Cathartic style breathwork


Breathwork has been around since the beginning of man developing systems to feel happier, improve health and be more connected to the universe.

In the last 5 decades Breathwork has evolved to a whole new level, and been developed into the art & science that we know as Rebirthing Breathwork or the more ‘Cathartic’ style originally called Holotropic Breathwork. Thanks to the explorations of Leonard Orr, an American spiritual disciple and Stanislav Groff, a Czechoslovakian Doctor of psychotherapy, we have been given the greatest psychotherapeutic discovery since the distinction was made between the conscious and the unconscious motivating layers of the mind.

I am writing this article with the aim to raise awareness of why we refer to  ‘Breathwork’ as the future of therapy. People educated and exposed to this style of Breathwork  may find the missing element in their attempts to rid themselves of unwanted Depression, Anxiety and other deeply trapped emotion caused ailments such as  relationship issues, self worth issues and physical ailments that have an emotional foundation.

Not all styles of Breathwork are the same. What the ever growing community of Breathwork facilitators around the world view as Breathwork is often different to what your average yoga, meditation, Chi Quong or psychotherapy practitioners may view as breathwork.

The main distinction the traditional Breathwork facilitators agree upon is that a ‘Breathwork’ session is based upon an ‘emotional energy cycle’ completing through a ‘connected breathing  technique’ of breath control. That is, the inhale is connected with the exhale and the exhale connected with the inhale. No gap between the two. A continuous breath results. It is often viewed that this continuous connected breath results in what most spiritual and therapy disciplines are trying to achieve, the connection between inner and outer consciousness, the merging of the conscious and the unconscious mind.

The ‘Emotional Energy Cycle’(EEC) length can differ though. The EEC is the cycle of an emotional pocket in the unconscious being penetrated and discharged  thoroughly .The length of the EEC combined with wether it is nasal or mouth breathing, and whether it is a gentle or energetic breathing style drastically differs the results of a session. The EEC can take approximately 1 hour for ‘Rebirthing  Breathwork’ to up to 3 hours for  ‘Holotropic  Breathwork.

The merging of conscious and unconscious is what genuinely results. The near magical quality of this style of breathing, results in the 1st session onwards, a breaking down of  the barrier between the conscious and unconscious mind, and results in the client experiencing  unconscious ‘emotional  level memories’ coming to the surface.

I want to emphasise the ‘Emotional Level Memory’. Mental level memory recall is nothing new or special. Hypnotherapy and other effective psychotherapeutic ‘regression’ techniques are very capable of facilitating a person remember long forgotten about or ‘repressed’ events. This style of Breathwork enables people to access the ‘emotional level memory’, the emotional aspect of past incidents . The actual deeply buried, traumatic  emotional  aspect of an experience that may  not ever  be accessed through other means.  Emotions from as early as the womb, birth and infancy, let alone childhood periods. It is the feeling of these emotions , not analysing mental level memories, that results in deep healing and change relatively quickly.

In your average session some people release anger and rage, which are some of the main foundations of relationship issues and self sabotage. For anger is a very powerful energy that can only do one of two things, either it goes outwards, is expressed and leaves the system. Alternatively it is turned inwards, becoming self directed anger & rage which is the true cause of self sabotage of one’s life. I am not talking about reactive anger we experience whilst driving or with our partner for example, I am talking about the real reason we carry anger, which present day situations and people trigger off   in us. Just because a person is comfortable to express their anger at home does not mean they are healing the real cause of their anger. It usually means the total opposite, as we are never really angry about what we consciously think that we are angry about! It is usually an earlier childhood or school period disempowerment getting ‘re-triggered ’ that is an adults genuine cause of anger. At  times  the anger is a ‘cover up’ of deep hurt/ grief. Some people on the other hand have their anger buried so deeply that they do not experience it as the ‘raw emotional energy’ of anger. These people will be so out of touch with their emotions that they will experience only the ‘mental  level symptoms’ of anger which are having critical thoughts of others and themselves, making people and themselves wrong or judging harshly and fantasies of arguments with people who they feel wronged by or who they have not communicated their truth to. Some people will not even be aware of that level and will simply experience the very end result of holding onto anger which is lack of energy, personal power, motivation and inspiration to do things. This is because buried anger is such a massive amount of our life-force trapped, they have very little energy left with which to ‘truly live’.

