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Breathwork is a New Age, umbrella term, for various breathing practices in which the conscious control of breathing is said to influence a person's mental, emotional and/or physical state, with a claimed therapeutic effect.[1] While medical research on Breathwork is still in its infancy due to the newness of the technique, many recent studies have shown benefits ranging from improvements in social anxiety and depression[2] to lowering blood pressure.[3] Breathwork is very different than Yoga Pranayama.

Description and sub-types

Breathwork is a method of breath control that is meant to give rise to altered states of consciousness and to have an effect on physical and mental well-being.[1] Derived from various spiritual and pre-scientific traditions from around the world, it was pioneered in the West by Wilhelm Reich.[1]

There are several sub-types of breathwork:

  • Rebirthing-Breathwork – was devised by Leonard Orr in the 1970s. It is claimed to be capable of releasing suppressed traumatic childhood memories.[4]
  • Vivation – was created by Jim Leonard and Phil Laut.[5] It claims to improve wellbeing through the use of circular breathing.[6]
  • Holotropic Breathwork (a trademark) is a practice that uses breathing and other elements to putatively allow access to non-ordinary states of consciousness. It was developed by Stanislav Grof as a successor to his LSD-based psychedelic therapy, following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960s.[7] Following a 1993 report commissioned by the Scottish Charities Office, concerns about the risk that the hyperventilation technique could cause seizure or lead to psychosis in vulnerable people caused the Findhorn Foundation to suspend its breathwork programme.[8]
  • Other types – There are many other types of Breathwork which have emerged over the last few decades, including Integrative Breathwork, Transformational Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Conscious Connected Breathing, Radiance Breathwork, Zen Yoga Breathwork and many others.


Breathwork has no verified beneficial effect on health, although there is some evidence it may help relaxation. However, some people find its effects distressing.[9] A Cochrane review reported that "There was a significant improvement in six‐minute walk distance after three months of yoga involving pranayama timed breathing techniques" for COPD patients.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2
  2. Stephen Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation: Towards a Sociology of a New Age Community (New Media Books, 1996)
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