Transformational Breathing . . .
Breathe Your Way to Health and Happiness
By Robert Ross
“I have never felt so much love, like I have felt in this room”
— A participant in the Transformational Breath training program
Transformational Breathing is, according to their promotional brochure, “a unique self-healing adventure. For approximately one hour, you are invited to lie down, relax and engage in deep, connected breathing (continuous breathing with no pauses). You are taught how to open restricted breathing patterns so your entire respiratory system is utilized. Keeping your awareness on the feelings and energy patterns in your body as you breathe, integration is often very gentle and joyful; at times intense. The result is a deep state of relaxation and peace.”
The three-day workshop I attended was held in Costa Mesa, California. The trainers were Jessica Leaf and Melinda Dewey. The workshop was referred to as Level One training. There are five levels available in the Transformational Breathing program. Each level focuses on different aspects of the transformational breathing process and is combined with other personal growth exercises.
We gathered Friday evening, a group that represented different nationalities and different professions. Our purpose in taking the workshop was to learn and experience Transformational Breathing. All the participants were aware that very shortly they would be engaged in an hour-long breathing process that would activate certain emotions, memories and experiences. Over the next three days, the sounds of tears, laughter and “toning” would be ever present in our training room.
I took my seat in a circle around Jessica and Melinda who were to be our trainers for the next three days. They would be assisted by facilitators who had extensive backgrounds in the Transformational Breathing process. We sat on the floor, using “back jacks” (supportive floor seats) or cushions as seats. After introducing ourselves and sharing any breathing experiences we may have had (rebirthing, Holotropic breathing or yoga type breathing), it was time to begin. I was both apprehensive and excited about the process upon which we were about to embark.
Transformational Breathing was co-founded by Judith Kravitz more than twenty years ago. Apparently, Judith’s inspiration came from a personal experience of self-healing. Using principles and skills acquired through her work with the breath, Judith healed a malignant tumor on her throat. Since then, she has trained more than three thousand facilitators and has led well over a hundred thousand people in groups and in personal sessions throughout the world.
The training (Levels One through Three) is designed for personal mastery and is also part of the Professional Facilitators training. Commonly reported benefits of the training include: more physical and mental energy, being less judgmental of circumstances, feeling happy with challenges, having weight lifted from shoulders, vivid connectedness with God/Source, more joy in giving and receiving, relief from emotional and physical pain, and freedom from addictions and compulsions.
Before we began the actual breathing process, the concept of toning was discussed. Toning is a sound made during the breathing session, a loud “aaaaahhhh” sound, continuously while breathing. According the trainer, this sound “raises the frequency which creates integration by entraining or moving the energy.” We were also asked to write our intentions for this breathing session on a three by five card. For example, one might write that they wanted “more joy and love in their life.” or perhaps “more wealth.” We put the cards next to us so that the facilitators could affirm our intentions as they went around the room during the breathing session.
To prep us for our breathing session, the facilitators played some music on a CD — danceable music. We were about to do the “kundalini dance.” As a group, we pushed our hands up into to the air while inhaling and pulled them back down while exhaling. This was done in rapid succession. We were breathing out of our mouths, pulling the oxygen in and pushing it out in a continuous breathing pattern. The music had a catchy beat, so it wasn’t long before we were moving our hands and breathing to the beat of the music. Even those who were initially more inhibited were soon incorporating their entire bodies into this dance of sorts. Some were even moving about the room, having a great time doing a free-form dance.
After about ten minutes or so, we laid down on our individual mats and continued the rapid breathing pattern. As in all breathing sessions, music is played that enhances the breathing experience. The beginning stages of the breathing session will have faster music, and the ending stages will have slower music. Soon, I felt a gentle hand on me, suggesting that I breathe into an area of my upper body — chest, lower belly, or perhaps the shoulder area. It wasn’t long before I heard a “toning” sound coming from my facilitator. Knowing to follow suit, I began the aaahhhh sound. Others in the room began toning too. Soon, the entire room was making the sounds of toning, and of loud breathing.
As a group, we were “activated” (a term used in Transformational Breathing). A pronounced tingling enveloped my body and my hands began to gently cramp up a bit. The term tetany is used in Transformational Breathing for the hand cramping phenomena. The hand cramping experience is not uncommon during the breathing process.
