My First Breathwork Experience

February 2023

Feeling Myself from a Breathwork Session

I booked a 90 minute 1:1 private breathwork session with Anton, a guy who I’ll now remember for the rest of my life. I was roaming around in distress continuously hearing if looking for a release, try breathwork.

I arrived with zero expectations but knowing I had nothing to lose. After checking in at the front desk, I retreated to waiting outside chain-smoking cigarettes, unable to cope with being surrounded by groups of upbeat people and happy couples enjoying each others company & living a healthy lifestyle.

My breathwork instructor soon arrived and walked me down to a private hut out a ways in the nature. We talked a bit, he asked me what brought me here and what I hoped to achieve. After explaining how the process works and the correlation between anxiety/trauma and our nervous systems, of which breathing could be a catalyst to calm, I was intrigued.

I sat down on a comfortable pillow topped table and with eyes closed we started with the conscious connected breathing, in through the nose & out through the mouth in one continuous flow. He was guiding me in the beginning, reminding me to relax the muscles with an open jaw while continuing to breathe in a continuous rhythm. Arabic music was playing in the background and before long my mind entered a meditative state.

Half-conscious, my mind would wander with Anton always knowing when to remind me to bring my attention back on my breath. At times he would apply touch on pressure points throughout my body and make sounds with Tibetan bowls. Hard to explain until you experience, but each time he did so it would take me further deeper within. The outside world becomes tuned out and a communication highway runs straight from the heart to your mind.

My body started to make aggressive involuntary movements, my leg kicking in the air similar to how sometimes right as you are about to fall asleep and envision kicking a ball your leg jerks up and you awaken.For the first time during our session I felt anxiety beginning to course. My instincts told me to open my eyes, stop breathing, with sensations of claustrophobia constricting my chest.

It was at this moment a truly hallucinogenic experience occurred. “Seeing with my eyes closed”. In my left eye there appeared a red bullseye from a dartboard and in my right eye another one. The left bullseye was my anxiety/panic, and the right one was me. Initially the left was winning, moving higher while the right was struggling in a tug of war to rise higher but couldn’t catch up. A rush of adrenaline kicked in as I refused to stop breathing. The right bullseye started to rise higher and higher, and although I was consciously aware this was a “trip” and knew my eyes were closed, I could see the roof of the hut I was in. A complete rush set in, coursing through my extremities, and our session naturally came to an end, without the therapist saying a word. We were so in sync he didn’t need to tell me to stop, it happened when it happened.

I sat up, looked over at him, and let out a “whaaaaaaaaaaat theeeee fuckkkkkkkkkkkk dude” – his response verbatim was “That was beautiful to watch”. I laughed and said not sure what you could see, but smiled so big, felt connected to my higher self for the first time in months if not longer, and had a giant release of emotions through tears whilst keeping that smile. It was unbelievable. In that moment remembering who I am was as powerful a feeling as I could feel. I was also strangely hungry for a burger and wanted a beer. There was a lingering sadness, somehow in feeling like myself I wanted to connect even more with the same person I had been trying to for months and share my experience – but in my core I knew that would not happen and was at peace for the evening.

We talked for quite a while, come to find he has a similar background in finance and had hit a spot of depression in life before starting down the path to where he is today. That night as I ate dinner, I knew in my heart this is something I wanted to pursue, making people more aware and wanting to pay it forward so to speak. In some ways this is what my life was missing – I always loved connecting with and helping people and heading down the path to becoming a therapist myself felt motivating.

I would add to this story that it is not a magical fix, or one time cure for heartbreak, traumatic experiences or anxiety. However in that moment of emotional release, I could take a deep breath and felt more calm than I had in months. From having connected with myself even if only a short while it gave me the reassurance I would not be stuck in this state forever. From being stronger than my anxiety in my experience and pushing through, I felt more whole and ready for what was to come. My nervous system was still feeling the trauma and sadness of recent events, but it was like taking a break for a moment from it all.

The Build-up

My nervous system was completely shot and saying I was unable to function would be an understatement. This was the second time in my life experiencing a panic attack and if you’ve endured one yourself, the worst part is the agoraphobia, fearing if things go wrong you cannot escape or help from others won’t be available. You’re just not yourself & irrational thoughts abound.

How I ended up here was the accumulation of a lot of things, and could write for days on end to that topic. Nonetheless something inside really snapped, feeling lost and unable to regulate my emotions or thoughts in a healthy way. It was one too many times feeling safe & home followed by an immediate safe & home feeling being taken away (throttle on/throttle off); in conjunction with absorbing the emotional stressors of people important to me & removing myself from the equation out of love and hope for the individuals for too long, which broke me.

See the picture in my Understanding Trauma page, noting we all have a range of resiliency of how much the nervous system can tolerate.

The emotional up/down/up/down caused a rift between what my heart wanted to feel and explore, and my mind, which was trying to make any rational sense of what to do and how my words of support for this person led to the destruction of the safe & home feeling I just had. I functionally froze, unable to effectively communicate in response and did the worst thing someone could do, grabbed a Xanax to calm myself in order to keep it all together.

Over the course of the next 30 days, flying home to help my mother who was struggling with her health and depending on me, more up/down/up/down, eventually everything would boil over for me.

Open chat
Direct message me here