Trauma: It has the power to leave deep emotional scars that can profoundly affect one’s overall well-being, and most people have experienced it in some form or another over the course of their lifetime. Whether it stems from a single event or many, trauma can become lodged within our bodies, impacting us mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Oftentimes, people lack the necessary tools and opportunities to process or comprehend their trauma, and find themselves coping with it in silence.
But, there is hope for healing from trauma, along with a number of tools that can help — including breathwork.
Trauma affects our nervous system, leaving us trapped in a state of fight, flight, or freeze and can manifest as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.
Traumatic experiences can vary in their intensity, and are often categorized by Big T trauma (often single life-altering events, such as natural disasters, severe accidents, physical or sexual assault, or violence), and Little T trauma (usually a series of smaller or chronic experiences, such as childhood neglect, emotional abuse, bullying, ongoing stress, loss of a loved one, or being in a dysfunctional relationship).
Both Big T and Little T trauma can have long-lasting effects on mental and emotional well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life, and their impacts can vary from person to person.
Can Breathwork Heal Trauma?
Breathwork is a holistic practice that uses conscious breathing techniques to promote healing. By focusing on our breath, we can access the parasympathetic nervous system to experience relaxation, release tension, and activate the body’s natural ability to heal.
Breathwork can help support the healing process for people who have experienced trauma. While it is important to acknowledge that every person’s journey is unique, breathwork can be a powerful tool in relieving trauma-related emotional scars. It’s important to always work with a qualified breathwork facilitator or coach before starting.
Trauma is complex, and each individual’s experience is unique. Seeking support from trained trauma therapists, counsellors, or healthcare professionals who specialize in trauma is also crucial in creating a healing plan. Breathwork can be integrated as a complementary practice within a broader framework of trauma-informed care.
Here are some of the healing benefits our clients have experienced when practicing breathwork for healing trauma:
Regulation of the nervous system: Trauma often leaves individuals stuck in a state of fight, flight, or freeze, and breathwork can help activate the parasympathetic response, which promotes relaxation and a sense of safety, allowing a person to shift from a state of hyperarousal to a state of calm and balance.
Release of stored tension: Trauma can become stored in the body, leading to physical tension and discomfort. Breathwork techniques, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing and somatic breathwork, can help release it by consciously directing the breath into areas of the body where tension is held.
Processing subconscious patterns: Breathwork can help people process subconscious patterns and emotions associated with their trauma and allow suppressed emotions and memories to surface. It’s important to always work with a qualified facilitator who can help you with processing emotions and integration.
Self-discovery: Breathwork can empower people to take an active role in their healing
journey, and increase self-awareness, self-compassion, and resilience.
Breathwork for Trauma: Breathing Techniques that Heal
Some of the breathing techniques you can use to release trauma include Brahmari humming breath, box breathing, 4-7-8 breath, and somatic breathwork.
Brahmari Humming Breath: Begin by finding a comfortable seated or lying position. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, make a low- to medium-pitched humming sound in your throat. Also called Bee’s Breath, this technique aids in relaxing the central nervous system and increases nitric oxide production.
Box Breathing: Visualize a square and assign four counts to each side. Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and then hold your breath again for a count of four. Repeat this pattern, allowing your breath to ground and centre you.
4-7-8 Breath: Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight. This technique aids in releasing tension, promoting relaxation, and quieting an overactive mind.
Somatic Breathwork: Somatic breathwork combines deep breathing with gentle movement and sound, and move and release tension as you breathe deeply. You can incorporate stretches, shaking, or even vocalizing sounds to help release stored trauma.
These are just some of the breathwork exercises you can use to help you process your trauma. We always recommend that you work with a qualified breathwork facilitator near you or take a guided breathwork class rather than trying these techniques alone.
In the end, breathwork offers a gentle path towards healing the emotional scars caused by trauma, allowing us to reconnect with our bodies, regulate our nervous system, and release stored trauma. By incorporating the breathwork techniques above into self-care practices, we can heal and reclaim our lives.
And remember: healing takes time, so be gentle with yourself. 💜