Do you remember who you were before the world told you who to be? For some people, this thought may never have crossed their minds.
But for many, the desire and need to have a better understanding of themselves and their place in the universal flow of life has sent them on a journey to find inner awareness and peace.
One of the most effective tools in the path for self-knowledge is breathwork. For thousands of years, shamas have been developing breath techniques to empower their consciousness and potentialize their health and wellbeing.
Welcome to shamanic breathwork.
What is shamanic breathwork?
Shamanic breathwork is a process of controlled and conscious breathing, used to awaken the inner self. When you have control over your breathing, you can explore parts of your mind and body that would otherwise not be so easy to reach.
It isn’t a quick fix for all your problems. Instead, it’s a journey that takes you back to the core of your self and helps you work through whatever issues you might have gone through, dissolving traumatic ties with your past and empowering yourself to face the current challenges of your life.
Rudá Iandê, a world-renowned, modern-day shaman, describes how the power of shamanic breathwork can take you deeper into yourself, connecting you with parts of your being which you might not have thought possible:
“Through your breath, you can go even deeper, to places beyond the realm of your intellect. You can awaken, for example, ancient memories kept in your DNA.
“You can use your breath to awaken the latent potential inside of you; things like your creativity, memory, and will power.
“And through your breath, you can also communicate with all your organs and with every part of your body to align and potentialize them.”
Using your breath and manipulating it can help you to break free of the stresses, worries and tension that we pick up from society around us. It can be used in ways that are limitless, so long as you are open and willing to embrace the process.
Read on to find out more about the process, why people turn to shamanic breathwork, and if there are any risks.
How does it work?
Shamanic breathwork can be practiced in groups of individually under the guidance of a shaman.
By employing different breath rhythms together with movement and intention it’s possible to alter the state of our consciousness and awaken energies and inner skills such as creativity and focus. There are many possibilities.
A connected, circular breathing method, for example, can be employed alongside chakra attuned music. This flow of breathing, sustained over a period of time, will allow you to reach an altered state of consciousness.
You’ll then be able to tap into the areas of your body or mind which you need to work on, triggering deep processes of emotional healing and release.
A shamanic breathwork process takes you on a journey that can help you break apart and transform past traumas and unhealthy habits. It brings empowerment back, and all of this is achieved just through the act of breathing.
In Rudá Iandê’s shamanic breathwork workshop, Ybytu, he describes the process as being able to “realign each of your cells with the universal flow of life, alchemizing your energy and strengthening the health of your body, mind and emotions.”
During shamanic breathwork, you will learn from your shaman how to channel your energy through your breathing, and ultimately strengthen yourself whilst becoming more in touch with who you are at your core.
You can learn more about the Ybytu shamanic breathwork method here.
Why is it used?
To better understand why shamanic breathwork is used, it’s a good idea to start with a little history into the role of a shaman.
Shamans have been around long before western medicine or general practitioners came to the scene. A shaman’s role is to help individuals and help the community, by realigning people with the flow of life that exists within and around us.
Shamanic practices are still viewed as highly effective, even today, and many people from all walks of life seek out the help and guidance of shamans, especially when western medicines and therapies don’t work.
As well as the benefits of having a shaman and the process that comes with it, breathwork has many benefits, from pain release to helping with mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
So why do people use shamanic breathwork?
The answer lies in why we want to better ourselves in the first place. Is it because we’re told we should? Or is it because deep inside we feel that we have traumas to heal, we want to connect with who we really are and ultimately become more at peace with ourselves.
These desires are valid, and it can be quite clear to see that prescription medicines or traditional counselling and therapy might not be the solution for people who want to delve deeper into their spirituality, mind and body.
One form of healing which requires very little in terms of equipment, materials or substances, is shamanic breathwork.
The role of a shaman during breathwork is to guide you to reconnect with yourself and help you to become your own healer.
