthing gently facilitates a person to release suppressed emotions allowing them to engage in life fully.
Psychotherapy research is currently taking place at the University of Queensland School of Medicine. (Written in the Irish Independent 30th June 2008)