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My Experience With Breathwork

By Francisca Hernandez

Friday, January 31, 2020

I took a Conscious Connected Breathing or Circular Breathing teacher training last weekend. Sounds funny to say that intentionally breathing on a floor for 30 minutes with Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide playing over loudspeakers was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date.

What I encountered and the expectation I held of the teacher training and were a far cry (literally) from each other.

You see, I’ve done tons of work on my personal development. I’ve peeled back so many layers. It was confusing to realize that I had more healing coming my way.

What is Breathwork?

Breathwork is breathing with intention. There are so many ways to practice breathwork. Pranayama, holotropic, and integrative is just a few methods of breathwork.

Though the methodology might differ, the desired results are similar and include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Up until a few months ago, I thought I’d tried all types of breathwork, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, ujjayi breathing, etc.

However, when my guitar teacher introduced me to integrative breathing a few months ago, a new world opened up for me.

Never in my life had I experienced such euphoria, enlightenment, and conscious spiritual connection without the assistance of any drugs. The integrative breathwork session was better than any drug-induced experience I’d ever had in my life.

So, I was eager to learn more about breathwork. I Googled breathwork and found about 3,540,000 results in 0.64 seconds. My online search led me to a teacher training with Jon Paul Crimi in Los Angeles. I was intrigued by his logical, no-nonsense approach to breathwork.

The funny (or not so funny) thing is that I had an interest in breathwork about a year ago. I remember searching extensively and finding programs that required hundreds and hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars with endless retreat requirements. But, I don’t recall seeing Jon Paul’s website.

So maybe I wasn’t ready to find this teacher training when I initially searched. Perhaps I had more layers to peel before I could be prepared to experience this profound and intense layer of healing.

And boy, did I peel back some layers. As I mentioned earlier, my first experience with breathwork was euphoric and enlightening. My second encounter with breathwork was like breaking open my heart.

We did three sessions of Conscious Connected Breathing. They consisted of two inhales and one exhale done through the mouth and without rest between the inhales and exhales.

The first session was only eight minutes. I felt scared, anxious, tingly, and on the verge of crying.

But I also felt the need to laugh. The impulse to laugh was unlike my first euphoric experience. I was curious about the laughter and discomfort, so I asked about it.


“You might be experiencing resistance,” Jon Paul replied. I was confused. I had no idea why I would be resistant. Then he mentioned that resistance usually shows up in breathwork around the eight-minute mark. This short session was just to introduce us to the method. After lunch, we would practice a full session.

Fear sunk into my stomach. I wasn’t sure if I could endure a full 28-minute session. The suggestion was to eat a light lunch. I had a smoothie and a pecan bar while discussing my experience with my breathing partner, who shared some of her uneasiness as well.

After lunch, we had a full session. My breathing partner went first while I held space for her. Three high energy songs blasted over the speakers while the teacher yelled out encouraging phrases like “Now is the time to clear out your shame and guilt,” “Step into your dreams,” and “Let go of the story you’ve been telling yourself.”

The last few songs were more emotional and soulful, followed by a yell and a rest period with instrumental songs.

Then it was my turn to breathe. Fear crept up as I put on my eye mask and lay down on my mat. The music came on as our teacher asked grounding questions like, “What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? What story have you been telling yourself?”

By the second song, the uneasiness was palpable. I felt energy shooting through my hands and feet. My mouth was dry, and I was losing grip of my breathing rhythm. Laughter welled up inside of me until it became uncontrollable, and I got lost in it.

Soon, a hand was on my shoulder, and the teacher asked me if I could reel it in. Confused, I tried to regain my focus on the breathing technique. This was not at all like my first experience; I came here to feel euphoric and connected. Instead, I felt lost, insecure, and unsafe.

It was time to yell. So I halfheartedly let one out. Then to my surprise, the teacher told us to scream again, to which I answered with a loud “Fuck you!”

That “fuck you” felt so good. It was the only thing that felt good about that session. A sense of calm filled my body as the instrumental music played in our rest period. Tears streamed down my face and pooled into my ears.

Then the session and first day were over. I went to my room in the hotel and sat in a stupor. Who was at the receiving end of that fuck you? Did it even matter? I had never been so confused in my life. Exhausted, I let go and cried some more.

In my discomfort, I chose to take a walk. As I walked down the stairs of the hotel, my inner critic said: “You can’t do anything right.”

With my inner dialog in full effect, I chose to focus my attention on curiosity. “Hmm, that’s interesting. I wonder why that came up.” I internally responded as I strolled down the Commons at Calabasas.

I decided to let it go and wander through the library and City Hall. I found a water fountain with three basins in the wall at the library’s entrance. I stood there, mesmerized by the bright yellow and blue mosaic tile backsplash and water flow.