Some of the reasons that people use shamanic breathwork include:
- Working through past traumas
- Processing emotions
- Expelling negative and unwanted energies
- Gaining a deeper and more fulfilling understanding of yourself
- Having more energy in your mind and body
- Reawakening your creative self
- Freeing yourself from social constraints
More and more people are turning to shamanic breathwork because it can help them break through negative issues, and sometimes problems that they aren’t even aware of.
It’s not just about exploring the negatives. Shamanic breathwork can unleash wonderful parts of us that have been suppressed over the years, such as creativity or being able to expand our mindset.
In “The air you breathe”, Rudá Iandê writes about how breathwork can be used to enhance our perspective:
“You develop your flexibility, creativity, and flow. You become able to see things from multiple perspectives, finding a whole set of new possibilities for your life. You start perceiving life and all its elements as movement, and what before was fight, effort and struggle will become a dance.”
Emotions and thoughts can be processed in a healthy way, unaffected by society and the pressures we take on around us in our daily lives.
Rudá Iandê also touches on the connection between breathing and your emotions:
“If you carry unresolved emotions like anger, sadness, or resentment for too long in your body, these feelings will shape the way you breathe. They will create permanent tensions in your respiratory system, and it will have a negative effect on your health.”
When faced with this emotional baggage, which can take a toll on your breathing, small exercises can be done even before learning shamanic breathwork.
For example, paying attention to your breathing when you’re calm and relaxed, and then comparing it to when you’re in a stressful situation, can be a starting point in understanding your breathing in different emotional states.
Just a simple act like this will already increase your awareness of how your breath changes and shapes your emotions and vice versa.
Is it safe?
Shamanic Breathwork is generally safe to practice, but the use of a guide or teacher is always advised until you reach the ability to practice it alone.
If you suffer from any of the conditions below, all types of breathwork, including shamanic breathwork, practiced under the guidance of a shaman or responsible professional:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Vision issues
- Respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
- Severe mental health issues
- A history of aneurysms
- Have had recent surgery or are suffering with physical injuries
It’s also not advised to take part in breathwork by yourself if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
A well-trained shaman would prescribe the correct practices for each situation or health issue to make the process beneficial and completely safe.
As with all types of breathwork, there is a concern that you might begin to hyperventilate while practicing some of the techniques.
Hyperventilating can product temporary effects such as:
- Decreased blood flow to the brain
- Induced muscle spasms
- Affected vision
- Induced cognitive changes
- Increased heart palpitations
Such effects disappear after a few minutes and are usually not dangerous, but you can avoid them or have a much smoother breathwork session with the guidance of a good shaman.
When practicing shamanic breathwork, using a professional guide will help you work through the process safely.
It’s important to remember that no two experiences of shamanic breathwork are the same. This goes for people as well. If you’re taking part in a group breathing exercise, everyone will be working through their own problems.
You might have already worked out some of the issues you want to deal with before a session, or you may go in with no assumptions about what might come up. Either way, it’s a good idea to always tell your teacher beforehand, so that they’re aware of what you might go through during breathwork therapy.
Here are some tips to get the most out of your breathwork session:
- Do your research beforehand. Make sure you have enlisted the help of a trained professional who is reputable and has good experience and knowledge of Shamanic breathwork.
- Make sure to tell your guide or teacher of any conditions you might have, physical or mental.
- Don’t be afraid to communicate your feelings and sensations during the session.
- Keep an open mind and be willing to let go of negative thoughts and energy. The more open you are, the more effective this type of breathwork will be.
- Try different settings. You might feel more comfortable in a group, or working individually with a teacher.
- Go with the flow. Shamanic breathwork isn’t about forcing yourself or straining until you feel stressed. Let the experience guide you and relax into the process.
As Rudá Iandê puts it:
“Being present in your breath is the most effective and powerful meditation you can ever practice. It can bring you back to your core and empower your state of presence. It can let you experience your innermost self.”
Shamanic breathwork can be used for a number of problems, whether you’re dealing with issues mentally or physically.
It can even be of help to people who simply want to be more aligned with themselves and more in touch with their core being. As long as you do the process the right way, with the guidance of a professional, the possibilities of what you might discover within yourself are endless.