Children call it ‘fun breathing’, because they love it and it comes naturally to them. People all over the world are using it to improve their experience of life and deepen their connections with others. It’s a breathing technique that was discovered and developed in America in 1974 by Leonard Orr.
The technique was originally called Rebirthing, and has now spread world-wide, been given many other names, and taken new forms. Even though I essentially practise Leonard’s Rebirthing method, my preferred name for it is Conscious Connected Breathwork, or CCB for short. That’s simply because Conscious Connected Breathwork is easier to explain and understand.
There are five main ‘ingredients’ to CCB that make it so powerful – and so enjoyable, once you master it:
1. The Connected Breath
Connecting the inhale and the exhale feels intoxicating – without the toxins. If you have spent most of your life under-breathing, it could take a while to get used to the levels of oxygen and energy circulating through your blood, and therefore your organs – in fact, all of the cells in your body.
This simple act of connecting the breath and breathing fully can bring up anything that’s in the way of your full health and ease, on all levels, and this often activates resistance. The exhale is kept as relaxed as possible.
2. Awareness in detail
This is about learning to be present – about noticing what’s really going on with your body, mind and emotions and observing any resistance that comes up. Awareness is a powerful tool that enables us to bring to the surface anything that’s been hidden and is affecting us from ‘the shadows’, just by seeing it fully and acknowledging it.
3. Non-judgement: Total acceptance of all that happens.
Just to be clear here, we’re assuming the breather is in a safe space, preferably with a qualified and registered practitioner if you are new to Conscious Connected Breathwork.
Total acceptance is about ‘making everything right’ and letting it be what it is. In that space of non-judgement and love for ourselves we can forgive ourselves for any perceived ‘wrongness’ and then move on.
Non judgement shows us that we can learn from any mistakes or errors of judgement that we make, towards ourselves or others. It also makes it easier to be more loving, with greater understanding and empathy.
Together, non-judgement and awareness shine a light on all the things that come up in a session that we once felt had to be hidden away. They help us to see ourselves as we really are – as innocence and love incarnate.
The relaxation aspect is about relaxing with the process as far as possible, even if it feels uncomfortable. This should get easier with every breathwork session, as the breather becomes more able to trust in life, and to sink into the ‘not-knowing’.
Relaxing the inhale and the exhale keeps the body chemistry more balanced and allows the energy of the breath to flow better.
Relaxation is also necessary for the fifth component, integration, to easily take place.
This is how we describe what usually happens when all the previous four components come together. It is usually the highlight of the breathe when (depending on what is ‘up’ for the breather) understanding is reached, resistance returns to comfort, or there could be a deeply spiritual, often blissful, experience.
Integration is when the problem that we might have seen as major at the beginning of the breathe disappears, or is maybe transformed into a blessing in disguise, or when answers appear out of nowhere; when energy moves right through the body or everything settles into peace.
Generally it’s impossible to anticipate what the outcome of a breathe will be – only that we will feel better for it.
The extra ingredient: the facilitator
There’s actually a sixth ingredient I want to add in here, that is definitely not crucial once you’ve learned the technique but probably is for about your first 10 Conscious, Connected Breathing sessions – and that’s someone to guide you and set you on the right track.
Conscious Connected Breathwork can bring up a lot of resistance and old stuff that we thought was gone, or never existed, but was in fact buried away. Until you’re used to dealing with this, and can use the five ingredients on your own, it’s best to get help with it.
It’s amazing what can lie concealed in our psyches and our body. Based on what I’ve seen and experienced, I believe that most of us have been traumatised to some extent, whether we realise it or not. And one usual source of trauma that we all have in common is birth.
In fact, in the early stages of developing the Rebirthing breathwork process, most people relived traumas or events relating to their birth, or some aspect of it, in their very first breathing session. This usually happens at some point, to some extent, for anyone doing a series of sessions, where we ‘re-birth’ ourselves – playing out physical, mental or emotional memories, in a safe place this time, and removing their charge. That leads naturally to changed assumptions and feelings about life that suit us better, and often a whole new world-view.
This strong emphasis on birth happened because Leonard Orr’s first experiments with connecting the breath were in the bath, in warm water, which simulated conditions in the womb and so activated birth memories. Hence the name Rebirthing, which also referred to ‘rejuvenation’.
Eventually people realised that the process works wherever you do it, and the content and outcome of a breathwork session depend only on the individual and their life experiences and what they are ready to change.
An experienced practitioner can guide your breathing to make everything as easy and drama-free as possible, even when the experiences being re-lived are highly charged. They’re also there to help you learn how to bring the five main ingredients together and successfully integrate whatever comes up.
With a trained, registered practitioner, you can get to where you want to go much faster and more easily, making the experience a lot more enjoyable and productive. Even experienced breathers and practitioners prefer to have at least an occasional facilitated breathe. The connection and the assistance make it easier and even more fun.
In a nutshell:
Essentially, then, the Rebirthing process is about being aware, and telling the whole truth about what’s going on for you (at least to yourself), while connecting the breath, relaxing into it as much as possible and allowing everything that happens to be okay – suspending all judgement and loving yourself for being exactly who you are. The breathing will do the rest and allow everything to unfold in the best way possible.
For a very quick taste of CCB (and a powerful de-stressing tool), try the 20 Connected Breaths exercise.
Or, if you want to delve deeper, you can click here to ask questions or try out some preliminary sessions.
Note: Please note that Rebirthing breathwork has never been associated with the controversial and often dangerous version of attachment therapy that was used to treat ‘behavioural problems’, and was also known as Rebirthing.