A smaller basin at the top overfilled and spilled into a second and much larger pan, which flowed into an even larger basin that never overflowed.

The bottom basin of the fountain couldn’t overflow.

It’s never going to get more water than it can handle.

Just like I can never overflow with too much emotion either. Sure, it might feel like it'll spill over to another area, but I can never really get much more than I can handle.

I will never be done with my personal development either. I will always want more clarity and more joy.

I might not know what needs healing and why I’m resisting it. I’ll never be perfect, nor will I be able to please everyone. But I can trust in the process. I can believe that my intuition led me here to this spot at this moment, mesmerized by this water fountain.

A bit alleviated and still confused, I wandered some more, my appetite slowly surging in the background. I made my way to a grocery store at the end of the Commons.

I saw another student, and we instantly connected so, I invited her to dinner.

We shared our experiences over dinner, and I started feeling some clarity return. I knew that cooperative components had led us to meet each other.

As we made our way back to the hotel, I showed her the fountain and shared my analogy. We both stood in amazement for a bit. Satisfied and exhausted, I crawled into bed at 8:00 PM. I woke at 2:00 AM with an overwhelming need to cry. So I cried myself back to sleep. I woke again a few hours later and cried some more.

When my alarm rang, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed. I forced myself to go through my morning routine. I cried through yoga, the shower, and my daily meditation practice.

Letting go

There was no sense in putting on any makeup. I knew I would cry some more.

No more resisting.

I wasn’t sure what I was avoiding nor what to expect, but I knew I was ready to breathe all of that shit out.

Our teacher instructed us to sit somewhere different. I conversed with my new neighbor before the training started. A handful of therapists and medical professionals were in our class of fifty. My neighbor happened to be a therapist. Jon Paul paired us as breathing partners.

The exercise before our breathing session was to write two transformational letters. One directed towards a person that hurt us. The other from that person to us, saying all of the things we wished they would have said. Then we were to read them to our partners.

For a split second, I wasn’t sure what I would write. Then the memory of my former therapist came up.

Hot angry tears streamed down my face as my pen instantly dug into the composition notebook. Words of rage and resentment flew onto the page.

As I wrote, I realized that I had been holding onto these lost, insecure, and unsafe feelings for nine years. I’ll never be perfect. But I will always be worthy, and I can take my power back now.

These were the emotions I was scared to face. I recognized that I was also tired and ready to let it go.

My partner asked me if I wanted to go first. He said he could tell I was ready. As I started to read my letter, tears clouded my vision and fell onto the paper. Then the realization that he was also a therapist dawned on me. I wondered if his profession had prompted my letters. I felt self-conscious, ashamed, and scared, but I still read the letter.

I quickly put on the eye mask and got in place for our session. The music began, and I let go. I let go of perfection. I let go of the crappy story I had been telling myself that I should have known better.

Then halfway through the session, I lost my rhythm. I felt like I couldn’t keep going, and my partner said: “This is where you take your power back.”

So I focused my breathing again.

It was time for me to forgive Dr. Mancuso for crossing boundaries and taking advantage of my co-dependant tendencies (the very reason I went to therapy).

It was time for me to forgive myself for diving back into an abusive relationship, a hole of drugs, alcohol, and unsafe behavior.

It was time for me to forgive myself for allowing him to steal my worth.

Inhale, inhale, surrender. Inhale, inhale, surrender. Inhale, inhale, surrender.

I’ve done a ton of work on my personal development. I’ve peeled back so many layers; this was just one more layer.

I will never get more than I can handle; there will always be another basin to catch the overflow.

Funny (or not so funny) that I had an interest in breathwork about a year ago, but just now found this teacher.

Funny (or not so funny) that I ran into the other student whose conversation brought clarity the night before.

Funny (or not so funny) that I sat next to a therapist the day we wrote transformational letters.

So, no, I wasn’t ready to find this breathwork teacher training when I initially searched. I had more layers to peel before I could be prepared to experience this profound and intense layer of healing.

The path is always laid out for me. It's up to me what I allow.

With each breath, more power, awareness, and energy surged through my body.

I was no longer confused. I felt a shift and a connection and love with Source like never before.

Just more proof at that moment that The Universe has always supported me.

Just more proof that I am stronger than I think.

Just more proof that I will always be worthy.

My heart cracked open, and I cried again this time with relief, joy, and appreciation.

Funny (or not so funny) that breathing on a floor is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.

While I'm still processing the release of this deep emotional trauma, I'm also being gentle with myself. I'm eager to do the work and see how slowly implementing a daily breathwork practice into my existing self-care routine will look.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried breathwork? What was your experience?

Comment and let me know.

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