As an anxious and constantly stressed out individual, I’d roll my eyes at anyone who suggested that I ‘take a deep breath and relax’ as a solution to my woes. Until one day my mother forwarded me a newsletter from Femme Fatale’s weekly events which advertised a one-day session to “Heal Your Heart Through Breathwork.” I was hesitant, but hey – why not?
Breathwork is “a method of breath control that is meant to give rise to altered states of consciousness and have an effect on physical and mental well-being” the exercise aids your body in releasing energy that has become stuck. This is also considered as a form of active meditation that rapidly became popular for the benefits that it provides to people who suffer from anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD, and depression. Consider me intrigued and a skeptic at the same time.
My session at Femme Fatale was aimed at healing our heart from something or someone that hurt us in the past, the purpose was to learn to let go of a painful experience that is now holding us back from happiness, or feelings of self-worth. Prior to the exercise the four other women and I were asked by Chauna, our guide, to write in a piece of paper answers to some questions which we had to keep in mind throughout the exercise, such as “who/what is holding you back?” to which I wrote: myself. Why would I do that? Well, because hand to heart the only one stopping me from letting go, is um – yours truly. So yeah, I was basically trying to heal myself from myself. Four Q&A’s later, we began.
I was lying on a mat closing my eyes as I heard Chauna explain how we would feel our body’s resistance, and to fight through it. “you have to let go of your emotions” she said, “if you want to yell, cry, laugh, it’s all okay. That is your body releasing the feelings that hold you back.” Deep.
35 minutes of breathing. Oh.My.What did I get myself into? All I could think of for the first few songs is how I wanted it to be over already.
“One deep breath from your stomach, then from your chest, and exhale.”
Soon enough, after what felt like forever breathing I couldn’t feel my hands. My fingers were numb and clawed, my body uncomfortable, legs twitching. I was drowning in my own breath – oh how I wanted this to be over.
Chauna placed two stones in each hand while I attempted to clench and release. All I could really think at this time was how I couldn’t control my hands. Unable to fight my body’s resistance anymore, I surrendered. A few minutes later, things changed; the muscles relaxed, my legs stopped twitching, and I was invaded by a sense of calmness. I smiled. cried. remembered. loved. thanked. Now, I wanted the exercise to last longer. I wanted to fully experience the few minutes that I had left.
If I had only started breathing earlier, I’d have fewer problems than I have today.
At last, I could let go of the stones and open my hands. I thought to myself how I had spent all this time thinking that I couldn’t let go of the stones or the clenching, only to realize that it was only because I didn’t really try. Deep down, I didn’t want to – but I wasn’t aware of this. And then, oh hey! I was struck by a very important realization. In real life – very much as with the stones – I can let go of anything, as long as I want to, as long as I stop thinking about what is holding me back and focus on what is pushing me forward.
The whole experience was something else.
By the end, my stress response system had rebooted. My face looked glowy, I was happier, more focused, inspired and motivated. It is certainly how people describe it, taking a deep breath – or several in this case – gets you one step closer to solving any unresolved issues. It expels the negativity, the anxiety, and all of the stress from your system to leave you more clear-headed and able to take on the world.
Today, with the rising popularity of self-care, breathwork is a must-have in one’s routine. The benefits are really worth the uncomfortable feeling of the first few minutes. Saying “I can’t let go of something” is common, and it is actually a decision – not a fact. My first experience with breathwork taught me that I am in control of that, and letting go is a difficult choice to make, but a healthy one. Take it from someone who’s as skeptic as it gets, and go out there to try this active meditation exercise.