Do you feel like you have tried everything but that some stuck patterns keep on repeating in your life?
I have been practicing yoga and meditation for over ten years, and also teaching them for a few years, but I still have some persistent areas in my life where stuck patterns make it difficult to move forward. Though I love Vipassana meditation for its illuminating clarity with regards to the workings of the human mind, and I adore yoga as a practice of unifying and harmonising body, mind and soul – sometimes you need something extra to release deeply stuck emotions.
It is how we feel about things that really makes a difference. We might be living the life of our dreams on paper, but if we don’t actually feel good inside that life, it doesn’t matter how great it looks from the outside.
Life is lived and felt through our emotions.
In order to be a happy and fulfilled human being we need to be the master of our emotions and not their slave.
We need to learn emotional self-awareness in order to fully express our emotions in a healthy way, and to pay attention to what they are telling us. Many of us though did not learn how to healthily express emotions in our childhood, either because we learned from caregivers that expression of emotion was bad (we were told off when expressing negative emotions) or because of frightening experiences (parents or caregivers fighting) we learned to repress our anger or negative emotion for fear of negative consequences if expressed.
Then in adulthood we may have gone through some traumatic experiences (most of us have) like a relationship break up, divorce, unemployment, custody battles, bankruptcy, and not have been able to fully express and release the negative emotions around these experiences.
Emotions as Energy in Motion
Emotions (Energy-in-motion) which are unexpressed lodge in the energy body and then sometimes also in the physical body, and get stuck. The result is literally an area of our body where the natural energy flow becomes blocked.
If you have stuck emotions – stuck energy – eventually this energy will turn inwards and become destructive. It can manifest as depression or anxiety and in extreme form as panic attacks.
This is what happened to me earlier this year, when I was overcome by some very powerful anxiety attacks. I would be standing in my kitchen, and suddenly a wave of fear would wash over me, and paralysing me. I felt like i was turned to stone and at the same time, my mind was plagued by distressing thoughts of the past and fearful projections for the future. My mind stream looked a bit like:
Am I on the right path, if not, which is the right path? Should I have done X, Y or Z with my life perhaps and then I would be at A, B or C and crazy in love with ex-partner S, T or U with two and a half children happily ensconced in Happyville, The Earth, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe….where sadness never enters and pain is but a distant memory…. instead of where I am now (single, here, present, living the eternal space of NOW.) If I do (X or Y) it could turn out well but then it could also be a complete and utter terrible disaster.
In order to counter these scary thoughts that prevented me from being in the here and now, I had started waking up earlier and earlier in the morning, and instead of going to do my meditation practice, I began listening to affirmations from Louise Hay, Florence Scovel Schinn or Abraham Hicks.
Starting 4:30, I turned on the phone and jump started the affirmation machine. Backdropped by a slideshow of lush orange sunsets and sunrises, of blissful coconut palm filled beaches, there came the words…
Today is a beautiful today. Today is a great day. I am in my power. I am loved, I am poised, I am graceful. Repeat after me: Today…. is a beautiful day. Beautiful day beautiful day beautiful day beautiful….. Today is a beautiful. Today, is a wonderful day, today is a GREAT day. I am feeling so energetic today… Today is a ….
Valuing Intellect over Feelings / Intuition
In Western society we very often value intellect and information obtained through intellect over intel gained through feelings. We believe that if we analyse things enough – like our life situation and our current challenges, we will be able to find a ‘solution’.
This is also the symptom of a society imbalanced in masculine and feminine energy, where the masculine is overly prominent – we are conditioned to think our way out of problems. If we don’t also feel into a situation, we are missing a whole lot of information that could hold the key to its resolution.
Affirmations are ways to change unconscious thinking patterns and can be helpful in some circumstances, but if we are ignoring the root cause of our unease – our unacknowledged and unexpressed feelings of fear, pain, anger or sadness, then no amount of affirming is going to change things.
What we need to do is feel the feelings, to release them. Even if energy resulting from traumatic experiences has been lodged in our energetic or physical bodies for years, it can be released in just a few hours.
Breath Work for Emotional Release
In the middle of my anxiety attacks, one Saturday morning, a friend request popped into my facebook feed. Lucas wanted to be my friend.
I clicked over to his profile and I saw that he was running a breath work event that morning. It was starting in just an hour and a half. Something told me (intuition!) that I needed to go. That I really had to be there. So I paid attention to the feeling and I went along. By coincidence, the event was being held at the Ashtanga yoga studio which is my home studio when in Melbourne.
