Rebirthing is a dynamic breathing technique for releasing tension from the body, healing the emotions and creating a deep awareness. The breath has been used for thousands of years for healing and meditation.
Aristotle in ancient Greece said “The soul is air; air moves and is cognisant. Air that we breathe gives us soul, life and consciousness”. The Nei Ching, a Chinese medical book from 2,600BC, states that “the lungs are the ministers who regulate one’s actions”. Later Chinese medical texts say that deep breathing can clear the intellect and even prolong life. Pantanjali, an Indian sage who first codified the rules of yoga 200 AD wrote that “control of thoughts and emotions is linked to breath control” He believed that by the mastery of pranayama, or breath meditation, self-mastery can be achieved.
The Book of Genesis in the Bible states, “ The Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul”. Paramahansa Yogananda in his book Autobiography of a Yogi, writes: “a human being falsely identifies himself with his physical form because the life currents from the source are breath conveyed into the flesh with such intense power that man mistakes the effect for the cause, and idolatrously imagines the body to have a life of its own”.
Rebirthing uses the breath to vitalise and energise the body, emotions and mind. As the organism is energised there is often a healing crises, the past memories and emotions are reactivated and come into awareness. This is only a step on the way to healing, the next step is rebuilding and repairing of what has been damaged and finally transformation, a letting go of the past with a new orientation for the personality, a new sense of what self is. Rebirthing’s ultimate goal is meditation, a connection with the essential self. Most people come to rebirthing to resolve a problem, some take it further and use the technique as a breathing meditation, a pranayama.
Rebirthing was rediscovered by Leonard Orr in the early 1970’s, while meditating in a hot tub he had a spontaneous healing release. Initially he thought that it was the hot water in tub that was the key factor, later he realised it was the breathing. These days most rebirthing takes place on a bed with the rebirthee (the breather) being supported by a rebirther.
Another branch of rebirthing has been developed by Dr. Stanislav Grof, a psychiatrist best known for his early work on the LSD experience and birth trauma. The Grof technique uses loud music with the breathing and tends to be more cathartic than the Orr method.
Leonard called the breathing technique rebirthing because he believed in order to heal the personality you had to release and re-experience your birth memory, and with the letting go of the old emotional and mental conditioning you are symbolically reborn. Since that time we have learned that birth is only one of a number of significant factors that determines personality and some people don’t have any traumatic birth memory to release because their birth was easy and loving. Other factors that determine your personality are: the personalities of your mother and father, and the first seven years of life. But the name rebirthing continues because so many people recognise it, even though there are numerous other names for the process, such as Holotropic Breathing, Vivation, Breathworks, Conscious Connected Breathing and Breath Therapy.
The technique has a very long history it was used by the ancient yogis of India. On several trips to India Leonard Orr under the instructions of his teacher Babaji refined and simplified the technique. The mystic alchemists of the Middle Ages also used a similar breathing technique to “strip the base metal (the ego) of its dross and transform it to gold (spirit).”
Rebirthing’s initial benefit is to release and re-balance the emotions. Any condition where you feel stressed, over emotional or incomplete with can be released with rebirthing. My clients include people who are having a relationship break-up, problems at work, death in the family, guilt about a past event, severe accident or illness, problems with a family member and those searching for meaning in their lives.
There are four elements to Rebirthing.
3) Staying Awake
1) Breathing is more than just inhaling air, it can be used to energise the body. Air contains life energy. The yogis call this prana, meaning “the absolute energy” or “life-force”. In Chinese it is called chi. In the book of Genesis the writer knew the difference between atmospheric air and the potent life energy contained within it. He speaks of neshemet ruach chayim meaning “the breath of the spirit of life”. The most easily assimilated form of prana is found in fresh air. Normal breathing only absorbs a small quantity of prana. With the rebirth breathing the amount of prana absorbed by the body is increased, this additional energy is absorbed by the nervous system and brain. Repressed emotions and stress cause an under supply of prana. As the level of prana is increased the emotions are released and the stress is reduced.
Normal breathing is an inhale-pause-exhale-pause-inhale. Rebirth breathing is inhale-exhale-inhale, the pauses have been eliminated, it is continuous breathing. It is called connected breathing. This connected breathing increases the prana in the body and creates the healing.
2) Relaxing is letting go, surrendering to what every is happening. Allowing the energy to take you on a journey of self discovery. Rebirthers believe that our essential self is perfect. We are born in a perfect state and it is the layers of conditioning that keep up separate and confused. We don’t have to become better, we are already OK, we have just forgotten it and need to let go of anything that invalidates us.
Initially in a rebirthing session the letting go meanings allowing your body to relax and be heavy, and to relax the exhale of the breath. Later it means surrendering to the process and allowing the breath to bring the subconscious memories into awareness.
3) Awake – every night we lie down, breath and relax but it is not transformative, it is sleep. The difference with rebirthing is we lie down, breath, relax and we stay awake. It is with the staying awake that awareness comes. At the time the original issue occurred there was some degree of unconsciousness, it was this unconsciousness that resulted in this experience becoming a problem that still requires healing/completion in present time. If you remain fully aware when a past memory is being re-experience it will then complete and be fully healed. There will be an intellectual memory but the emotional attachment will have gone and it will no longer be a problem, there is no longer a button that can be pushed.
4) Attitude – this means that during the time of the rebirth session you accept everything that is occurring and that it has meaning for you. You accept responsibility for the circumstances of your reality. It is by observing and understanding how my life unfolds around me that I am able to understand myself and why things happen to me. There is no such thing as an accident or coincidence, there is a reason for everything that is happening to me, the reason may be buried several layers deep in my consciousness and with acceptance and diligence I will come to understand it. In rebirthing we accept everything that is happening in our life as a manifestation of the subconscious.
Exhale – An Overveiw of Breathwork by Gunnel Minett, Floris Books 2004