© 2016 Devaraj Nick Sandberg
What Is Rebirthing?
Rebirthing is a therapeutic technique which is usually practiced under the guidance of a suitably experienced facilitator. It’s a technique using the breath. By lying down, closing your eyes and following a specific breathing pattern so your mind gradually enters a subtly different state of consciousness. Within this state the release of physical and emotional tension happens naturally. People find their body starts to shake or move around. People find they start to make sound. You have control over the process but usually it feels so good to let go you don’t want to stop it! The body loves to let go. Sessions tend to last around 90 mins, though some practitioners may extend this to several hours.
Rebirthing is a popular name for the technique, but the more generic term for this type of therapy is Breathwork.
Applications – What is it Good For?
Rebirthing is highly useful for releasing physical and emotional tension. It also can work where other therapies have failed to make much difference. This is because you enter a slightly altered state of consciousness, where the level of mental control we exert on ourselves is lower. It’s also great just to help you have a period of relaxation and release whenever you have a hour or two to spare.
Who Is It Suitable For?
Generally I find Rebirthing to be a suitable therapy for pretty much anyone, with one or two provisos. If you have a history of panic attacks, or other issues around breathing, or that involve breathing, it might be good to check with a medical professional first. Rebirthing can be useful for people suffering certain types of breathing difficulty, as you will have to breathe quite deeply for a reasonable length of time. But obviously you do need to be clear that this is something you want to do. If you have no issues of this nature, have no significant psychiatric history, and are not using any type of mood-altering medication then in my opinion you should be fine to give Rebirthing a try.
The technique and the name, Rebirthing, are usually credited to Leonard Orr, an American alternative health pioneer, who developed and promoted the technique in the 60s and 70s. A similar technique, Holotropic Breathwork, was created by Stanislav Grof in the 1970s and other, related breath-release techniques exist.
Historically, many early cultures developed specialized breathing techniques, for the purposes of maintaining health, releasing trauma and spiritual connection. For example, the Sanskrit word, pranayama, covers a whole range of breath-related practices and meditations found all over the Indian subcontinent for millennia.
How To Do Rebirthing
Rebirthing is generally practiced under the guidance of a suitably qualified or experienced instructor. However, if you don’t suffer from any breath-related health complaints, don’t experience panic attacks or get very high levels of anxiety, it will probably be fine for you to at least give it a try.
It is possible to find guided meditation CDs which will give you a one hour breathwork session. One good example, though a little tricky to find, is the series known as Quantum Light Breath by Jeru Kabbal.
Below I will explain how to give yourself an experience in your own home.
You will need:
- a couple of hours of spare time that you can completely devote to this – no phones, no computers!
- an at least slightly darkened room. Ideally there should not be much background noise, though this is not essential. If it’s a place where you yourself can make noise then this is perfect.
- a mattress that you feel comfortable to move around on
- loose clothing that you can freely move around in
- Lie with your back on the mattress. Unless you have an issue with your neck it is best not to use a pillow but have the back of your head resting also on the mattress.
- Ensure that your phone is switched off and that you won’t be disturbed.
- For a few minutes breath slowly and fairly deeply into your belly. Feel your belly rise with incoming air and deflate as you breathe out. Continue this until you feel fairly relaxed.
- Optional: to increase your relaxation you might want to run through a Bodyscan meditation, or progressively tense and relax each part of your body. Doing this will almost certainly deepen your experience if you have the time. You can follow a guided exercise on mp3. Many are available for free online, such as at the Free Mindfulness Website.
- When you feel at least moderately relaxed, begin to breathe more deeply in and out of your body. With each breath you should feel your belly and your chest expand and deflate, moving with the breath in and out. Allow each breath to be connected to the next. Don’t pause between breaths. This is usually known as connected breathing.
- Continue this for at least 10 minutes. Within a couple of minutes you should be breathing to full capacity and this you should maintain unless it becomes painful or scary. If this should happen then just breathe less fully. You can regulate the depth of your experience by regulating the amount of air you take in. Otherwise continue to breathe fully and, very important, really stay present with the experience, feeling your body. Try, as much as is possible, to not “drift off,” disappearing into thoughts and ideas. Just stay present with the movement of the breath in and out and the feeling in your body. This is all you need to do.
- After around 10-15 minutes of deep breathing, staying present with your experience the whole time, you should find that your body naturally continues this deep breathing without so much need for you to concentrate on it. Indeed, after a while, your body may seem to follow its own breathing pattern, moving deep or shallow as it needs. If you are fully aware and this is happening then just follow it. If you are drifting off somewhere then come back to focusing on breathing and keeping it deep.
- When you enter a state where you are fully aware of what’s happening, you can feel your body and your breath, and it is moving by itself, just allow this to continue. Allow any movements or sounds that your body wants to make. From a mental level you just sit back and allow. There may be tingling sensations in your body, especially the hands. This is fine and normal.
- Continue to allow any natural movement in your body, and any sounds to come out. You don’t need to “drive it forwards” with your mind. You just sit back and allow your body to have space to do what it needs to let go. It should like there’s a release happening.
- Allow this to continue perhaps for 30-40 minutes and then, especially if it feels like something has been released, start to return to your normal breathing pattern. Lie back with your limbs outstretched and relax for at least 10 minutes.
- After this time slowly get up and have some water or a cup of tea. Check how you feel. This is the end of the session.
Stuff to Watch Out for:
- The Claw! – This is the term some breathworkers use to describe a strong tingling and tension that often develops when doing breathwork. It may happen anywhere in the body but is most normally found in the hand, hence the term. It is sometimes accompanied by fear. If this happens reassure yourself that it is normal and continue breathing. Something is clearing on an energetic level. It will eventually move and your hands will feel normal again. It can be scary when you’re new to the practice. If it really feels too much then just slacken off on the breathing and it will stop in time.
- Going into a mental fantasy world – The way I practice and lead breathwork I prefer that people really “stay in the body.” Some, more shamanic versions of the practice, lead you into a journey experience where you may get insights and useful information. However, I’m working with the body, so if you feel like you’re being abstracted into a more mental journey-like experience, then come back! Breathe more deeply and endeavour to really feel your body. There is nothing wrong with going on a journey in your mind. It is not dangerous and you may find out something useful. But the experience is usually deeper if you really stay present in the body.
End of the Session – At the end of a session make sure you have some re-integration time, that you don’t need to go straight back into intense mental activity. If you allow two hours for the whole experience you should be fine. You may find it useful to write down what happened for you.
If you find that nothing happens, don’t despair. If you’re interested in breathwork it’s probably a good idea to give it a go with an experienced breathworker present. They will be able to help you get right into the experience.
If you are interested to take part in a one-to-one Rebirthing session, or take part in a group, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2016 Devaraj Nick Sandberg