I arrived at the studio early and got changed and got myself a chai, before sitting down at the long wooden table to savour the warmth in my hands cradling the cup and the aromatic spices penetrating all of my sense perceptions. I focused on the feelings. Smelling, smelling. Cinnamon, cardamon, ginger. My mind was quiet. There was no anxiety, no fear.
This was going to be a beautiful day, beautiful day, beautiful day… I am going to experience a deep breath work transformation and after this class my life path will be crystal clear and the next steps will be laid out for me like shining white stones crossing a tranquil pond. All I will need to do is step onto the first one.
I finished my chai and meditatively washed my cup taking care to feel the heat of the water on my hands and the feel of the rough ceramic it was made from, feeling the slip of the soap between my fingers (soapy soapy, warm water) before slowly placing it mindfully on the rack.
Then I stepped into the room to meet the wide open arms of the presenter and my brand new friend, Lucas, who was greeting each participant with a huge hug. I felt so held and loved in those few seconds, that I knew in an instant that this would indeed be a beautiful day. I felt blessed.
At the front of the room was an alter of crystals, essential oils, beads, feathers and other mystical objects, all surrounded by a ring of Angel cards. Wow. And there was a man at the head of this alter. Amazing! Lucas told us we could come up and spray ourselves with some of the essential oils, or pick an Angel card. I sprayed myself with some very refreshing scents and I picked a card. It said: Self-Love. To honour and love myself more today. Hmm, I was on the right track.
Lucas’s Journey to Becoming a Breath Work Facilitator
When everyone arrived and we sat intently in a circle around Lucas as he explained a little about his journey into breath work.
He was a soldier in the Australian army in for eight years, and for a part of that was a combat soldier on the front lines in Afghanistan. When he returned to Australia, he found it difficult to connect with friends and family, and eventually realised that he was disconnected from himself. This led him on a journey to finding breath work at the Byron Spirit Festival, where he experienced a powerful transformation, after which he decided to dedicate himself to sharing this work.
The first exercise Lucas got us to do was a reveal: I was partnered up with the lone man in a roomful of women. We were to continue a sentence that began with: “What is in my heart right now is: ……” and to just speak in a stream of consciousness. So there I was, on this sunny Saturday morning, sharing my recent adventures through the dark and scary terrain of anxiety and my heart’s desire for peace and an exit from this dark tunnel with this young man opposite who I knew nothing about.
He looked into my eyes the whole time, giving me his full attention. Lucas told us that if we were done before the time was up, to just repeat. So I did: “What my heart desires now is…. today is a beautiful day, beautiful day, beautiful day (in comes the mantra when I least expect it! Damn Louise Hay you are interrupting my reveal).
My partner’s reveal was a little more external than mine – “My hearts desire is that my job situation improve so that my boss recognises my work and I get a promotion….” In turn, I looked into his eyes with non-judgement, taking it all in. He had lovely light blue cornflower coloured eyes. It occurred to me that it is not often that we are gifted the full and complete presence of another being. Normally we are in conversations – where the other person is taking in our words and then responding, and sometimes responding even before we finish speaking. It can become like a ping pong match with each person hitting the ball back without a pause. So it is really valuable to be received and heard in this way.
Then we transitioned into some movement work where we had to get on the floor and be the animal of our choice, and growl, moo or bark accordingly. I was a tiger but could not quite get my full roar on. I bumped into quite a few roaring cats and a light limbed meowing lion. I guess being on all fours a feline or a dog was the most obvious choice.
A Deep Dive into the Soul
Next up was the actual breath work.
Now that we were loosened up, we were ready to dive deep into our souls. We lay down on our yoga mats, covered ourselves with a blanket, and Lucas started the music that was to accompany our journeys. A rhythmic electronic backbeat filled out with soaring vocals.
Lucas started on the instructions for the breathing.
Long slow breath in through the mouth and long slow breath out. Breaths should be about the same length. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
Breathing through the mouth, this is a very active style of breath that if you don’t pace yourself, can actually tire you out. Along with twenty others, we filled the room with breaths. In, out. In, out. I started to go internal and it was like I was entering a cocoon inside of me. The more I breathed the deeper I went. And I started to feel the arising of waves of fear, waves of pain, waves of anguish. Letting Lucas’s voice lead me, I rode the waves. And they kept on coming.
