Breathing. It’s something we do every minute of every day, mostly without thought. It’s the first thing we do when we are born, and it’s the last thing we do before we die. In between our birth and our death, we breathe in order to sustain our life. Thankfully, breathing is not something we have to remember or that we choose to do—it is done for us, through us, in us, by our incredible bodies. The fascinating thing about breathing is that it is done through the only system in our body that is both automatic and controlled. Our bodies will breathe for us automatically, and we can also choose to control the breath with various patterns, holds, paces, and volume. Amazing!
Breathwork has to do with manipulating our breath in a variety of ways with different outcomes and goals in mind. There are breath patterns to help lower anxiety, decrease the symptoms of depression, help increase our energy (which can also impact our mood and our motivation), and help us release the effects of trauma, which is what we will focus on here. We can use these breath patterns in our daily life and see and feel the effects they have on the brain and the body. In the process of discovering stored trauma and giving the body the permission and the means to release what no longer serves us, breathwork offers the opportunity to heal without the use of drugs or medical procedures.
You may be familiar with the popular book by James Nestor, Breathe. Nestor speaks more about the proper mechanics of the breath, which is wonderful information to be mindful of. But breathwork is powerful on a much deeper level as well. If we look at many Eastern cultures and the history of many religious and spiritual traditions, the breath has always been considered sacred. We need to understand the importance and significance of becoming mindful of our breath, how our bodies breathe, and how deeper breathwork can assist us in processing stored trauma.
The Magic of Trauma-Informed Breathwork
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor who uses a framework of Internal Family Systems (IFS) with my clients, and I have recently added Trauma-Informed Breathwork as a part of the healing process. I participated in a twelve-month training that included classes led by a Trauma Informed Specialist and a neuroscientist, and one of the types of breathwork I now offer helps to release the effects of trauma, and I have seen this truly change the lives of my clients in profound ways.
We know that trauma is stored in the body. In fact, when I work with my clients regarding trauma, we acknowledge all trauma—little “t” trauma and Big “T” trauma. In the psychotherapy world, we refer to trauma not as what happened to a client, but rather as how their body reacted to what happened, how it stored that information, and even the meaning they have attached to what happened. In IFS therapy, there is a process called “unburdening,” when a client, in working with younger parts of us who experienced trauma, is invited to release the emotions, fears, beliefs, and the like, that resulted from that experience. It is a beautiful process.
Breathwork can add an even deeper effect by engaging the body in the somatic release of the energy that has been saved, and even trapped, since the original experience. This often involves releasing energy that is not ours, but rather that of our ancestors, birth mothers, and so on. Witnessing this work and facilitating the process has been such a gift and I am excited to expand the offering to those who are interested. Come breathe with me!
Charleen K. Miele, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who started her journey as a teacher, church music director, and fitness instructor. Charleen works with clients both in person and via telehealth and has recently added Trauma Informed Breathwork to her work. She offers her clients the opportunity to experience IFS and/or breathwork through in-person and online sessions and is currently offering group breathwork sessions online and will be hosting workshops and group sessions in person in the new year. Life coaching and spiritual life coaching, including breathwork and IFS work, are also available both as individual sessions and as packages of two, four, or six sessions. Charleen will soon be offering self-paced online courses as well as interactive groups that will meet for a series of weeks and will include lectures, discussions, journaling, and experiential somatic work through breathing and movement.