Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • May 2016
Written by 

The importance of breath for all ages

Children use it to help get relief from the hiccups. Women in labor use it to reduce the pain experience of delivery. Others use it to bring focus to their meditation or prayer experience. As a matter of fact, there is no one who doesn’t use it as they go through their everyday life. What is the it we are talking about? Our breath! If you have ever had the wind knocked out of you, had an asthma attack, an allergy response, or experienced any other situation where your breathing was disrupted, you are very aware that your breath is critical to your very survival. But how many of us are aware that trauma relief, stress reduction and emotional healing can be achieved just by concentrating on our breathing while focusing on our somatic, body responses?

Conscious connected breathing, sometimes called breathwork, is a process of directing our breathing so that the inhale and the exhale are connected without any pauses. This breathing process moves our breathing from shallow, short breaths to the deep full breaths of diaphragmatic breathing. Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., author of Conscious Breathing, suggests that to see healthy diaphragmatic breathing we should watch a baby breathe. “The chest moves somewhat, but the primary movement is below the diaphragm.” As the baby inhales its belly expands and during the exhale it flattens out. That is why diaphragmatic breathing is sometimes called belly breathing.

So, how is it that this type of breathing can release traumas, reduce stress, and provide emotional healing? To understand the “how,” it is helpful to remember that like other animals when humans are startled we are wired to have survival instincts take over. When we go through traumatic and stressful events as children or adults, the primal hardwiring to hold our breath kicks in. Unfortunately, this is the equivalent of physically sealing the memories, beliefs, pain or distress into our body at a cellular level as an imprinted memory. Years later we are not even aware that the responses that once helped us survive are now negatively influencing our daily life. By using breathwork we reconnect with our full natural breath and by doing so can reconnect to the old, suppressed feelings facilitating the healing process.

I explain the method to my clients like this: the breathing is done through your mouth. The inhale and exhale are connected with no pause in between. Imagine yourself breathing in an oval beginning at the pelvis and drawing the air up your back and into your throat. Then exhale without a pause allowing your breath to roll out of your mouth, down the front of your body and back through your pelvis. By thinking of an oval there is a rounding out of the top and bottom of the breath so that the action is smooth and rhythmic. After finding a comfortable pattern, the conscious connected breathing becomes the key that unlocks cells. Once again with a focus on the breathing clients are invited to use their breath like a scan, scanning their body so that it becomes their road map as to what residual trauma or stress is ready to be processed and released.

As a therapist I find that integrating breathwork into brainspotting, EMDR, mindfulness, and traditional talk therapy enriches and builds success into a client’s therapy experience. The technique can be used at different stages of emotional processing to facilitate a connection to a false belief, heal from traumatic events, or release heavy emotions that might otherwise be flying under the client’s radar negatively influencing their present life.

Besides being an effective addition to therapy, here are a few reasons Hendricks names as reasons for everyone to be more aware of their breathing and make the effort to practice conscious connected breathing. It reduces stress and tension, builds energy and endurance, supports emotional balance, can prevent and help heal physical problems, contributes to graceful aging, aides in managing pain (remember Lamaze), enhances mental concentration and physical performance, and can facilitate meditation and prayer. Improving our breathing is a very practical way to improve many areas of our lives. To get started find a comfortable position, place your hands gently on your abdomen, and inhale through your mouth. Be sure your hands rise up as they are on your abdomen (your abdomen should expand on the inhale) as you exhale through your mouth your abdomen flattens out. Repeat the oval cycle. Doing ten breathing cycles several times a day is a good way to start.

Hendricks had it right when he noted that focused breathing has the power to enhance our lives and the best part is that it is free for the asking.

Sharon Paprocki MAC, LPC, NBCC

Sharon Paprocki MAC, LPC, NBCC, is the director of CCM Counseling & Wellness. Her passion is to provide people an option for their healing that includes talk therapy along with additional interventions that focus on mind, spirit, and body wholeness and vitality. She truly believes that this holistic combination allows her clients to explore and engage all their strengths while healing, changing and growing. She has additional training in body-centered approaches to healing, mindfulness processing and spiritual exploration therapies that clients can opt to investigate during their sessions. As director of CCM, she has brought on staff Reiki, reflexology and massage practitioners who can give clients the opportunity to support themselves and embrace their emerging life of wholeness.

“I believe your hurts can be healed and new insights can light your path to the future you desire. I look forward to meeting you.”

For an appointment, call 920-498-3383 or visit

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