Breathwork Ethics and Common Mistakes of Breathwork Facilitators
If you are a Breathwork Facilitator or School, it is imperative you understand the following:
1- There are contradictions to full, circular Breathwork and not everyone is a candidate. Know this well. Have breathers review the contraindications in addition to signing a waiver, ensuring they understand that strong emotional release may and will arise. Explain the nature of the breathwork process in advance. We hear stories often that individuals are guiding Breathwork but giving the group little to no context for what they are doing or explaining what could arise during the immersion. This is irresponsible. Cover your bases and be thorough, while simultaneously inspiring your audience to enter into this transformational experience with openness and curiosity. It's an artful dance. If someone is not a candidate for full Breathwork, consider working with a Modified, Gentle Yin Breath. We teach a variety of modified breath alternatives in our trainings to be able to adapt to any client’s needs.
2- Understand that people are often experiencing Breathwork for the first time and thus it’s vital to give an introduction before beginning. If you have time constraints, check your motives for squeezing an immersion into an hour window (which does not give enough time for introduction or post-breath processing). Be mindful in booking workshops. Give enough time for processing at the end & ensure the Breathwork Journey itself is 45 min-1 hour minimum. The 30 minute 3-part circular breath immersions we are seeing around LA are highly irresponsible. We observed a few and witnessed people being incomplete in their process/release & being brought out too soon. Be aware of this.
3- In your introductory breathwork explanation, be sure to touch on emotional catharsis, tetany, tingling hands/body, tight jaw, how to uncoil/unwind the nervous system.
4- Do not ask the breather to lay still and not move. Nor to lie back down if they need to sit, unwind, stretch or shift their body for a time during their experiential process. It's arrogant to ever assume you know what’s best for another. We cannot fathom the depths of anyone’s process. We can only hold space for it in present and compassionate witness. We must remain in reverent humility to the intelligence and alchemy of the breath. The breath is the master teacher and healer, not us. You do not know what another’s nervous system, body or musculature needs to do to release something lodged within it. This wisdom exists within their inner knowing. Their body knows exactly what to do in an expanded state of consciousness. Our academy promotes shaking, movement, emoting sounds, free-form and uninhibited expression and anything else that individual needs to do for a somatic release so as long as it’s not disrupting their neighbor. It is VITAL to craft safe, intentional spaces where breathers are free to express fully and freely- however that looks for them. Please stop interfering with this organic unwinding. We hear it happens often. Let’s deeply look at this. Surrender your personal ego onto the altar of spirit; be a clear conduit for the grace which wants to birth through in the moment. Be humble. Be reverent. Be open to the mystery.
5- Not everyone is resolved or complete after one Breathwork Immersion. Tune into each person and track them. Looks for cues that distinguish whether they need additional support or processing. Give space at the end of a journey for people to share, process, receive or simply be held and met in their experience. If something big comes up for them and it’s not fully resolved, sending them “on their way” without any check-in is completely irresponsible. Check in with each and every person. Be in integrity. Ensure they are ok. Ask them to follow up with you the next day if they are not. Have either a further processing on the phone or invite them for an immediate second breathwork session.
6- Do not allow breathers to drive a car/motorbike for at least 20 minutes after a breathwork journey. If you hold a real processing session after, this will happen naturally. Be responsible and realize the depth of this work and the state of consciousness it induces. Make sure breathers are fully “back” before they leave. Also, consider weaning people off the breath and slow it down 20 minutes prior to concluding. Then have them resume a normal breath 10 minutes before. Then a 5 minute savasana-style rest in a still-point space for integration. Don’t pull them out too soon. Many teachers do unknowingly.
7- Know your limits as a facilitator. Unless you are a trained or licensed therapist, have other resources on hand to refer clients to depending on how significant the trauma/wound is that has been uprooted for healing. Somatic and alternative therapists like Rohan or Hakomi are great resources.
8- Know when and when not to intervene. Allow a breather to move through their release before interfering. Occasionally people need physical support during catharsis (use your intuition) but most of the time it is a direct communion with themselves, their breath and their soul/spirit. Get out of your own way (and theirs). It's not about us. There is a greater alchemical process unfolding. Err on the side of light or energetic touch vs physical pressure. Less is more.
9- Do not elevate the neck or use pillows behind the head, as this restricts the flow of air. If the breather has neck issues they may use a rolled up towel or blanket to support the head, but the head should not be lifted more than 2-3 inches or so off the floor. Bolsters under the knees are fine, especially if the breather has any back issues. Make sure to also provide blankets as body temperature can shift in both directions during breathwork.
10- No individual, organization or school should be holding weekend or day-long teacher trainings. This is HIGHLY irresponsible. We should not be “popping out” Breathwork Facilitators the way one could receive a day-long reiki attunement. This is paradigm-shifting work and facilitators must be trained properly in how to guide breathers through experiential emotional release, especially if a latent trauma is arising. There is no way anyone can learn the nuances of this in 1-3 days unless they are a previously trained somatic healer which most are not. If you are doing these “pop up” trainings, please reflect on your motives and intentions. If your motive is revenue, we ask you to sit with this and consider the implications of what you are doing. You are affecting the whole with your actions. Be in integrity. Know your work in and out.
– Kaya Leigh, Co-Founder of Sacred Breath Academy