Most of us breathe in and out at least 23,000 times a day without skipping a beat while failing to give a second thought. But to some mystics and spiritual guides, the question is are we breathing properly and realising our full potential?
Breathwork is one of the branches of wellness, the seemingly endless hunt for meaning and spirituality that humanity has followed since the beginning of time.
Breathwork is split into many factions, with the Wim Hof Method Breathing exercises as one of the most celebrated. One of the other key names is Dan Brulé, whose life and work has involved teaching thousands of eager learners how to improve their wellbeing by breathing.
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Riding the crest of the wave
Here, we look at Dan Brule’s achievement and ask the million dollar question – does Breathwork deliver?
Of course, he says it does… but he would, wouldn’t he?
“The answer lies in the principles and fundamentals of breathwork. The first key is breathing fully and freely. Combine that with great awareness, focused awareness, refined awareness. That is the second key. The third key is combining breathing and mindfulness with profound relaxation. That is the secret!” .
“Deep relaxation is a door to unlimited energy. Profound relaxation allows us to access an ocean of energy. In fact, this energy can be tapped in no other way. No amount of force or will or effort can awaken this energy. Opening to it and letting go into it is the only way to get there!
“Many high performers discovered this for themselves at every stop on out tour. That’s why we practice conscious active inhales and deliberate passive exhales at all our seminars and trainings. And it’s something I suggest you begin to practice right now.”
Truth or fiction, Breathwork is a New Age, alternative therapy craze that’s sweeping the world, and Dan Brule is one of the pioneers riding the crest of the wave.
Who is Dan Brule?
Dan Brulé – pronounced like the dessert crème brulee – styles himself as a modern-day spiritual teacher and healer, but his real calling is as a leading pioneer in Breathwork.
Personal information about Brule’s life before 1969 is scant.
Brule was a medical professional, taking a post as an X-Ray technician in New England from 1969 to 1971.
He served in the US Navy as a corpsman, diver and emergency medical specialist until 1976.
Some years at university followed – majoring in human development and learning at the University of Massachusetts in 1984, then a masters in healing arts covering ‘The Breath as a Tool for Growth and Change’ at Lesley College, Cambridge, in 1985.
Devoted to healing
Brule has devoted his life to studying healing arts, Zen and meditation. He is noted as a leading light as an Internationally Certified Rebirthers, a master of Prana Yoga – the Hindu art of breath – and an exponent of Qigong – Chinese medical breathing exercises.
The popularity of Brule’s work and teachings is undoubted as more than 150,000 pupils have followed his training worldwide.
Brule lives in Los Cabos, Mexico, as founder of Baja Bio Sana, an organic farm and learning centre.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is a generic term describing any therapy that uses breathing exercises with a view to improve mental, physical and spiritual health. The technique leads to an altered state of consciousness.
Breathwork is derived from many spiritual and non-scientific traditions of cultures around the world.
The techniques were trailblazed by Austrian psychotherapist Wilhelm Reich, who practised in the 1930s.
Brule’s teachings cover some of the most popular bases of Breathwork.
He studied under Leonard Orr to gain his rebirth certification. Orr is considered a New Age prophet for his teachings that claimed to free his followers from suppressed childhood memories. Orr still runs Rebirthing Breathwork International, a global training and treatment hub.
More studying was carried under the guidance of Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, who researched how non-ordinary states of consciousness can influence healing and wellbeing.
Zen Yoga Breathwork covers breathing and physical exercises designed to clear the body and mind for meditation.
As a master of Prana Yoga and Qigong, Brule has studied both ancient Buddhist breath techniques in India and China.
What is rebirth Breathwork?
Rebirth Breathwork – also known as intuitive energy breathing or conscious energy breathing – is a term covering the ability to breathe energy as well as air.
What the scientists say
Scientists don’t have a lot to say about Breathwork.
Little data and few opinions are published, bar some passing mentions in the American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies, by TB Ade, published in 2009.
The conclusion was Breathwork leads to no verifiable effect on health, although many say the techniques help them relax and a few find taking part distressful.
So is Breathwork a success?
Breathwork falls in to the realms of you pay your money and make your choice.
The jury of qualified and experienced scientists and medical practitioners is out, but tens of thousands of individuals practising the techniques believe Breathwork helps their peace of mind and general wellbeing.
As breathing exercises do not hurt or put lives at risk, the general feeling is anyone looking for relief might as well try Breathwork as they don’t know what they might gain and have little to lose, except for time and a few dollars.
Dan Brule takes the tried and tested alternative therapist’s route of interweaving ancient beliefs and tradition with his Breathwork techniques.
“Conscious Breathing has played a part in shamanic rituals and ancient indigenous ceremonies since the beginning of time. The breath is symbolized in many creation myths, and it is applied in many initiation rites and religious practices,” he says.
