Holotropic breathwork compared to trauma releasing exercises

I finally did holotropic breathwork yesterday evening with Patrice. It’s also known as rebirthing, since if you do it enough times, apparently you get back to, and release the trauma from, your birth experience.

I had no sense of time, memory, or when I acquired the energies I released. But release I most certainly did.

Patrice was a great coach. I didn’t know what to expect as she had me start exhaling through my mouth, then after a bit, adding inhalations through my mouth. (Both of these are such a no-no in yoga!)

She told me what I might expect (shouting, shaking, crying, coughing, all forms of physical/emotional release) and made it all sound perfectly okay to experience whatever came up for me. She helped me feel that it was safe to surrender.

She warned me not to fall asleep — that some people do that as a way to escape their emotions.

She did not have to worry about that!

Patrice had put a few needles in key points, including LI4 (associated with the ego and being grounded), and at various times, she moved her hands on my body to support the energy flow. She may have also done some medical qi gong (like reiki) on me. I wasn’t paying that much attention to her after a while…

Then we sped up the breathing. And nothing happened. The exhales were supposed to have a “ha!” sound to them, and after about 5 minutes of this, I started laughing. My ha! ha! ha!s became hahahahahaha’s. She laughed with me.

‘Cause, you know, it was totally ridiculous to be doing this! Ridiculously funny and silly and wonderful!

Then I coughed a little and that felt good so I coughed some more. Patrice helped me sit up on the table. Then I started roaring… It was like some energy was coming up from my stomach out my mouth, and it was fierce and loud, and I got red in the face several times as it just kept coming up and out of me.

And then my eyes started tearing and water gathered in my mouth, and I thought I was going to throw up. Patrice got a wastebasket.

And you know what? I never did, and she  told me later she knew that I wouldn’t. But I didn’t know that. I was vomiting something. It felt real. It just wasn’t food. It was some nasty energy that had been inside of me, now coming out.  Then that urge was over.

I laid back down. More of the ha ha ha. Faster! Sharper!

My legs soon wanted to move. Soon they were shaking involuntarily, much like in David Berceli’s trauma releasing exercises, except that my legs were straight with just a little support under my knees, instead of with my knees bent. My left hand also shook, but not my right — just like when I do the trauma releasing exercises.

I went through cycle after cycle of leg shaking. I even repeatedly kicked something out of my body (which I never do with TRE), then went back to leg shaking. The kicking seemed to be removing something energetic from my sacrum, which (if you know me or have been reading this blog regularly) is where some ancient issues have been residing in my body.

After awhile, I slowed down on the ha’s, drawing them out, making them long, and at the beginning of each exhalation, my legs would start quivering, and by the end of the exhalation, they were nearly still.

Winding down… At the end, Patrice was just rubbing my belly gently. I laid there, getting more and more still, feeling the surge of electrical energy in my body, just like after TRE.

Patrice said later that I was putting out so much heat, she had to open the door and let some cool air in. I was totally unaware of that.

I feel so grateful that I had the core strength and the stamina to stay with the process all the way through. Thank you, yoga!

So… to compare holotropic breathwork to David Berceli’s trauma releasing exercises from his book The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process

The holotropic breathwork overuses the diaphragm, the breathing muscle. The trauma releasing exercises overuse the leg and hip muscles. With both, you deliberately create a state of overload or stress in the body, and the release brings up deeper stuff.

The trauma releasing exercises don’t include noise. I liked being noisy. But you can do the TREs in a hotel room and/or alone, so there you have it. Make noise if it works for you! There’s a place for them both.

The holotropic breathwork should definitely be done with a guide present, because you could get so wild, you might hurt yourself. (Apparently people do this in groups. That must be quite an experience!)

You can do the trauma releasing exercises alone, without a guide. At least, I’m guessing most of us can. For someone who’s recently been traumatized, it is probably best to have a guide present.

So, having heard of holotropic breathwork but not knowing what it is before doing it, this was my experience. And afterwards, Patrice gave me a compliment — that I went through a nice range of emotions.

I liked it. I want to do it again.

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About Mary Ann Reynolds

Blogging about body, mind, heart, spirit, and well-being at The Well: bodymindheartspirit. Offering bodywork and changework, specializing in Ashiatsu barefoot massage and craniosacral therapy. Also a former Truth Be Told board member now serving as a volunteer editor for the Truth Be Told Community blog, serving women behind and beyond bars.
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10 Responses to Holotropic breathwork compared to trauma releasing exercises

  1. Ben Ralston says:

    Nice article. Very interesting…
    I’ve never done rebirthing (which is how I’ve always known it), but I’ve heard only good things about it.
    My concern is that ‘stuff’ doesn’t get released on a deep enough level – that the body releases it, but the subconscious patterns and blockages (that are the real cause) remain, and thus the cycle may inevitably continue. However, I really ought to give it a go before making comments like that!
    With love, Ben

    • mareynolds says:

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you, Ben. Thanks. Yes, it’s not that hard but good to have someone experienced there your first time. I agree it can be difficult often to even perceive, much less release, subconscious patterns and blockages. All I can do is to keep meditating and being aware, keep doing yoga, keep being open to methods like rebirthing and trauma release exercises. And if you come across something that brings deep release, I really want to hear about it!

