NWL Tries Breathwork

It all started when Raed slid into my DMs at the beginning of April. He told me he would love to host me for a meditation at one of his upcoming pop-ups. I responded in usually NWL // over-analyzer fashion asking for more info via email. We move to email, go back and forth on a few dates — it’s now May — and finally get it together for me to come to a Thursday evening session (Raed always leads the Thursday ones).

By this time, I’d been on a fab date with a certain boy and decided to ask if he was into meditation. He said yeah he Headspace-d from time to time. I said great, come to this with me. And so he did. What I didn’t realize was that it was a full on breathwork class…aka extremely different from a meditation session and could have gone not so great. LUCKILY it was well received and we’ve been back since. In fact we’re pretty much hooked. Anyways, back to the story.

We met Raed and his partner Peter, took our shoes off, and proceeded to get comfy on the dare I say cozy yoga mats equipped with a plushy bolster and fuzzy blankey. The room was set up like a typical yoga class. Rows of mats with a “stage” area if you will that housed sound bath instruments and a seating area for the leader of our journey. He did a quick intro, taught us the breathe motion, and told us to fist bump our mat mate and lay down. It was at that point I really realized we were not just going to be meditating — he was talking about convulsions and lobster claw hand. Thank goodness I’m not one to be turned off by the weird // crazy, in fact I embrace it, but it was definitely not the evening I expected. Spoiler alert, it was MUCH better.

The class was made up of two components. The first was a 30 minute breath work session set to music, led by Raed. This meant everyone was breathing (or at least was supposed to be) in unison. Though, there definitely were some people doing their own thing (my type A self cringed at this, but I slowly let go as I quite literally got outside of my body), but the energy in the room was strong. It took me a song or two to get my footing — or shall I say get my breathing — but after I got a hold of the rhythm and figured out how to breath into my chest a bit better post belly breath, the tingle began. It started in my extremities and then worked it’s way throughout my entire body. I could particularly feel it around my lymph nodes, around my cheek area, and in my pelvic region.

Let me back track to set the tone for my experience a bit better. Before we started out chest, belly, exhale breathing, we did some simple in-out through the nose to gain awareness and calm our minds. As I was doing this — I brought in a practice that I learned at an anxiety workshop at spirit rock. I visualized a loud version of a color (I usually choose orange because it’s my favorite color) going in my nose as I inhale and then a quieter, muted version of that color going out as I exhale. This gives me a clear visual for my breath that makes it easier for me to focus then say feeling the hairs move on the inside of my nose. It also set my brain up for some serious visual sensations throughout the session. I felt like I was seeing my aura around me and it was shifting as the journey progressed.

What I’m going to guess was halfway through the session. One of the songs slowed the pace. It gave myself a chance for my mind to catch up with my body // or actually more like get back in my body from seeing myself from outside of it and I thought WOW I could use a good scream right about now. Moments later, I kid you not, Raed says okay I want you all to let our a primal noise. FUCK YES. I could have done it two or three times. The release felt amazing. The same morning, I had actually gone to a kundalini class (more in depth experiences in this respect coming in writing soon), but for three minutes of the class, we were to close our eyes and move unlike we’ve ever moved before. We were to blindly dance it out to a chant. While it took my body a little while to get into the flow and release (to be totally honest, I didn’t get completely there and I hope we do it again soon), once I got out of my head about it — it felt really good. That said, the scream release felt 100x better. I’m not sure if it was that I was more relaxed so wasn’t thinking twice, or maybe that I already felt the urge to do it so went for it, or that there were more people in the room (there were only 4 people in the kundalini class + the instructor), or maybe that verbal vs physical release just comes more easily to me. The last point there makes me think that I really do need to work on my physical release…could be my type A // perfectionist showing. I need to drop it.

After the scream, we went right into the breathwork again and then closed with a 15-20 minute sound bath meditation. Historically, I’m not one to love a sound bath. I can’t focus, I get distracted, and I’m usually freezing. I did get cold about 1/4 of the way through, but luckily thought ahead and brought a knee length parka. I have to figure out how to bundle up without getting too hot during the breathwork so that I’m warm enough during the sound bath to soak it in without moving. Moving definitely took me out of the tingle zone a bit and I wish I could have stayed deep in it a little longer.

During the session (unsure if it was the breathwork or sound bath component — it’s a blur), there were some funny noises and convulsions happening. One guy straight up sounded like he was going through an exorcism. This is all totally normal // if you go to one be prepared // your leader will let you know what could possibly go down. I myself didn’t have a loud external release, nor did I have an emotional one (though I’m hoping for one next time!), generally I experience things in a quiet, internal way by nature. So it’s not surprising to me that my journal was more spiritual than viscerally emotional — i.e. seeing colors, my aura, energy in the room, and having out of body experiences. I also didn’t experience “lobster claws.” Though the boy I took with me apparently did big time. What do lobster claws mean you ask? The hands cramp into a lobster claw type shape and you literally can’t release. After doing some digging, I found that the real term for this is “tetany” and there is a scientific reason this happens, though the woowoo side of things might explain it as stuck energy manifesting itself in the physical body and our reaction is to attempt to control (honestly I buy it, but that’s just me). From a western perspective, here’s what goes down — during breathwork CO2 decreases in the body. This lowers magnesium, potassium, and cellular calcium and also increases the ph of the blood. This causes the tingling and in some case intense cramping and lobstery hands!

So if you’re like me you’re thinking okay this sounds amazing, but what are the actually benefits besides the experience of it all? GOOD QUESTION. Here’s what I was able to come up with after asking Peter at openherenow a million and one questions post breathwork session and by doing some googling:

  • similar benefits to a meditation session, meaning it can —

    • reduce stress and anxiety

    • allow you to access buried emotion and past traumas leading you to be able to release them

    • help you move from using the sympathetic nervous system to the the parasympathetic (aka get you out of fight or flight mode)

    • aids in self exploration

  • a lot of the benefits found online are a little woo woo and Peter was very keen on approaching it from a purely study based standpoint, but you know me we go woo woo, so here we go. On the mind, body, spirit side of things breathwork can —

    • allow you to reach an altered state of consciousness // higher state // vibe

    • find clarity in personal issues

    • grant you the ability to move beyond the ego and connect with your truest self

    • literally gives you a high

If this sounds at all interesting to you I highly recommend you give it a go. It’s such an experience and something I look forward to every week now!