Some people release built up grief. Which is one of the main foundations of Depression  and  all ‘Self Worth’ issues we suffer from.  People do not realize that the grief they hold in, are not even aware that they are holding onto, is the early life ‘heart wounding’ that is at the foundation of ‘Self Worth’ orientated issues.  Issues   with abundance, feeling joy & happiness within oneself, letting in supportive and nurturing relationships, feeling good about oneself and so forth. These are all grief / ‘heart wounding’ orientated issues at the end of the day.                                                                           To heal self worth issues most people need to heal their ‘heart wounding’ issues, and the main way to do this is to let themselves  grieve.  Some people will have their grief buried so deeply they will only be aware of the ‘surface level symptoms’ of grief. Lack of energy, tiredness, insomnia and hypersomnia, sinus issues, alcohol and ‘depressant drug’ addictions such as tranquilizers and marijuana, feeling generally ‘negative’ and pessimistic about life and money issues – for a heart closed off by grief to receiving the abundance currency of  love, is a heart closed off to receiving other abundance currencies such as money.

Some people experience intense fear and terror which is one of the real foundations of anxiety. All of the anxiety symptoms we suffer from are a result of the ‘fight or flight’ response being kicked in. Hyper vigilance, sweating, on edge feelings, heart palpitations, lack of restful sleep and so forth, are all reactions that our primal defence system has kicked in because it ‘senses danger or something that is a threat/unpleasant’ around the corner. It is fear of our emotions themselves and the fear itself that triggers this ‘fight or flight’ response. Deal with the fear and fear of emotions and the mechanism rests. No more anxiety symptoms. No need for medication or long term therapy. Just a need to let ourselves  in on our deeper emotions. The thing we try to avoid like the plague, and as a result try and find a ‘simple overnight’ solution or blame our anxiety ( or depression) on some ‘mysterious’ unknown cause and choose a lifestyle of medication, avoidance and mental ‘illness’.

The problem, unfortunately though, has been that since people have not had access to the ‘defence displacement technique’ that  ‘Cathartic  Style  Breathwork’ is, people have not had a direct experience of their unconscious ’emotional level memory’. Hence they are not aware of having any unconscious emotional pain that they are holding onto. Countless people have been in traditional therapy for a 1 -2 decades and have not been able to get past the defences that stop them from feeling the pain. Therapy is not supposed to take that long.

I had a client at one stage who spent years and thousands of dollars on various treatments, therapies and workshops. This client came in with the issue of not being able to ‘manage’ his anger and also not being able to have a healthy long term relationship. This client told me how he regularly experienced intense anger at people on the footpath who did not ‘respect’ his space, or move out of his way. He also had the same degree of anger triggered whilst driving and people ‘cutting’ in front of him. When I asked about his relationship with his mum, he spoke of a ‘great’ relationship with her with a few frustrations here and there, nothing out of the ordinary. It took only a few sessions to uncover how he actually experienced his mum as ‘smothering’ and overprotective and how he wanted to push her away in anger when he was young because she did not ‘respect his space’ and give him ‘room to move’ and be himself. The anger released from him was very strong. Whilst the anger was leaving him gradually, so too was his reaction to people not giving him space on the roads and footpaths. The first part of his issues was dealt  with  quickly. Then the next part opened up with the discovery that because of his deeper mum issue  not being dealt with and him wanting unconsciously to angrily push her away to have ‘space’, he had been unconsciously pushing potential adult partners away in fear of being smothered and not having space.

This is the power of the unconscious defence barriers between conscious and unconscious. Years of mental level, talking-style-therapy and seminar style workshops could not resolve what a few sessions of feeling pent up, deeply buried emotions accomplished. Our ‘denial mechanism’ is a very powerful mechanism. He told me what he told dozens for therapists before, what he had been telling himself forever, that his relationship with his mum was great and there were no real undealt with issues with her. How many people do you know view their childhood through such ‘rosy coloured spectacles’ and suffer from a major emotional disorder such as depression, anxiety or anger issues? Let’s face it, nearly all of us because if you are human you have the same unconscious denial mechanism.

This is why we are viewing this as the future of therapy. Healing of issues does not lay in analysis and using your mind to ‘managing or control’ surface level symptoms. Real resolution lays in dealing with the root cause once and for all. This style of Breathwork results in us ‘displacing’ the defence barriers that stop us from feeling, hence releasing ‘emotional level memory’. Mental level memory can be accessed through hypnosis and ‘effective’ psychotherapy. We are though talking about the ‘Emotional level memory’, very different to simply remembering. Emotional level memory means we are able to ‘remember’ the emotions and re-experience them, hence heal them.

