Breathing is a workout

Who would have guessed that breathing could do so much more than keep you alive?

Inspirational breathwork is a form of diaphragmatic workout.  The practitioners claim that it allows the body to reach new areas of your subconscious and unblock the daily stress that's trapped inside our bodies.

Health24 took a trip to Jai Yoga studio in Cape Town to get some firsthand experience on how to improve our lives through breathing.

The idea behind inspirational breathing comes from the way babies breathe. If you take a close look at how a baby breathes you'll notice that when they inhale, their stomach size expands and contracts when they exhale. This is the main method of breathing.

“Everyday we store different stresses and negativity in our body, and by breathing you can learn to unblock the blockages in our bodies,” says Jean-Pierre Hartmann, a massage therapist of the Jai Yoga studio.  According to Hartmann, this form of therapy helps you to let go of repressed mental, physical and emotional traumas on a cellular level.

How it all goes down

For the first few minutes Hartmann explains what the therapy is all about - covering the kind of changes that will take place in your body, how to do it and the benefits gained.

He quickly demonstrates the breathing pattern that you will be following for the next hour and explains how the body will react.  He also asks if you would like to hear some affirmations during the course of the therapy.

I found Hartmann friendly and felt deeply relaxed while sitting and talking to him in the moon room at the studio.

Even while we were talking I began to practice the technique which is fairly simple:  breathe through your mouth, take deep breaths and most importantly, don’t stop breathing. This means continuous breathing - not stopping for a pause between inhalation and exhalation - not even for a few seconds.

I found it very difficult at the beginning and I really needed to concentrate on the breathing.  I had to continuously remind myself to inhale so that my stomach expands and not the other way around. Note -  this was still during the chat we were having.

Beginning to breathe

After about 15 to 20 minutes (the first session is 90 minutes) we started the therapy. He put on some tranquil music to set the tone, and I lay down on a comfy mattress and began breathing - it sounds weird, but it’s very different to what I’m used to. Hartmann sat right beside me guiding me, so to speak, on the way I should be breathing e.g. take three long breaths or exhale. He was also there to remind me that I'd forgotten to breathe and, trust me, I did forget to breathe.

Throughout the therapy session you also have to shout out an “ah” tone after inhaling a tremendous amount of air. Another strange thing I had to do was a “tantrum”-like action which, in theory, is when you let go of the things that are bothering you.

After about ten minutes of breathing, I could already feel a change in my body. There was oxygen everywhere. I began to feel a little lightheaded and I remembered Hartmann telling me earlier that this was a normal reaction my body would have to the extra oxygen in my head.

Hartmann soon began pressing lightly on certain pressure points on my abdomen, my legs, ears and feet. I distinctly remember the poking of his fingers feeling like a dagger in my stomach. However I got through the pain while focussing on my breathing.

Half an hour through the session, I lost all function of my arms especially my fingers. They were numb and I couldn’t move them. I found this restriction very distressing, but Hartmann reassured me that I would regain control of them soon enough. Well, it was still worrisome.

Eventually I felt a thin blanket being thrown over me and it was soon after that I actually feel asleep. Yes, you read correctly - I was so relaxed, I fell asleep.

The verdict

When I woke up after the session, I was really happy that I could use my fingers again, but I really wanted to just lie there breathing for just a few more minutes.

I had the strangest tingling sensation in my hands that felt like pins and needles, only it never hurt. I felt rejuvenated, but extremely lightheaded. It took me a good couple of minutes before I could stand. After the session I never felt tired at all.

I remember my whole body feeling like someone had injected energy into it. Hartmann said that it's almost like you are a light bulb being switched on, and I totally agree. That sensation stayed with me for the rest of the day.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to have a bit of relaxation in their day and to lose some of their stress-load. And the scary, numb hand sensation was well worth it in the end.

The cost is R200 at the studio.

(Kyle Boshoff, Health 24, November 2010)

Contact information:

Jai Yoga:

Jean-Pierre Hartmann: 074 195 1160

Reception: 021 418 0974


Jai Yoga website

Inspirational breathwork website

Jean-Pierre hartmann

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