Why Breathwork is not all the same

There are many different approaches to breathwork, and they’re all quite varied in philosophy and in outcome. Many of the various trees of breathwork have specific goals or states of consciousness that are aimed to be achieved using the breath, whether that is calm, clarity, elevated, or transcendental. These states are absolutely achievable using the breath. I’ve been a breathwork practitioner as my main line of work for 13 years. I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and worked with a wide range of individuals over that span of time, which gives me the ability to see the arc of my work, how its evolved, and what branches my work off from those who have come before.

One of the upsides I was hoping for from working toward my PhD in psychology was a more thorough understanding of how to speak academia, so that I may help bridge my work to the healers out there who are a little more traditional in approach – the therapists. This has allowed me to find a language that other people can understand, and has given me great insight into the evolution of my work.

I started off being certified in Clarity Breathwork, having taken their training back in 2004, and after immersing in their world as an assistant for a few years, became certified. I love Clarity Breathwork, and my teachers, and the people I still know and love from that training experience. I practiced that which had rocked my own world, helping me heal from such monstrous afflictions as depression. I will always be grateful. I learned a lot but the real nugget, and which I teach others to this day, was to truly meet up with parts of myself that needed to be loved, parts of myself that I had hated. This is big work. There is a lot more that I learned from them, however, their work was based on such books as Course of Miracles, which was too simplistic, requiring a belief system buy-in instead of an open-ended truth seeking approach.

It took me a few years to de-construct what I had accepted as true which was not true beyond doubt. The leaps of faith required with this work were valid on one level, and on another level, they were incomplete. Clarity Breathwork relied on a transpersonal approach to healing – connecting with God, or the Universe, or whatever Big Energy you want to name. I don’t knock this at all, but it doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who do not have that belief system in God or the benevolent universe.

The Course of Miracles takes many leaps of faith, inviting us to trust the truth of its words, and with this pathway, connect to Spirit. I don’t disagree with it, it’s just not the whole truth. I do not think any human being has this place completely figured out.  Another standby in their teachings is from Katie Byron and Eckhart Tolle, as well as Thought is Creative, which is attributed to Buddhist philosophy. In these approaches, the focus is on releasing thoughts, changing one’s thinking, and choosing new thoughts that feel more aligned with one’s soul, and shaping reality with them, similar to what the movie Law of Attraction showed people. With this approach, you can manifest whatever you want, if you change your thoughts around it.

Yes and No.

I do not disagree with this approach, however, its more than just the thoughts that need to be changed, sometimes there is some really deep trauma that needs to be healed, that may take a gentle couple years time to slowly coax into a sense of safety. The ten-session (or 20-session) approach of Clarity Breathwork is not slow and steady enough for PTSD survivors, and those who have a shattered sense of self and broken trust. To rush people into connecting with trust in the universe will allow them temporary freedom from affliction, but usually the feelings and old patters come creeping back in, especially if they become doubtful they can trust the universe or if there is a God.

Changing our energy does transform our environment and who we are attracted to, however, the model I learned enforced cutting out people who no longer matched your vibration so that you can be supported to hold a higher vibration. In doses, this is true, we do need to eliminate toxic people from our lives, including our family members, so we can heal ourselves and recalibrate who we are. I tend to stand on the side of re-entering the stream of family and society as a changed person, not as someone who lives in a bubble with only people of elevated consciousness. How on earth do we effect change for our whole society if we live in a bubble of like-minded folks only? We need politicians, teachers, ring-leaders, and business owners as well as all the workers to have an expanded sense of Self!

I learned a tremendous amount from the expansive, elevated work of Clarity Breathwork. It was an important part of my journey, because of the dramatic shift the power of the breath provides. My work with it evolved however, and this is how, since I’ve had a lot of folks ask.

  • One way, which I mentioned, is the speed. I do not rush someone into any spiritual “truths” – I let them take their time, find their own.
  • I invite them to listen to their bodies. I work with them to find love and healing for whatever soul fragment is resonating with that location, instead of re-programing thoughts or setting intentions.
  • I added “acceptance” into the mix of love and compassion, over forgiveness, even. Forgiveness is powerful, acceptance for what is, is even more powerful. When we’re able to stop fighting it, something happens.
  • The human journey is a deep and mysterious one, its not something to “teach”, its something to uncover from deep listening. I forewent the coaching style imparted to me by my early training, and prefer to elicit inquiry over downloading wisdom. Each person contains the wisdom they need to hear. I learned from years of work, that coaching someone spiritually usually moves too fast for the body to catch up.

I shifted my approach from a coaching model to a therapeutic one, and of course all my teachers that have come after, through various courses and years of personal work, to grow my horizons of what is beneficial. It’s my interest to continue to develop SoulCentric Breathwork in a way that honors the soul, mind, and body.  I found Clarity Breathwork to focus on Spirit, and from all I hear about Holotropic Breathwork, it appears to also be a transcendant approach to healing – to rise above human experience.  

After all this time, my curiosity has led me to a place of wanting to be incredibly grounded in the here and now – and in my body – while also holding the complex space of soul level vision, and compassion for all aspects of my being – especially this human aspect. Many new age and healing approaches appear to skip over utter love and acceptance for this actual life we’ve been leading. Yes, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and this human experience is part of who we are.  Now is the time to hold awareness and passion for both, not choosing one over the other.


By Mardi Storm

Healer, therapist, artist, supporting others professionally since 2002. Working in community settings and private practice, offering private and group work. My art has been published and is on public display.

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