“Breathworkers all over the world are now using the power of the breath to awaken inner peace and to promote world peace. Conscious breathing is being used to support healing and growth, to trigger awakening, to fuel performance, and to unlock hidden powers and dormant abilities.”
In an article explaining some of the basics of Breathworking, Brule explores some ancient breathing methods.
The essence, he says, is for everyone to create their own breathing rituals by borrowing from the ancients. In effect, modern Breathworkers should beg, borrow or steal from the blueprint laid down by shaman and mystics to make their own templates and personal ceremonies.
Making Breathwork your own
These can be full-blown dancing, singing, chanting and noisy affairs or simple, private and silent meditations.
The key seems to be acting to make Breathworking your own by shaping the elements to your own well being rather than following the lead of others – but as Brule points out, if following others is your thing, then do it.
“People are using the breath to tap into deep inner resources of strength, and they are breathing together to give expression to common dreams, shared intentions and collective aspirations. And you too can do this,” writes Brule.
“What do you wish for yourself? What do you wish for others? Focus on that and breathe. How can you use your breath to come closer to those you love?
Create your own rituals
“Invite support from your ancestors and from even wiser future generations of golden beings. Use your breath to invite this support, to open to it and to welcome it. Use your breath to send your heartfelt intentions out into the world around you. Put passion and enthusiasm into every conscious breath you take.
“Engage your imagination. Call upon God, upon the Creator. Allow your inner child to control and direct your breathing. Use sound and movement. Use imagery and emotion. A heartfelt intention powered by the breath really can change the world! It can certainly change your inner world.
“What is important to you? Courage? Compassion? Peace? Joy? Freedom? Health? Create your own rituals using the breath to awaken or generate these qualities, these energies. Your heart will guide you.
“Stories and teachings from any religious tradition can be brought to life in you with the breath. And be assured, that all the great saints and masters and mystics and guides will take note of your efforts, of your intentions, and they will come to aid you and to guide you in your practice.”
How to practice Breathwork
Dan Brule claims practising one or more of the below eight exercises every day ‘will add years to your life and life to your years’ – if you want to put his boast to the test, here are his breath awareness and conscious breathing tips.
Don’t breathe back to front
There’s no reason why you can’t breathe out before inhaling. A simple change like this can reveal a lot to you about yourself. Instead of in then out, try out then in for a few minutes and see how you feel.
Go for the triple whammy
Make a mental map of your body divided into three spaces. First is the lower section, stretching from your pubic bone to your belly button; next, the middle space is from the belly button to the nipples and finally, the upper space is from the nipples to the chin.
Separate the spaces in your mind and try to fill from the bottom up in your breathing.
“It may take some focus and practice, and you may need some hands-on-coaching: but this full yogic breath is well worth mastering!” says Brule.
Breathe away that stress
Slow and low breathing will help rid you of stress and become calmer.
Breather slowly. Pick a technique for slowing your breathing rate that works for you.
Popular ways to do this include lengthening the pause between breathing in and exhaling or the other way around if that suits you better. Another method is stretching each inhale and exhale for several seconds.
“Six to eight breaths a minute is considered therapeutic in Breathwork,” said Brule.
This involves combining positive thinking or affirmations with a breathing ritual.
When inhaling, tell yourself that you are relaxed, then on the exhale think you are peaceful.
Other feel good phrase pairs are ‘I am healthy and strong’ and ‘I am free and safe’ or make up your own phrases, but keep them positive.
“Create your own positive thoughts or affirmations, and breathe life into them. With Breathwork you can create your own experience and you can determine your own reality. Life really is that simple,” said Brule.
Breathing and movement
Let your body feel your breathing and move to reflect what’s happening.
Inhaling expands the chest, so let your body move in synch with your breathing.
Techniques involve breathing in rhythm with steps a you walk or run; breathing and lifting as a single motion or arching your back and lifting your head when sitting, then reversing the movement with the next breath.
“Feel the breath move your body and feel your body move the breath,” said Brule.
Breaking the silence
Try making a noise when you breathe – not a raucous outburst, but calm and soothing sounds, such as the wind blow through trees or the sea gently lapping the shore.
Breathe in through the nose but out through pursed lips. You can change the shape of your mouth to change the sound.
“Hum, chant, tone, whistle, sing. It’s all part of Breathwork,” said Brule.
Use your imagination
As your breathing progresses along these steps, visualise you are sucking in love and light as you inhale. The love and light should flow around your body.
“This light and love is nourishing, cleansing, renewing, soothing, and strengthening you. Imagine breathing this love and light through your heart and out to the world as you exhale. Imagine this light and love touching and blessing and uplifting everyone and everything in your life,” said Brule.
Graduate to rebirth breathing – a technique with lots of alternate names, such as conscious energy breathing, connected breathing or circular breathing.
The aim is to merge breathing in with breathing out in a continuous, unbroken movement without any pauses between the two.
Benefits of Breathwork
The experts grounded in science deny Breathwork has any real measurable benefits, but wellbeing is not always measurable but a better physical and mental state.
