CONSCIOUS BREATHING FOR TRAUMA RECOVERY
The CBTR training has been created by Judee Gee and Brigitte Martin Powell, breathwork trainers based in France and the UK. Brigitte and Judee are former Presidents of the IBF and currently sit on the IBF-UN working group committee where they develop projects in alignment with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The CBTR programme is especially designed for refugees and uses Coherent Breathing as its primary educational tool. The training was conceived in 2017 and piloted in Athens (Greece) in liaison with local NGO’s providing support for refugees (shelter, food, medical aid, community welfare…).
The goal of the programme is two-fold:
- Provide conscious breathing education that is easy to learn within a short time frame (2-hour workshops). Participants receive practical instruction for increased awareness of their breathing habits, and are taught specific breathing exercises to recalibrate their autonomic nervous system.
- Educate locally placed facilitators to deliver the 2-hour CBTR workshops (total training time is 10 hours, including 6 hours of specific facilitator training and prior participation in two 2-hour CBTR workshops).
What is coherent breathing?
Coherent Breathing and the Autonomic Nervous System
A major component of the stress response system is the autonomic nervous system, which manages the automatic functions of the body, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, hormonal, glandular and immune systems. The autonomic nervous system has two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system – the fight or flight system – and the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest or feed and breed– system.
Ideally, both systems are required to intervene for specific actions through our daily life, but in the long run a balance between the two is necessary. A body that is constantly under mental, physical or emotional stress (sympathetic system) without time to rest, integrate and replenish (parasympathetic system), will not be able to function optimally and will suffer the consequences.
There is one automatic function of the body that can be voluntarily controlled through our breath and that is the respiratory system. Conscious breathing techniques provide easy access to the autonomic communication network and by changing our breathing patterns, we send specific messages to the brain that have powerful effects on our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. For example, when we feel anxious, just a few minutes of Coherent Breathing can calm our worried mind and foster more rational – rather than impulsive – decision-making.
Coherent Breathing Practice: Breathing at the rhythm of 5 breaths per minutes is the optimal breathing rhythm for rebalancing the body and accessing an inner state of relaxation that is both peaceful and restful. Five breaths per minute corresponds to breathing in for 6 seconds and out for 6 seconds, linking the in-breath and out-breath in a relaxed way.
How to practice: Start progressively, breathing consciously and in a relaxed way for 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out, until it feels comfortable. Then move on to breathing for 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out and progress at your own rhythm up to 6 seconds in and 6 seconds out. Taller people might want to breathe more slowly.
Where to practice: Start by finding a quiet spot where you can be undisturbed for several minutes.
Soft light conditions or darkness will help you to relax. Have a light blanket on hand to be sure you stay warm. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and start your practice. Once you feel comfortable with the practice you can apply it in a wide range of situations (sitting, walking…).
When to practice: Three times a day for five minutes (365) is a great beginning, and if you can apply the practice daily for a few weeks, you will reap the most benefits. Even one minute of coherent breathing will help rebalance your nervous system.
Stephen Elliot suggests 20 min per day for a period of 21 days in order to recalibrate the nervous system and install the coherent breathing reflex as a default practice.
Coherent Breathing and further reading:
The New Science of Breath, by Stephen Elliott (http://www.coherence.com)
The Healing Power of the Breath, by Dr R. Brown and Dr P. Gerbarg (http://www.breath-body-mind.com)
Coherent Breathing, by Dr W. Ehrmann (http://www.wilfried-ehrmann.com)