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Using Breathwork in Addiction Recovery

A group of people lying down on the floor while doing breathing exercises

When you begin recovery from an addiction, it can be challenging to learn how to manage your emotional, psychological, or physical pain in new ways. That’s where breathwork in addiction recovery comes in. It can help you learn to manage stressful situations healthily.

Understanding Breathwork 

Breathwork is a therapy that uses breath practices to clear mental, physical, and spiritual blocks or stressors. Simply put, it involves intentionally changing your breathing pattern. 

There are many benefits of using breathwork in addiction recovery that you should consider when deciding which treatment program is right for you. Breathwork helps you connect with your thoughts and feelings. It can give you insight into your life and choices, enabling you to cope and helping you make a full, lasting recovery.

Benefits of breathwork include:

  • Releasing Repressed Emotions. Breathwork helps distract your brain long enough for you to relax, possibly for the first time in a while. It can help to quiet those constantly churning thoughts that make you feel anxious and can help you release blocked feelings and emotions. Breathwork in addiction recovery can help you become more connected with yourself. 
  • Easing Depression. Breathwork therapy can create hormonal changes to help you feel better. It can help stimulate the deep breathing that happens through cardiovascular exercise. 
  • Reducing Grief. Many people have difficulty expressing their emotions surrounding loss, whether it be a loved one, pet, job, or treasured item. Breathwork therapy can help you healthily cope with loss and grief. 
  • Boosting Immunity. Breathwork therapy can help you increase your immune system’s response to outside illnesses.

A redhead woman in lotus posture taking deep breath while meditating in a dark gym

Breathwork Practices

There are many types of breathwork therapists use to help people. Each method has various benefits.

Types of breathwork include:

  • Holotropic. This type of breathwork encourages continuous circular breathing. It uses various techniques such as hyperventilation, a kind of intensified breathing, group process, music that evokes emotion, focused bodywork, and expressive drawing.
    • Rebirthing. Also called “Conscious Energy Breathing,” rebirthing breathwork considers unprocessed or repressed emotions having a physical impact on your body. A facilitator guides you in circular breaths and helps you through any resulting emotional and physical responses.
  • Shamanic. Known as “Pranayama” in yoga, shamanic breathwork is the process of controlling your breath through meditative exercise. 
  • Vivation. This meditation method relies on a set of guiding principles referred to as the “five elements,” which include circular breathing, complete relaxation, and awareness of detail.
  • Transformational Breath. In this method, a facilitator observes your breath to see where it’s held, along with where you might have blockages. They may use gentle hands-on techniques, body adjustment, sound techniques, and positive affirmations to open up any blockages. 
  • Clarity. Before a clarity breathwork session, you have an interview or counseling session with a facilitator to set intentions. This method focuses on circular breathing and ends with time for sharing.

Using Breathwork in Addiction Recovery

At Integrative Life Center, we use Carol Lampman’s approach to breathwork therapy. It combines eastern practices focused on breath, like yoga, with body-centered western psychotherapy practices. This method of breathwork therapy focuses on healing at the root level, with breathing that is intentional, conscious, connected, and continuous.

With trauma and substance use disorder, cognitive therapy helps people change how they view themselves. Somatic work such as breathwork helps someone in recovery reconnect with the body.

When someone experiences trauma, the body reacts by restriction and constricts. The breath shuts down, impacting your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your fight or flight instincts. You learn to protect yourself by suppressing your emotions, tensing your muscles, and restricting breath when this happens. It’s not uncommon for people to start treatment with constricted bodies that don’t know how to really breathe. Breathwork brings the body to life again.

Before breathwork therapy begins, you may experience neurons firing in the brain that cause your body to remember the trauma. A facilitator will help guide you through this and remind you that you’re safe. For those in addiction recovery, it can help you to stay grounded by breathing through the experience. With time and practice, you may find that you focus on your breath rather than focusing on the emotional disturbance.

Breathwork regulates the flow of oxygen to the brain. Slow, controlled breathing prompts a parasympathetic response, releasing calm and happy emotions. Rapid breathing stimulates the sympathetic response, which your body associates with stress. Breathwork in addiction recovery teaches various breathing techniques to regulate involuntary and unconscious responses.

How Integrative Life Center Can Help

When you or a loved one are recovering from addiction, you want to reduce or eliminate as much stress as possible. Breathwork therapy at Integrative Life Center can aid in recovery by reducing stress, calming the mind, and blocking repressed feelings and emotions. It can help you make healthy, conscious choices on your road to recovery. If you or a loved one experienced trauma or addiction and would like to learn more about our programs, please contact ILC today. 

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