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A shaman was a spiritual healer in days gone by. He would be sought out by local people, much in the same way people seek out a priest, doctor, or counselor today. Their rituals and ceremonies drew on centuries of spiritual experience to heal and balance people through songs, prayer, and breathwork.
Shamanic breathwork is thought to bring out the shaman in us. It uncovers our inner healer, and it takes our journey of self-discovery onto our own shoulders. It allows us to delve deep into our psyche to unearth long-forgotten memories and traumas which make up the building blocks of who we have become as people. Through this practice we are able to resolve trauma, find deep inner peace, and transformational experiences.
What is Shamanic Breathwork
Put simply, shamanic breathwork is the practice of controlling the breathing to reach a heightened state of awareness. When we breathe consciously we are forced to leave our mind and drop into our body, focussing on a very specific and primal aspect of survival.
In essence, it induces a hyperventilation. Breathing with this level of intensity for extended periods allows the brain to enter altered states, and so the healing process can begin.
The process itself starts by entering a quiet space, traditionally near nature, which is usually cleansed, or “smudged”, to clear the area of any spiritual pollution, making the area sacred but also safe from unwanted negative energy. The individual will usually lie down and call on higher powers and spirit guides to guide them through the process they are about to undertake.
Once they have surrendered to the process, the drumming will start and the individual, or “journeyer”, will begin their process of intense rhythmic breathing. This lasts anywhere from an hour to multiple hours, and is often accompanied by chanting and music from other attendees which serve to heighten the experience for the journeyer.
This process is led by a highly trained guide who will monitor the journeyer, helping them to pick through the spiritual passage, helping to soothe disturbances and ensure a safe and rewarding experience.
As the experience winds down, the journeyer is often asked to discuss or illustrate their experiences with the group. This follow-up discussion helps to cement the memories that they have dragged up from their subconscious, and begins the longer-term process of healing.
The Benefits of Shamanic Breathwork
When we travel into the deep, subconscious space accessed only by shamanic breathwork, the ego falls away and we are left truly vulnerable.
It is through this process that we are able to access the deepest, most obscured and hidden parts of our psyche. Back here, all of the memories and traumas are stored, many of which are not accessible through regular counseling or soul-searching.
When we open ourselves up in such a vulnerable way, we allow ourselves to start to see the roadmap to our deepest, most fundamental self. In doing so, we begin to find the map allows us to move between these memories and emotions in a completely new and unhindered way, as new connections are drawn and solidified.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the process of shamanic breathwork comes with a whole host of benefits, both in terms of spirituality, but also in terms of our mental and physical health. Here are just a few:
The “Life Review” Experience
Many people report that shamanic breathwork allows them to see their lives opening up before them, from birth to present day.
In doing so, they are able to pick their way through their experiences, and develop a deeper understanding of how their journey has created who they have become. It promotes an acceptance and forgiveness of the self, and a realization that we are simply a product of our environment and experiences.
Many even find that they experience a full rebirth, allowing them to heal from the trauma and emotional baggage that they incurred from their entrance to the planet.
Can Help to Treat Depression
For many years people have relied on meditation, yoga, and breathwork to help to soothe an unhappy mind, and scientific studies are beginning to back this up. For people suffering with poor mental health, breathwork can calm them, and begin the process of healing from past traumas.
When we focus on our breath we leave the conscious mind behind, allowing us a well-earned break from our emotions. As this happens, we begin to release hormones closely associated with breathwork which help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, which last long after the breathwork session has finished.
Specifically, shamanic breathwork, when undertaken by a highly trained practitioner, can have the effect of counseling. It allows us to access traumatic experiences from our past, much in the same way that counseling does, and begin the process of healing.
Connects Conscious and Subconscious
Studies show the importance of a connection between conscious and subconscious for personal development. The two are most commonly connected during dreams, when they clash with some colorful (but often spiritually and psychologically significant) results.
When this connection is brought about through breathwork we can start to see altered states and heightened awareness, as we start to bring hidden aspects of ourselves into the light.
In doing so, we begin to release the tight grip that our current mental state can hold over us, as we delve deeper into the interweaving conscious and subconscious.
This can bring about explicit episodes of grief and pain, or deep feelings of floating calm and serenity. Every shamamic breathwork session is different, but all of them bring the conscious and subconscious together in a bid to heal.
Shamanic breathwork is a powerful tool used for many years to delve deep into the hidden recesses of our brains, healing past traumas, finding wisdom from experience, and giving us the opportunity to let go of pain.
When we allow ourselves to control the breath and release our inner shaman, we open ourselves up to brilliant new opportunities.