The breathing session lasted about an hour. As though on cue, the room began to quiet down. I had a sense of joy and peace as I laid there. Minutes passed as the group slowly gathered itself and formed a circle. After a debriefing and sharing, it was time to go home; time to reflect.
Saturday began with discussions about Transformational Breathing. Although the themes and content of the discussions would vary over the course of the three-day program, the underlying philosophy would remain steadfast. Breathing is a metaphor for how we live our lives. As we restrict our breathing, thus dampening and repressing our emotional responses, we are essentially restricting our lives. The Transformational Breath process is an opportunity to direct our breathing and open ourselves up to a more expansive and healthy life experience.
Saturday we would have two breathing experiences, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We began the morning session, as we would begin all breathing sessions, with the “kundalini dance.” I began to see the dance as a method of transitioning from the cerebral to the physical; from thinking and talking to moving and breathing.
The Saturday morning breathing session was especially significant for me because of the vivid images on which I found myself transfixed during the latter stages of the process. I was so enthralled by these images (beautiful yellow and orange flowers affixed to a rotating rectangular structure) that I had stopped breathing for a period of time. As I became aware of this lack of breathing, I gently started taking in oxygen again. Apparently this forgetting to breathe phenomena is common during Transformational Breathing sessions.
Saturday afternoon was a repeat of the morning session, discussion then a breathing session. We ended the day at about 6 p.m.
Melinda Dewey demonstrates Transformational
By day three, there was a sense of trust and acceptance among the group members. After discussing aspects of breathing, the workshop participants were given an opportunity to experience being Transformational Breath practitioners themselves. We paired off and with the help of a facilitator, we would take our partner through the breathing process.
Kundalini dance completed, it was time to work with my partner. After making sure that my partner was comfortable on a floor mat, the facilitator who was assisting, had my partner punch into the air, stimulating a sluggish breathing pattern, while toning. As I glanced around the room, many were also combining toning with punching at the air in front of them. Some were doing this punching with a vengeance. The combination of toning and punching seemed to be producing results because in many cases the sounds of anguish soon followed — as though an emotion was being experienced or being released.
Sunday also included a personal growth exercise referred to as the work of Byron Katie. This was a cerebral exercise which involved responding in writing to a series of questions, like “what irritates you?” or “what saddens you?” The intent is to discover the truth about some of the less than pleasing situations in your life. The exercise for me, focused on the relationship between me and my father. It proved to be revealing and helpful.
Sunday evening arrived and the group did their final breathing session. This session was done in a sitting position. The music that brought an end to our last breathing session was quite beautiful. Then, as the song “One Breath” from the CD “Songs of Awakening” played, we gathered in a circle, standing arm and arm and swayed to the music. The trainers made some closing comments and the weekend came to an end.
Over the three-day period, I noticed that each of my breathing sessions had its own personality. Some of my sessions bordered on the spiritual, with vivid images, and others sessions involved conversations I would have with others in my life. So realistic were the conversations, that I got the sense the dialogues were actually taking place, but on a different plane. During some sessions, inspirational ideas would capture my attention, ideas that would involve my entire focus.
Throughout the three-day period, both trainers, Melinda Dewey and Jessica Leaf exhibited passion and commitment to the work they were doing. They fostered an environment which was both nurturing and supportive.
Transformational Breathing isn’t for everyone. It’s for risk takers and adventurers. It’s for those who are willing to explore non-traditional avenues of personal growth and healing.
Perhaps Dr. Christopher C. French, M.D., captured the essence of Transformational Breathing best when he said “the genius here is in the blending of the conscious and unconscious minds to achieve our highest potential. Breathing is good medicine.”
It was clear to me after the weekend experience, that Transformational Breathing is good medicine, and that what Transformational Breathing was offering was a way to access this “good medicine” in a safe and nurturing environment.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Transformational Breathing or attending a work-shop in the Southern California area, contact Jessica Leaf at (760) 724-6006 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For general information about Transformational Breathing or to locate a practitioner in your area, see www.breathe2000.com.
Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
(c) Copyright 2003 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved
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