An  example of the importance of ‘Emotional Level Memory’ regression is when a woman  was suffering from marriage issues that were causing her immense stress and drastically affecting the quality of her life. She had constantly felt not emotionally supported by her husband, often got ‘frustrated’ with him and their sex life was suffering. She told me of working on herself for the last 2 decades and working on her marriage for many years. She informed me that through the previous  therapy she discovered she felt ‘not good enough’ for her father  when she was young and felt not nurtured enough by her mother, so experienced ‘disconnection’ with her. She told me she had ‘forgiven’ them both and understood they did the best they could and had a good relationship with them now.  She could not understand why she still had so many issues in her marriage, especially as it started very well and she felt now she ‘deserved’ happiness after all her inner work. In the first session she went back to a womb memory where she remembered ‘sensing’ her father wanting a son (a boy that she was not). As a result the mis-interpretation of not being wanted and the grief that came with this, became trapped in her system even as a featus. She decided that  to be loved by dad she had to be a boy, so decided to over-balance towards her masculine side and ‘disown’ her female sexual essence by ‘shutting’ it down. She experienced a massive amount of anger and  grief in the session over this and started the final frontier of releasing the earliest foundation of her beliefs around not being ‘good enough for men’, whilst also deal with the genuine cause of her feeling like she was ‘out of touch with her femininity and sexuality at the same time. In the same session she also went into the anger she had towards her mum. As she went deeper into the anger she uncovered the grief she held down with the anger  (easier to feel the anger than the pain) around her experience of not being nurtured as much as she needed it as a child or in a love language she understood.  This anger and sadness  kept the belief    ‘I do not deserve love & support’ charged & alive in her unconscious mind, causing this reality  in her external world by not letting in love & support or sabotaging the love & support of those around her. This woman was convinced she dealt with her mum and dad issues which could have been behind her present day relationship issues. It took the ‘Defence Displacement Technique’ that we call Cathartic Style Breathwork  to uncover what was missing in her healing. The feeling. To heal it we need to feel it.

This is why I see this as the future of therapy.

Warning: In order to be responsible I wish to emphasise to people ’ Do not try this at home ’.  There is a reason why you need a well trained, experienced professional with you to undergo this process. The breathing pattern needs to be done in a specific manner, at a specific speed, depth & intensity for it to have the effect of ‘dissolving’ the defence barrier between conscious and unconscious mind.

If you do wish to experience a subtle version of the ‘defence displacing’ ability of the connected breathing technique do this. Think of what you would like in your life. Close your eyes and  imagine being in the future reality where you have that thing in your life. Now take 5 -10 slow and deep connected breaths only through the nose, perfectly connecting inhale with exhale and ask your self  ‘’Since I do not have this in my life I feel…?’’ you will think of or experience an emotion. Now ask yourself ‘’Since I don’t have this in my life I make it mean that I am…?’’ You will most likely have a negative thought about yourself. Important.  In each instance trust what comes to mind first. Do not sugar coat it. You now have the main emotion you need to feel and the main unconscious negative personal belief about yourself you need to deal with. A dis-ease is anything not working really. A dis-ease is there to get us in touch with the emotion and the beliefs that cause the disease in the first place. The dis-ease of you not having that thing in your life just got you in touch with the main emotion & belief that is stopping you from having that.  This is just a subtle version of the ‘defence displacing’ power of the connected breath.  To deal with the rest you need a facilitator.


Jaan Jerabek is the founder of Transformative Education International and ‘The Depression Solution’. He Directs one of the Southern Hemispheres largest and most successful Breathwork training organizations.  To Contact TEI & The Depression Solution call 1300 500 881 or visit: or




This is also the reason you need people who have undergone thorough training, have a lot of experience going into their own deeper emotions and use a style of connected breathing to facilitate you ‘releasing’ old emotions as opposed to helping you ‘transcend’ your emotions.

Even with a trained professional some people will go through intense physical reactions such as tetany ( an intense involuntary cramping of muscles ) and going ‘unconscious’ ( zonking out type of sleep ). If a person does not go through to the other side of these phases they may feel ‘half baked’ which is an experience of a layer of an old emotion half in and half out of the system. Basically left feeling worse than when you started.


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