Boost your Flow, Boost your Power

Stephen Elliott’s Coherent Breathing

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

You may have heard it said before, and it rings powerfully true. It’s also the way Dan Brulé sums up the challenge of discovering and sharing new ideas in his conversation with Stephen Elliott, author of The New Science of Breath, and developer of the Coherent Breathing method. Elliott is the special guest presenter in our upcoming MasterClass Interview, and he presented more on the practice and benefits of Coherent Breathing at The Breathing Festival.

The puzzle posed by this quote is very real, and tricky to solve. Realizing this fills me with some deep personal gratitude for all of those intrepid souls who went off alone and traveled fast, so that they could bring back some assistance and instruction for the rest of us: we who are quite happy to go as far as we can, but would really rather get there together. The role of the pioneer though, the trailblazer – that’s the work to which both Dan Brulé and Stephen Elliott have dedicated their lives. This makes it a real and valuable delight to get to take in their conversation.

Elliott’s own pioneering in breathwork brought him through a variety of disciplines. An electrical engineer by profession, he was inspired by the results of biofeedback, a method which uses technology to regulate inner states, in order to achieve conscious control over systems long thought to be involuntary. These results confirmed what he’d already discovered in his studies of the martial arts, qi gong, and yoga. Through personal experience and further research, he began to weave together the findings of science and technology with the teachings and practices of eastern disciplines. What resulted was Coherent Breathing, a method to heal and restore balance, as well as to fuel progress in the pursuit of spiritual or energetic awakening. Along the way, he discovered and termed key elements in the physiology of breath and blood circulation, such as the pivotal “respiratory arterial pressure wave phenomenon,” which he explains in detail in the MasterClass Interview.

But what exactly is Coherent Breathing, and what does it do? As Elliott summarizes it, this slow, deep breathing method activates the thoracic pump, which amplifies the volume of blood-flow throughout the body by as much as double or more. This, in turn, increases the capability of all the body’s systems – and the mind’s. The body becomes more energetic, more able to purify and regulate itself.  The mind becomes more clear, more powerful. Beyond all this, the bounty of energy can then bring still more striking abilities – such as mental communication, for example – quite naturally into reach.

Still, in spite of the discoveries, the pioneering efforts of Elliott, Brulé, and many others, the amazing and now documented effects of breathwork continue to elude so many. Even today, in a time when articles, books, podcasts, and documentaries describing the benefits of various breathing techniques are nearly ubiquitous, I’m still met with more than a few quizzical looks when I raise the subject to curious friends and acquaintances. Given the staggering range of improvements available, in health, in mindset, in performance, you’d think everyone would be eager to grab onto a few of these simple insights, these life-changing skills. So why aren’t they? What will it take for people to reach out and claim these treasures, these gifts just waiting there in plain view, resources contained in each and every one of our own bodies?

I’ve spent a fair bit of time wondering at this fact. Is it just because we’re taught to trust in pills? In syringes? Superfoods? Why are we so ready to embrace what can be bought, sold, and consumed – and so hesitant to breathe in (literally) and harness the free power, healing and insight piled up all around us, in oxygen-form? I’m sure marketing plays a role. Commercials teach us what we’re meant to want, what’s to be trusted, and what “everybody else” is doing. Also, to be fair, the fear of “new cures” and so-called “snake-oil salesman” runs deep, and it’s easy to understand why: nobody wants to be taken advantage of, to have their hard-earned money wasted. Perhaps even more importantly, nobody wants to look like a sucker, to be made a fool of.

And who can blame them? Isn’t that the very reason most of us, no matter where we’re going, want to go together? Back in the early days of human development, falling in line with everyone else used to offer a real advantage in your chances of survival. Standing out from the tribe might just mean you got eaten – literally –  if predators were nearby. Still worse, non-conformity might mean falling out of favor with the tribal leaders, and losing access to everything good in primitive life: food, respect, shelter, love, and even the right to pass on your DNA. A lot has changed in technology and society since then, but we’re still generally pretty reluctant, as a species, to step out of line. That’s not such a bad thing, unless the line you’re standing in leads to debilitating health conditions, emotional problems, and social dysfunction. And that’s exactly where so many have found themselves, trusting solely in pills, products, and other purely passive solutions.

In fact, this describes one of the biggest challenges Elliott faces in sharing Coherent Breathing. Among its many benefits is the ability to cure hypertension. “We have countless cases where clients have completely kicked their blood pressure medication. In an extreme case, a couple in their seventies had tried almost every medication, until the most dangerous one was all that was left.” Instead, they decided to try Coherent Breathing. “Within two weeks of practicing, they came back, and their blood pressure was totally normal. They saw their doctor, and their doctor took them off medication.”

Beautiful, right? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone suffering from hypertension – and other maladies – could benefit from this simple, fast, and very inexpensive remedy? But as Elliott explains, “by and large, people who have come to us have come to us in a crisis. That’s the problem. We need to get to people before they’re in crisis.”

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the old proverb advises. And that’s true when it comes to breathwork versus expensive prescription drugs and medical procedures too. But how do we share this wealth of wellness with everyone suffering from illness, medication side-effects, and the financial hardships that tag along? So few of us accept advice in personal matters, let alone painful ones, and we have to acknowledge the limits of what we can choose for others. This is why I believe strongly that the best thing we can do – for ourselves, sure, but also for everyone else who is struggling with an illness of any kind – is to dig deeply into the benefits of breathwork for ourselves.  To discover Coherent Breathing and every other healing breath we can use, to reap the benefits, and wear the wellness, the calm, the glow of thriving, that they induce.

I take as great encouragement the fact that the Breathing Festival is happening. It’s bringing together experts from all over the world, breathing enthusiasts, healthcare practitioners, and intrigued, curious people such as myself, from all walks of life. The growth of this movement, the creation of this event, and the proliferation of scientific evidence and validation – these are all signs that an awareness of breathwork is approaching critical mass. One day soon, these tools may be celebrated everywhere, and made easily available to everyone.

Brought to you by the International Center for Breathwork.

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