What if you could realign all the levels of your being, from body to mind to emotion to spirit, and in the process, tap into your subconscious and clear out all the blockages and negativity, simply by learning how to breathe more deeply, more consciously, and more consistently?
I’ve often heard the phrase “feeling centered” in wellness and consciousness circles, but it took me awhile to figure out what it meant. I was pretty sure they weren’t talking about carpentry, or interior design. It almost sounded like the human equivalent of getting your tires rotated, but it didn’t seem like a purely physical thing either. It was an inward state, something along the lines of calm and balanced. Something short of the ever-elusive state of “inner peace,” but a good indication you were moving in the right direction.
Now, everyone’s felt good at least once or twice before, it’s safe to imagine. Most of us even get around to feeling pretty peaceful on a daily basis, at least right before we fall asleep, or right after we wake up – an all-too-brief respite from the day’s frantic pace. But why are these pleasant, relaxing states so few and far between? Why are they so elusive, and why can’t we seem to make them last? Many of us have to tire ourselves out before our minds are ready to calm down enough to go to sleep, and once the next morning rolls around, we find ourselves swept back into the hectic pace of life, chasing down items on an infinite to-do list, solving problems that may never occur, or playing back old failures and conflicts in our minds. Managing to stay in peaceful, connected states for longer and longer is the goal. Learning how to get ourselves centered, or integrated, is the method. But how exactly are you supposed to achieve that?
For me, the meaning of “centered” only started to come into focus when I got sick of living in the opposite state. Have you ever missed your exit because you were busy trying to win an old argument from last week (or last year) that didn’t turn out so well? Have you ever walked into a fellow pedestrian because you were so bent on replying to a random text message? Have you ever missed a meaningful moment with a friend or lover because you were building a shopping list in your head? Or gotten to the end of a beautiful walk through the forest, only to realize you’ve spent the entire time worrying about next month’s bills? I’ve done all of these things, and some of them, more than once.
Whenever you notice yourself caught in this kind of pattern, it wakes you up. It prompts you to wonder: what would it be like to live in a less scattered, less distracted way? How effective could you be if every part of you were fully present, fully engaged in everything you undertake? If your mind weren’t trapped in the future, your emotions stuck in the past, and your body abandoned in the present moment, left to fend for itself? What if you could get all the parts of yourself together, in one place, united behind a single purpose, instead of scattered? Well, if you could do that, you’d be centered.
The needless complications of modern life pose many challenges to this goal, there’s no use in denying it. Despite advances in technology that were meant to fill our lives with free time and leisure, the pace of life has only gotten faster, the pressures more insistent, and the moments of tranquility and true connection, fewer and further between. In fact, it often feels like we are helpless victims, stuck on an accelerating merry-go-round, doomed to an increasingly fractured state of mind, emotion, health, and community. There’s no time, we all hear – and many of us say – over and over again.
The escape from this crisis, I’m increasingly convinced, is one of the great discoveries of living a fulfilled life. It’s a lateral move, something like a secret door, and conscious breathwork is its key. This passage leads us out of the maddening rush, and into a calmer, more spacious sense of time, action, and awareness of self. Through the shift in our breath, we change the state of our minds. None of us can add minutes, let alone hours, into our busy lives, but conscious breathing techniques, like Judith Kravitz’s Transformational Breath, change the way those minutes and hours feel, and in turn, how collected, calm, and capable we find ourselves in them.
“Transformational Breath is primarily what we would call an integrative breath, because it integrates patterns on each level of our being, and it also allows us to integrate into a unified whole,” says Kravitz. “First, we work with opening someone’s breath, helping them to breathe better, and then through that opening, people can actually access their subconscious and clear negativity, through the high energy of the breath vibration. This clearing enables people to access their higher subconscious, or their soul. There are three major components: the physical, the mental-emotional, and the spiritual, and yet they all work together in every session.”
Of course, we all know how to breathe, right? No one can survive long without oxygen, so it’s obvious that we have the basics down. But most of us pay little or no attention to the process. Basic survival breathing is an involuntary response, something the brain regulates without any input required. So why not let it run on autopilot? We’ve all got plenty to worry about as it is, right?
This, as it turns out, is precisely the problem. As a culture, we have largely abandoned our breath to look after itself, while we focus on the worries that fill our minds — solving problems, ticking items off to-do lists, putting out fires, and so on. Yet somehow, no matter how many problems we solve, we seldom make it back to a state of calm. Our involuntary breath, left to “mind itself,” tends to follow along behind our racing mind. It responds with shallow, quickened breathing, and this in turn ties us ever more tightly into the fight-or-flight state, where survival may be the focus, but peace, rest, and wholeness seem forever out of reach.
As Kravitz points out, the average human takes in no more than twenty percent of the oxygen they could be getting. In our stressed-out, disconnected, over-medicated, under-rested society, the effects of this deficit are all too apparent. But what, specifically speaking, are the consequences of all this poor-quality breathing and inadequate oxygen? What can we hope to reverse and heal in our lives, and in the lives of our families, by acquiring the skills of Transformational Breath?
In answering this question, Kravitz starts with the physical: low energy is the first, most obvious effect. (On the bright side, it’s also one of the fastest, easiest consequences to reverse). This shouldn’t surprise us, since oxygen is a primary fuel burned by the body to power itself. Increased susceptibility to disease is a more long-term, and perhaps more sobering risk. Leaving portions of the body poorly oxygenated for long periods of time is like leaving the door half-open to a variety of anaerobic diseases, cancer among them. Want to build another layer of defense against life-threatening disease? Consider embracing the techniques and habits of deep, conscious breathing.
From here, she goes on to describe the mental and emotional consequences of poor breathing, from heightened anxiety, to the inability to properly process negative emotions such as grief and anger. These unprocessed emotions can create blockages, both emotional and physical, which in turn can lead to unconscious patterns of reaction and behavior. If you’ve ever felt angry or sad or frightened for no imaginable reason, it’s likely you have an emotional experience stored away which you haven’t fully processed. In order to unwind these tangles of unresolved feeling, Transformational Breath brings its focus into the chakras, or energy centers, one by one, each of which correspond to a type of emotion or life experience.
Fittingly enough, it was a serious diagnosis that prompted the development of Transformational Breath. Kravitz was already working as a healer and a metaphysical minister at the time when, as she puts it, “breath came into my life.” In California in the 1970s, amid the flowering scene of spiritual and alternative healing modalities, she put her skills and training as a healer and minister to use in the service of the ill and grieving. Then, she was diagnosed with throat cancer.
In the wake of this alarming discovery, she realized she had a decision to make. Either she could proceed with the best conventional treatments available to allopathic medicine at the time, or she could put the tools she knew — the tools she had been using to help others — to the test. She felt powerfully guided to “walk my talk,” in her own words. In a short time, her tumor disappeared. Beyond the elation of a clean bill of health, she felt blessed to have discovered these methods, and compelled to share them with the world. “I knew what was given to me — and it was a gift — was so pristine and so powerful, and it had to have a future … and it’s amazing where it’s gone.”
Over the next few years, she developed the practices which she had used to heal herself and others into a method and a system she called Transformational Breath. If its reach is any indication of its value and the integrity of its source, then it has been proven soundly many times over, as millions around the world have since adopted its practice, and its merits have been touted by authorities on the subject of integrated medicine such as Christiane Northrup MD and Deepak Chopra MD.
Brought to you by the International Center for Breathwork.
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