The Potential of Breathwork:

my journey and how I overcame asthma

My first memory of being conscious of my breath was the early diagnosis of asthma as a child, the restriction of my airways, at times making it difficult to breathe. For as long as I could remember, there would be some level of fear about not being able to take in enough breath. Into adolescence everywhere I went, everything I did, I felt dependent on having an inhaler with me just in case. On a subconscious level, I learnt to lack trust in breathing, not able to depend on my airways serving me all that well. In my adult life my asthma became mild, but it would always get worse with the arrival of hay fever season and worse still with the cold winter weather. Always present, at the back of my mind.

My experience of breathwork prior to 2020, were with the years I’d spent as a student and eventually a teacher of yoga. Balanced, belly breaths guided in the practice of pranayama, (Sanskrit for breathing technique or breath practice). I would breathe to counts, breathe to mantra and breathe to movement. I practised on my own, I taught it in class and yes, I would feel calm if I could get myself to centre and focus but to be honest, that was it. No revelations, far from enlightenment and miles away from ‘getting it’. My experience towards breathwork was very neutral, and I felt it more of an obligation similarly to brushing your teeth – you know you need to do it but there is no real joy gained from the activity. In the same way we use toothpaste to avoid tooth decay, I used breathwork to to maintain my mental health. 

Same Breath but Different

This changed for me during the pandemic. When the world collectively spiralled into a state of respiratory despair, I started taking the deepest breaths of my life.

My first session was unintentional and accidental. I stumbled across an online breathwork, and I expected to be guided through a few rounds of the various methods I had practiced hundreds of times before. Being like most of the population in 2020, I was at home and bored, looking for any virtual activity to do to take my mind away from the fact we were locked indoors. I was preparing to take my usual meditative position, (aka legs crossed, spine – soon to be – uncomfortably straight, sat on a bolster) when the practitioner asked that we get comfortable and lie down. Interesting, I remember thinking. Breathwork had always been seated for me, at least this was the instructed way, so that we’d stay focused and not fall asleep.

Next, we were asked to open our mouths wide and start to breathe a circular breath. Inhale active, they asked, and exhale passive. I was being guided to breathe deeper and faster than usual and the use of emotive music gave every breath meaning. For the first 5 minutes I remember thinking, I could just stop this and go and get another coffee. My thoughts were distracting and persuading me to do anything other than stay with my breath. I noticed my resistance and despite this, carried on.

What followed this initial avoidance and sporadic thoughts, was a deep shift in consciousness as I dropped deep into my inner world like I had never experienced before. I won’t say complete stillness and silence, because that’s not quite true, it was better than that. It was complete bliss. As the facilitator promised, the breath began to take over, and it felt like it had begun to breathe me. My fingers started tingling and soon, this travelled all the way up my arms. Eventually it felt like my limbs were sherbet, vibrating and so alive. As the journey progressed and we reached what felt like a peak of a long climb, I felt a bubble up in my chest as I began to cry. Heart wrenching, heavy tears. Without memory or thought, without any supposed reason, I was overcome with an overwhelming sadness as I continued to sob. This emotion lasted what felt like a couple of minutes and it was intense. My pillow was soaked, my face swollen puffy and then… it passed. Almost as quickly as it had appeared, it left. I remember feeling warm, then relief and thinking how good it felt to have the space, the permission to cry. To sit in the unapologetic experience of sadness, I then felt free and lighter.

This artwork in Bristol really encapsulates how psychedelic breathwork can be… not unusual to receive incredible visuals, shapes and colours. One of my favourite bits of feedback from the breath was… ‘it’s like drugs, but better and cheaper.


See the term ‘breathwork’ is a broad umbrella term, inclusive of any practice or method that requires manipulation or attention on the breath. Just like movement can be athletic, restorative, and anywhere in-between, the breath can also be calm and regulating, or uplifting and stimulating. It depends on how it is done.

Most breathing techniques require a degree of control. Firstly, you are trying to control your mind to focus on the breath and nothing but the breath. Any other thoughts are an intrusive distraction and unwelcome and the very practice centres around moving away from these thoughts. For this very reason, I hear from many people how they believe they cannot meditate. Secondly, you are following specific instructions to change the pattern of your breathing, such as inhaling for 5, exhaling for 5. Important to note that there is nothing wrong with practices such as these, I use them and they serve many benefits, (if you would like to explore them more I recommend reading Breath by James Nestor). Yet there is the question of what if we move away from the control and allow the breath to move on its own accord, trusting its intelligence. What if, instead of silencing those thoughts, we let them in? What if we allow ourselves to go to those difficult places?

You might be thinking that this sounds terrifying and that you would rather have no idea and keep that door locked closed, in which case, this is not the exploration for you. If this makes you curious then you have wondered down the right rabbit hole…

With conscious connected breath, yes we invite in deeper and faster breaths to the body but then we let the wisdom of the body speak for itself. We let the breath move where it wants to move, and we allow the psyche to process what it needs to process. Sometimes this processing is of far distant memories and other times there is physical or emotional release; the experience can also be anything in-between. What we can trust, is that the breath will bring you to the healing that you need.

Masters of the Mask

If we think to any emotion we have experience, the breath will have responded in some way. When shocked, you may gasp; if hysterical, you may heave; if excited, your breath naturally quickens, along with your heart. This is no surprise when looking at our nervous system, as an astonishing 80% of our vagus nerve wraps around our lungs.

It’s exhausting to think just how much we conceal, suppress and hide what is going on inside. We have become masters of masking our emotions. If it’s not masking, it’s numbing. We numb with Netflix, alcohol, exercise; we escape our reality with books, full social calendars, or food. A clear example of this can be seen when the first words often to leave a mouth after public tears is, ‘I am sorry,’ apologising for crying, for feeling.

Toddlers are a great example to look at for authentic displays of emotion. They kick and they scream, they cry, and they feel as they try and navigate the world and express their needs. The adventure of adulting teaches us raw displays of emotion are not socially acceptable, and therefore not safe and so what do we do with them? We hide them. They get swept under the rug, buried behind the million and one things on our to do list, our busy lives, anything other than to feel. To not seem ‘overly emotional,’ to never be ‘too much’, and as a result locking it away in our system.

Unfelt, unexperienced, unlived. 

This is not to say we should all start roaming around acting like toddlers, having a tantrum whenever we feel inspired to. It is to say, that we require space and time, as emotional beings, to emote. If we don’t, we keep it trapped away, it gets stored in our tissues and it is held onto as structural tension and can eventually manifest as physical illness.

The Journey

Since my first conscious connected breath, I have embarked on a healing journey that has helped me come to terms with a lot of hurt, connect me to my ancestral linage, and provided such reassuring clarity and insights, just to name a few. The last time I used my inhaler was January 2021 and the modality of the breath is an anchor I venture on weekly. If you would like to join me to experience this breath, I work with individuals and groups both in person and online. If you would like to breathe with me, please see my timetable here, see my private rates here or, join my newsletter to stay up-to-date with monthly events I run.

What I find most empowering about the breath, as a healing modality, and something that I receive often as a download, is that it is you. This healing potential, the infinite capacity, and all you ever need is already within you.

I want to thank you, if you made it to the end, and after quite a lot of words… lets take a moment for them to land as I invite you to take a breath.

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