The Healing Power of the Breath, Simple techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration, and balance your emotions

Written by Richard P. Brown, MD and Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD

Is Breathwork Tomorrow’s Psychotherapy?

Review by Gunnel Minett

As the title of this book points out in detail, this is all about learning to ‘breathe yourself’ to better health. It gives clear instruction as to how to practise breathing techniques to reduce stress and improve physical and mental wellbeing. The authors both have long experience of teaching these techniques. Richard Brown is associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and Patricia Gerbarg has the same position at New York Medical College. Their techniques are derived from yoga, qigong as well as modern breathing and meditation techniques.

The techniques are designed to slow down the natural breathing pattern, to balance the breathing pattern and to use sound as part of one’s breathing. By balancing and harmonising the breathing pattern we automatically balance and harmonise the body and brain. This in turn has an impact on thoughts and emotions, which in turn leads to increased inner wellbeing, both mental but also physical since the body usually suffers from negative thoughts and emotions.

More recent research also indicates a direct effect on hormones which means more precise ways of measuring the effects of body oriented techniques such as breathwork. The book also suggests another interesting potential for breathwork: it could become a very efficient tool to counter stress in war zones and third world countries. It doesn’t require special equipment, drugs or other medical facilities. It can be taught on the spot to large groups and at minimal cost compared to conventional therapy or medical treatment.

Another positive aspect of the breathwork taught in this book is that it can easily be learnt by simply following the instructions in the book and on the CD. The only reservation is that, although the breathing exercises are deceptively easy to learn and practice at home alone, the effects can be surprisingly strong. The authors therefore recommend attending a workshop in addition to reading the book, in particular for people who may be experiencing stress from past trauma.

An obvious conclusion to draw from this book that body oriented psychotherapy, such as breathwork, shows all signs of being a therapy for the future. In particular if it is taught from an early age as a way of managing the stress that is almost inevitable in modern life. Hopefully the work of the authors and other breathworkers will contribute to this future scenario.

Shambala Publications, London, 2012