  2. alara says:

    I’ve done a couple of TRE exercises (on my own) and had similar experiences as you had with holotropic breathwork.

    Even if you start with trembling the legs, your body may take the trembling to other parts of your body, in my case it went after a few times TRE to my neck and face, where I have a lot of tension. I also had the experience during a TRE session of feeling sick to my stomach that I felt like I had to vomit, but I was also getting out some nasty energy of the stomach. I also make noises and sounds sometimes..

    • mareynolds says:

      Alara, thank you so much for sharing your experience! It seems each person responds a bit differently. It’s good to collect the stories! Keep on doing it, and feel free to share here.

  3. RichP says:

    Hi Mary, great blog.

    Have been searching for others’ personal experiences with TRE as there doesnt seem to be much online. Have been doing it myself for a couple of months, I’ll share my experiences here for the benefit of anyone interested:

    -Significant decrease in anxiousness and uptightness when the shaking finally “came in” to my torso consistently – significant and deeper than EFT, meditation, Open Focus, anything else I’ve tried – truly felt like “coming home”

    -Legs shake and then it moves into my pelvis and torso and stays there for the duration – shaking and a sort of energetic impulse/discharge come “through” me in waves of varying intensity

    -Strained neck due to doing TRE on mattress and bouncing all over the place!(definitely do the lying down exercise on the floor only)

    -Tension and uptightness returned about a week after ceasing TRE due to neck strain – was hoping it would be a permanent release, but its perhaps not as simple as that

    -Upon restarting, Body “holds back” if I’m not feeling safe and comfortable – had a frustrating 2 weeks after the neck strain where I was holding back and not allowing the energy to “come through” properly during TRE

    -Seem to have now softened and begun to allow it back through, and am now feeling that lasting content, groundedness + vivid dreams after TRE sessions

    Maybe thats interesting to you or others! I’m keen to hear you progress with it. I’ve personally been on the lookout for something that “gets to the core of things” and TRE feels like it’s the closest I’ve found so far.

  4. Martie says:

    What a nice informative site you have!
    It is always exciting and interesting to read about the opinions and experiences others have found with TRE and other similar therapies.

    Holotropic breathing (rebirthing) is topic that have been of great interest to me. Sadly I don’t know of many therapists in South Africa, and even fewer in my area, KZN.

    I first heard about TRE last year Sept. Since then I have bought the book “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process: Transcend Your Toughest Times” by David Bercili; spend hours and weeks on the internet reading up as much as I can (actually the info is few and far between and quite hard to find!). I have met up with other people who have done the course, and we have swapped some stories and experiences. I would like to learn as much as I can about this process ;-). Sadly I think the course prices are way over priced (for my budget anyway), so I am going the DIY route.
    I have done the TRE about 5 times last year, and have only just restarted the exercises this year. I now intend to do TRE at least 3 times a week. So far I feel that I am calmer and more centered, and sleep sooo much better, yay.

    • Martie, thank you SO MUCH for commenting! I’m happy to hear about your DIY route with TRE. Me too! I don’t know if you saw my blog post yesterday about the Chronic Stress and Trauma Recovery Challenge, which starts Feb. 2, but I (and many others, I’m sure) would LOVE to read your comments here about your experience. You are so right — the info is few and far between and quite hard to find! To remedy that, we’ll be adding info about our personal experiences with TRE to that body of knowledge in one place, this blog, which many people have found by searching on the term “trauma releasing exercises” and similar terms. I look forward to hearing from you again, Martie.

  5. Martie says:

    How are you doing with the Temors, MaryAnn?
    I have slowed down quite a bit…haven’t done anything for 3 weeks now. I think I have lost a bit of motivation, since I really battle to get any tremors started, and when I do, it doesn’t amount to much…seems like a lot of effort, for not much results. (in my case any way. )
    Hope you are doing well. I’ve just had a look at your other blog stories…so nice to read about thanks. By the way, would you recommend ‘The 4 hour body’ book? And ‘The Buddha’s Brain’ ?
    Blessing
    Martie
    xx

  6. Hi again, Martie! I responded to your other comment about TRE. I have faith that if you continue to do these exercises, you will have some really worthwhile release through trembling. I just don’t know when. But don’t press yourself, please.

    I highly recommend reading Buddha’s Brain. It’s a great book full of information and insight about the brain and the mind, and it includes an appendix that recommends supplements for optimum brain health. It’s written by a neuropsychologist who also teaches meditation, and it’s fairly easy to understand without a lot of scientific traing.

    The 4-Hour Body is a big thick book that is taking me awhile to read. It’s not meant to be read cover to cover, yet that’s how I’m reading it. I recommend it too. It’s written by a man who’s obsessed with various aspects of health and fitness, including weight loss, building muscle, sex, and recovery from injury. He had the time and money to seek top advice and treatment, and he shares that information. Occasionally it’s over my head, but it’s pretty accessible for nonscientists.

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