Of course, we all know how essential it is to breathe. Essential for survival.
But did you also know that trauma and inner blockages can be solved by breathing? “Biodynamic Breath is a holistic method for releasing mental and physical blockages.” At least that’s what Michael Lindemann, expert for Biodynamic Breathwork, says. In fact, special breathing techniques can have opening and cathartic effects. Clearly, we want to know more about this and ask Michael about it.
Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?
I am a non-medical practitioner for psychotherapy and I practice a new form of body psychotherapy – Biodynamic Breath & Trauma Release, BBTR for short.
What do you think are the most common reasons for internal blockages?
I think the most common cause of internal blockages is fear, which is widespread in many forms and degrees of intensity. These can be old or current fears. Severe blockages are often caused by trauma. Even a hectic and stressful lifestyle leads us to build up blockages over a longer period of time – there is no other way to persevere.
What is Biodynamic Breath?
Biodynamic Breath is a holistic method for the release of mental and physical blockades. The method is particularly suitable for the solution of trauma disorders. The biodynamic breath can also be seen as a special form of meditation.
The breath has been used for many centuries for meditation and spiritual practice, e.g. by the Sufis or in Tantra. In the last century pioneers like Wilhelm Reich or Stanislav Grof started to use breathwork successfully in psychotherapy. BBTR uses long time proven breathing techniques and complements the whole through touch, movement exercises, emotional work and meditation to an individual system for each client.
Through new findings in brain and trauma research, we know that psychological trauma is not only a mental but also a physical process that is controlled by the brain stem. This part of our brain, which is the oldest in evolutionary history, hardly differs from that of reptiles. It has a very simple structure, but functions incredibly fast. For example, a zebra does not have to think about running when a lion comes at her. The brain stem switches to “emergency mode” in a fraction of a second and triggers a fight-or-flight reaction.
Adrenaline is released and all energy is sent to the muscles and blood circulation that are important for survival. In contrast, functions that are not immediate for survival, such as digestion or thinking, are interrupted. If the zebra can successfully escape from the lion, this enormous energy boost is used up, excess remnants are shaken off by increased breathing and sometimes intense trembling. The zebra had a bad experience, but is not traumatized. It looks completely different when a successful combat or flight reaction is impossible. The brain stem virtually freezes the body. In the animal kingdom we know this as a dead reflex. A so-called dissociation occurs, which serves as a protective mechanism so that feelings or pain are no longer perceived.
In people who suffer from the consequences of trauma, this frozen state is chronic. The brain stem still signals a threatening emergency, although it no longer exists. Our cerebrum, responsible for rational thinking, has no influence on this. The body constantly produces energy for emergencies without being able to use it sensibly. The permanent tension finally leads to states of exhaustion, anxiety, inner restlessness, stress, nervousness, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, aggressiveness, emotional poverty.
The treatment of trauma-relateddisorders with talk therapy helps only to a limited extent. They require a holistic approach that also considers the physical blockages of the trauma. Only the physical experience can signal to the brain stem that the danger is over.
In your therapy you offer: breath, touch, movement, emotion, meditation. Do you think today we have forgotten to move, touch, show feelings and breathe properly? Does this in turn create anxiety disorders / panic and stress?
I wouldn’t say we’ve forgotten that. Restricted breathing is more the result of anxiety and stress than the cause. In our intellect-related performance society, feelings and touch are often neglected. There is hardly any time for meditation and exercise often means performance stress in the gym instead of a hike in nature.
How can the way we breathe affect our way of life?
How we breathe is central to all physical and mental processes. When we are afraid, we hold our breath. When we are under stress, we breathe flat and pressed. Many people habitually breathe with only a fraction of their lung capacity. The less we breathe, the less energy our body gets. We have got used to this in order to protect ourselves, because it has the seemingly advantage of feeling less. When we breathe completely, we are more in contact with ourselves, with our body, our feelings, in the true sense of the word self-conscious.
How does a session like this work? What happens in the brain and body?
A session usually begins with a conversation about the difficulties experienced and the goals to be achieved. We use an intensified breathing to activate the body and to perceive the existing tensions more on the physical level instead of deepening into our problems only through the mind. Touch and manual intervention help to loosen physical blockages. Through the support of the therapist, it is possible to come into contact with old traumatic experiences without being overwhelmed by them again. Instead of going back into numbness, we follow movement impulses of the body that correspond to a normal fight-flight reaction, the frozen trauma pattern liquefies into movement. The trauma reactions controlled by the brain stem can be completed. The client experiences an increased flow of energy in the body and finally goes into a very deep relaxation. A meditative rest phase at the end of the session is an essential part to integrate the physical and emotional experience.
What kind of traumas can be healed through this process?
We speak of trauma release in the sense that we can free ourselves from the grip of trauma. We can’t change our history. But by expanding our breath and releasing physical and mental blockages, we experience that we can leave this story behind and be completely in the here and now. In this presence there may still be memories of traumatic experiences, but they are no longer experienced as problematic and no longer restrict us.
The way in which a mental trauma affects us is in principle the same, no matter whether it is a single event, such as a serious accident, or a developmental trauma in childhood. Therefore, any kind of trauma can be relieved. Already in the first session this feeling of presence and freedom can be experienced. Depending on the severity of the trauma, it usually takes a series of sessions until the solution is complete and this freedom is also established as an everyday condition.
Are breath, touch, movement, emotion, meditation a recipe for a fulfilled life?
I’m convinced of that. From my own experience and from the experiences with my clients. It is always fascinating for me to see how quickly and profoundly complete breathing leads us from a cognitive problem fixation into deep inner peace and contentment. In this space emotions can come and go freely without us having to fight against them.
Many thanks to Michael for the great interview!
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Masha is the founder of Literaa Poetry and the better half of Pedro.
She likes to write columns and lifestyle topics and takes care of the editorial staff. Read more about Masha here.