As the music starting climaxing in intensity, so would come another burst of sadness. I started crying.
Waves of tears were punctuated by waves of breath. In, out, in, out.
This is a beautiful day…. I was so deep inside of the experience that I forgot I was in a room. I forgot I was on the floor. I was floating deep in my inner space on a boat of sadness, rowing myself with the oars of my breath into the depths of my being. I kept rowing, and the sadness kept coming. And at the same time lots of images were passing on my mind screen from the past. Friends and lovers passing by in all different kinds of distorted versions of scenes from my past. It was like they were waving to me somehow. Above the music and the heaving breaths came Lucas’ voice.
He had to yell a bit to be heard above the raging seas, the dragon breaths of all the others in the room, and the pulsing waves of the soundtrack.
‘Go with it’, he shouted ‘stay with the feeling, be here now, feel it, feel it. Go deeper. You are safe. Breathe out fear, breathe in love.’.
It was like he was the first mate in my boat, helping me navigate the heaving waters. With his voice guiding me I felt safe rowing my boat out into the deep dark sea. While I was riding over some big freak waves, I heard him say ‘put up your hand if you would like some reiki healing’ – so I did, and in a minute received some healing hands on my shoulders. It was like a co-pilot came in to help me steer, to point my boat just slightly more towards the left so that is was not rollicking quite so much.
After what felt like a few hours but was probably about forty-five minutes, Lucas slowly drew us back into the room. I slowly started rowing my boat back from the crest of a wave at night to the white sandy shore, where there was a full moon shining on me as I got out. Perhaps the sea was made of my own tears. The session finished with a sharing of our experience, where some of the participants shared channeled messages of love and acceptance for all, while others shared their personal journeys through their own dark breath of the soul.
Releasing of Fear and Anxiety
Over the course of the next week I experienced some very intense waves of fear and anxiety like i had never before experienced.
It was liked I had opened the door to a room inside of me that had been locked for a long time. It was the room of emotions that I had not allowed myself to feel. The breath work had opened the floodgates for a whole load of repressed feelings to flow out from this inner room and find release.
Over the course of a week I released a whole lot of pain and sadness that needed to be let go so that I could more fully be present and live my life.
Some of the days of that week I found myself standing in my kitchen just feeling again waves of fear or sadness pulse through my body. I stood still and I let them come, or if I felt the impulse to dance, I turned on the music and danced the feelings out.
The next Saturday I went to another breath workshop with Lucas. This time a lot more people turned up (I think they must have got word of it from the previous weeks’ participants) and we did the whole thing again. One courageous soul shared openly and vulnerably his experience of years of anxiety and depression and how he felt divinely guided to come to the session (following his feeling – intution).
My experience of the breath work during that session was also cathartic, but instead of sadness and pain I felt a lot of energy of joy.
I felt a lot of freedom and aliveness coming through my body. There was a lightness and a happiness within my body and breath that wasn’t there the previous Saturday. The weather that was also full of lightness, with full autumn sun streaming in the windows. After my week of releasing stuck emotions, now my soul had come to bask in its light – to feel the joy that was always there beneath all of the pain and tears. I had been washed clean.
Emotional Release and Life Energy
We are all made of energy. And we are living beings, so we need to be in motion to stay alive. If you don’t express your emotions they will remain stuck in your energetic system and negatively impact on your life.
Because of this stuck energy, you may find that you are afraid to be vulnerable and show up as your true and raw self, thus damaging your relationships and blocking intimacy from being able to enter your life.
The reasons that we may unconsciously repress our emotions are many.
We may not have been encouraged as children to release our negative emotions because we may have learned that expressing emotions would get us into trouble. Then in adult life we may have experienced some kind of emotional trauma – like for instance from a relationship break-up – and then not been able to fully feel and release the emotions of this experience. If we don’t express our emotions at the time of a traumatic event, they remain stuck in our energy body until the day that we do let them out. But when we do finally express this stuck emotion, we free up a whole load of life energy for new experiences. And we free up our physical body to feel more deeply. We open up to deeper relationships and to more intimacy in our everyday lives.
Breath work can be a valuable part of your journey to being the fullest, and free-est expression of your true self and to living the life that your heart really desires, free of restrictions. In his workshops Lucas also includes sound healing meditations with crystal singing bowls as well as the most mystical and mysterious ‘music of the plants’. You have to go and experience that for yourself. Words cannot do it justice.