Brule points out that Breathwork is not only recommended but practiced by New Age, holistic and alternative healers and experts.
Online, Brule explains the benefits of Breathwork as he sees them in an introduction to the topic.
“We use Breathwork to focus and to direct our energy. We use it to fuel gentle and loving behaviours, creative and productive actions. We use Breathwork to generate luminous thoughts, ecstatic emotions, or to simply feel comfort and pleasure,” he said.
“You can use Breathwork to dissolve tension and pain, or to reduce anxiety and stress. Breathwork fuels your passion and helps you to change your behaviour. Breathwork is used to enhance sexual pleasure, and to recover from sexual abuse.
Power and control
“Breathwork can be used to warm you up or cool you off. It can be used to wake you up or calm you down. Breathwork is used in health and fitness, in sports, the martial arts, and the creative and performing arts. It is used in bodywork, psychotherapy, meditation and spiritual practice.
Its possible to build up extreme cold tolerance following the Wim Hof Method breathing exercises for example. Wim also used his technique to run a marathon in a desert without water. The WHM proves breath work can be used to increase warmth and also cool your body.
“If you are an artist, Breathwork will inspire you. If you are a healer, Breathwork will give you more power. Whether you are a business woman, a policeman, a politician, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher: Breathwork will make you more effective. It is not an exaggeration to say that breath awareness and conscious breathing can enhance anything you do, and it can support and empower practically everything about you.”
Brule also explains that Breathwork awakens the body’s natural healing and creative powers.
“Breathwork awakens heart intelligence and body intelligence. The practice connects us and aligns us with our source and with our purpose. It fuels our grand desires and helps us to manifest our heart’s deepest intentions. And for many people, it makes certain drugs and medical procedures unnecessary. It also puts a lot of therapists out of business,” he said.
Feel your body and soul
“The physiological effects of conscious breathing techniques are unarguable. And Breathwork allows us to manage our emotional and psychological states. Breathwork opens us to a rich and deep inner world. It helps us to access our unconscious mind, and it connects us to each other, and to the world around us in a direct and powerful way.
“When you become more conscious of your breathing, you become more conscious of everything: your body and mind, your thoughts and feelings, and those of others; and it brings to light your unconscious habits and patterns.
“When you take control of your breathing, you take control of yourself, your awareness and your energy. With it you can determine your results and your outcomes in life. Breathwork is nothing short of transformational! In fact, it ultimately leads us all to spiritual awakening, spiritual enlightenment, and spiritual liberation.”
How much does Breathwork cost?
The cost of taking up and practising Breathwork depends on you and how far you want to go with the wellbeing lifestyle – while studying to become a practitioner could take your breath away.
Besides a range of books written by Brule, his web site offers taking up Breathwork as an individual as three packages – an online Fundamentals course with 9.5 hours of training , guided breathing meditations, breathing exercises and a manual – costing $267.
You can add another five hours of ‘advanced material’ covering consciousness and circular breathing for another $99 or you can buy the two packages as a bundle for $333.
“When you learn these fundamentals, you will have the secret code to make sense of all the other ancient breathing traditions and methods,” says Brule on the web site.
“”Breathwork has proven to be the next major key skillset that high performing people and everyone else need to have.
“This course is a short cut to all the knowledge that the ancient masters, warriors, mystics, saints, and gurus spent decades in caves, ashrams, and on the battlefield to learn.”
Leaving you breathless
If you want to take Brule’s Breathwork further and become a practitioner and instructor, you can apply to join a year-long course that costs $4,500.
The application includes sending an up-to-date photograph and completing two essays. One is titled ‘What Breathwork means to me or why do I want to be a Breathworker’ and the other is a description of your experience with Breathwork and details of your most significant session.
Successful students gain an International Breathwork Practitioner Certificate.
For those that found $4,500 a bit steep as a course fee, the next level will leave them breathless.
For $60,000, Brule promises to take high performing Breathworkers onwards and upwards with elite training designed to unlock their inner potential.
“Breath Mastery Elite Personal Coaching is for those serious about learning what all the greats of our past and present are doing to maximize their abilities today, right now, minute to minute,” says the online sales pitch.
Dan Brule – Crank or guru?
Dan Brule seems a likeable, hard-working guy and has an innate belief that his take on Breathwork genuinely helps thousands of people feel better and live a happier life.
Can he quantify that with scientific data that proves the worth of Breathwork? No, he can’t because there is none.
You could take the view that alternative therapies do not have a lot going for them – including Breathwork.
The training is expensive, anyone taking part must have faith in the person dispensing the knowledge and must believe untapped, unknown forces make them work. A cynic would say that’s because they don’t work and make no sense.
But if it works for you, then go for it if you keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Find out more about Dan Brule and Breathwork
Brule on Facebook
Breath Mastery, the Dan Brule web site
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