PAUL JONES | OLAFAQ
Can you please tell us in a few words what BreathWork is?
Breathwork is an umbrella term that encompasses many different conscious connected breathing practices from rebirthing to holotropic and pranayama. The goal is to use the breath either to get to specific mental, physical, emotional and spiritual states on demand or to explore memories stored in the body, that the conscious mind might not have access to, ie. birth, traumatic events.
How is it possible that breathing has so many implications? I mean, we all know that without it we cannot live, but the dimension you give is unknown to most of us. Can you explain what happens to our bodies when we follow certain breathing patterns?
All the major functional systems in the body are controlled by your autonomic nervous system. Your lungs, your heart, your liver, your pancreas will keep on working whether you pay attention to them or not, without you having the ability to interact with their workings.
The breathing system is an open system. It is the only one that will keep working for you whether you’re paying attention to it or not and at the same time provide you with the opportunity to interact with it, whenever you want. If you think about it, that is an amazing power! Not only can you interact with your breath in order to become more relaxed or more focused or more energised, but you can go as deep as to interact with it and alter completely your state of consciousness. So this begs the question: Why would nature give us this ability, if not to use it wisely so that we can heal and transcend ourselves?
When you start paying attention to your breath, you understand that by changing the timing, the volume and the feeling of your breath, you impact your biology and blood chemistry, ie. levels of O2 and CO2. The most simple example that instantly impacts your biochemistry is based on the fact that every inhalation activates the sympathetic nervous system (doing mode, fight, flight) and every exhalation the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, relaxation state), so when we chose to put emphasis on our inhalation we can activate ourselves and when we put emphasis on our exhalation, we can relax ourselves.
We know that breathing is very important in Yoga. Are there other practices or knowledge of previous cultures about the power of breathing?
True, breathing is a primary element in Yoga and the first known records of yogis in India included only breathing techniques, which later evolved into breath and movement.
It is also a quite widespread fact that in many languages, the words for spirit and breath are one and the same, ie. the Sanskrit Prana, the Hebrew Ruach, the Greek Pneuma, the Latin Spiritus etc.
I know for sure that in my part of the world, many Polynesian cultures used the breath as a spiritual practice. The natives of New Zealand, the Maori greet each other with a hongi: pressing noses and foreheads together. Hongis meaning is the sharing of breath and symbolises the uniting of two people.
Why have you chosen Greece? How do you describe this deep connection to the energy of the place and the people in here, and how does it affect your experience?
Greece is a reflection of its people. In the spirit of Greeks there is something magical. Something that defies oppression, something that celebrates life and pleasure. Somehow I feel I want to embrace those qualities in me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: to me Greece feels like a mother’s love, and when I’m here, I feel I’m home.
What is the Breathwork training you offer? What does one learn in it and how can one use this knowledge?
The Pure Awareness Level I Breathwork Training is about coming home to ourselves. We learn the biology and psychology of our breath and how to use it in order to achieve specific mental/emotional states on demand, we become aware of our own default breathing mechanism and how it reflects the view of ourselves and we journey into our bodies connecting with deeply hidden somatic memories. This training is open to everyone who would like to learn the art of breathing and balance the intelligence of their mind with the wisdom of their body.
In Pure Awareness Level II, participants get to acquire much deeper experiences on breathwork practices along with theoretical and practical tools on anatomy, physiology, counselling and communication, so that they can move on to become certified professional breathwork practitioners.
How does the utilisation of the same ‘technology’ as the brain but in reverse make Breathwork an intriguing method for releasing pent-up emotional energy?
Our nervous system uses the breath in specific ways to store emotions. We are teaching our private clients and our training participants to become aware of that mechanism and empower them to safely interact with it and have a different result.
When it comes to emotions, we know that suppressing or projecting them is not the way. We are suggesting a middle way, a different way, that entails using our breath to experience them and let them run their natural course inside us. We are showing people a way to use their breath to self-regulate their nervous system, shifting their view of emotions as enemies to emotions as allies and information holders.
And taken that we are all beautifully different, our aim is to support each one of you to understand your own breathing mechanism and go past your somatic and mental conditioning with softness and acceptance.
Is there a simple breathing technique that you could share with us in order to be calmer and better manage our daily stress?
When we focus awareness on our breath and do deep, diaphragmatic or soft-belly breathing, we allow an internal transformation to begin. We become more alive in the present moment and more quiet and tranquil on the inside.
Breathing from the nose, place your hands on your belly. Make sure that your are breathing only into your belly, in a gentle way, watching your hands rising and falling, and not into the upper chest.
In time, see if you can gently elongate your exhalation. Breathing in to the count of 2 or 3 and breathing out to the count of 3 or more without holding, pushing, forcing or stoping the movement of the breath. Do this for up to 10-15 min.
This practice is very effective for the average daily stress but also to maintain a regulated nervous system in the long run. For people who find themselves experiencing heightened states of fear and panic, it is important for us to provide more personalised advice and guidance, in order to support them with safety and integrity.