The Height and Breath of a Person: Breathwork's Doorway to the Self

by Jim Morningstar, PhD

Ancient Tradition has it that God created human life by breathing life into mud. Many people today are rediscovering this primal creative breath, and in so doing are opening the door to an astounding experience of Self. Breathwork not only opens this door but also becomes a self-guided tool for daily centering and creativity.

Measuring ourselves and our worth by external standards has led to competitive and shame-based egos. Honoring and experiencing our connection to the Spirit of Breath within is the great equalizer, the leveler of egos and the birth of new life based on our essential Self.

The entrance to this life of heightened awareness is literally right under our nose — our breath. It is so simple as to be easily dismissed. But the most profound is often the simplest, not necessarily the easiest. Forms of breathwork have been with us since breathing was invented. Various forms of yoga have used breath awareness and mastery for thousands of years. It was a rediscovery and a popularization of new breathwork techniques in the 1970s (known as rebirthing) by Leonard Orr and others that ignited a fire that’s spreading around the globe at an astonishing rate.

Breathwork transformed my life in the mid-1970s as one of the first Certified Rebirthers, and continues to be my major vehicle for self-discovery and growth. People from all over the planet are finding this new way to measure their growth — not against externally imposed standards, but with a tool that enlarges their relationship to their higher Self — indeed, to an experience of themselves beyond measure.

A breathwork session typically involves approximately 30-60 minutes of concentrated connected breathing that works on the levels of body, mind, and spirit.

Learning how to sustain a relaxed yet full breathing rhythm through whatever tension that arises in the body is a precious gift. Chronic holding patterns in muscles as well as connective tissue can be released without exterior manipulation. Once this is learned, a lifelong method of tension relief is attained. This is an art form and not a mechanical process. One must sense the right breathing pattern for the appropriate circumstances. Like any skill, it develops with practice.

More than an aerobic exercise, breathwork helps us discover the deep-seated negative beliefs behind holding patterns. This allows us to change the thought patterns that tend to recreate the chronic tensions. Sooner or later, by giving the old messages and instructions to the body, we produce the same defensive reactivity. Permanent change takes more than just experiencing one-time relief. It takes insight into a new way of seeing myself and my life and developing the self-talk to sustain it. The affirmations that come from working with a breathworker are not generic aphorisms for a good life.They are individually developed tools for the reconstruction of a new consciousness. Along with the continued practice of the breathing technique, the affirmations provide a daily
reinforcement of a new level of enjoyment in life.

Breathwork’s underlying philosophy is that the key to new life is accepting total responsibility for union with your Self — or oneness with the Divine Spirit. This means a willingness to go beyond our small self and letting our breath be our guide and friend en route. This is not a process of speculation and philosophizing, but rather of direct experience. No one tells you your truth. You know it directly by virtue of your courage to go past fears and self-doubts. Others celebrate with you on your path but do not control or interpret it for you.

Cycle of Breath
A breathwork session often involves:
1) a beginning in which one experiments and discovers how to sustain a connected full rhythm
2) a middle period of building an energetic charge to a point of release
3) an ending period during which the released energy is grounded and suggestions for application are integrated

Breath and Energy Releases
Holding patterns in our breath mechanism frequently date back to our very birth. Some people have actual memories of their birth and the fear that generated their holding. But this memory is not necessary to the release process. There is a distinct difference in the ease and pleasure of the breath after the moment of breath release. This is most often followed by an energy release felt throughout the body. The physical sensations of this vary with individuals and relate to dissolution of our chronic areas of suppression.

Most people work through a series of five to ten sessions with a breath coach or breathworker to gain the confidence to continue the practice on their own. This practice involves a heightened awareness of the breath as a moment-by-moment barometer of our conscious states. The practice is furthered by occasional formal sessions done alone, with a friend, or a breathworker. This does not guarantee permanent bliss but gives us direct access to a "powerful medicine" for the altering of stuck energies — physical, mental, and spiritual. More and more, we will experience the truth that all that we need is inside us.


The International Breathwork Foundation is a central source for information on breathwork centers worldwide, as well as research and literature in several languages. A variety of groups, seminars, books, and tapes are available to reinforce the skills.

I am the co-director of the Global Professional Breathwork Alliance , which was founded in 2001 to uphold ethics and training standards for breathworkers. Certified Professional Practitioners and Certified Schools of Breathwork can be contacted through this site.

I have conducted trainings for facilitating Therapeutic Breathwork™, which I created through the Transformations Breathwork Training Program , since 1990 with onsite and online programs. Professionals and non-professionals have used the trainings to enhance their healing skills. Some of the disciplines incorporating breathwork include psychotherapists, occupational and physical therapists, nurses, physicians, dentists, massage therapists, and other body and energy workers. The uniqueness of this skill is that its origins are grassroots and available to all people. Its principles can be adapted to virtually any healing or growth medium.

The Director of Transformations Incorporated, Jim Morningstar has held licensure as a clinical psychologist since 1973. A clinical supervisor and seminar leader, he has pioneered the integration of psychotherapy with such mind/body techniques as breathwork and bio-spiritual energetics. He founded the School of Integrative Psychology in 1980, and the Transformations Breathworker Training Program in 1990.
Jim has authored five books in the field of spiritual psychology and breathwork: Family Awakening (1984), Spiritual Psychology (rev. 1998), Breathing in Light and Love (1994), The Complete Breath: A Professional Guide to Health and Wellbeing (2012), and Break Through with Breathwork: Jump-Starting Personal Growth in Counseling and the Healing Arts (2017).
He is co-director of the Global Professional Breathwork Alliance and founder of InWellness . His lifelong quest has been to discover and teach the highest-quality tools for human transformation. He has done this as a clinical psychologist, spiritual student/teacher, trainer, lecturer, author, and personal growth and business coach since 1970.

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This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 1: The Breathwork Summit