Transformational Breathing for Mental Health, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression

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Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. Harika Pekinel, she is a Transformational Breathing coach and she’s a qualified mindfulness teacher and fitness instructor and a dance instructor. She runs workshops and one-on-one sessions for children as well as for adults. She’s originally from Turkey. She believes in working on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being for our self development. Welcome to the chat, Harika. We got so much invaluable information today. Listen to this.

Please explain to us what Transformational Breathing is.

HP: Okay, transformational Breathing is an advanced self healing moderator using a full diaphragmatic conscious breath, combined with movement, toning, acupressure, music and affirmations. It was found by Judith Kravitz in America, a metaphysics doctor in the 1970s. And it has been practised over 45 years in many countries around the world. It’s around 54 countries now. Transformational Breath uses open mouth breathing technique, which is a connected breath with a relaxed exhale. And it is practised to help people to deal with issues such as anxiety, panic attacks or burnout. It also helps with improving breathing and feeling more energised, focused and positive. 

AB: How does it help with mental health? Can we go into that a little more? 

HP: We go back to the beginning of our life when we were babies. And if you observe a baby, they are breathing, you’ll notice their breathing is flowing, so there are no restrictions and breath motion from their lower belly to the midsection and to the chest. And we begin to develop emotionally from age three to seven years old and we are aware of what makes people happy, sad, fearful or angry. We learn to control our emotions, unfortunately. And we do that through our breath and to prevent ourselves from crying, from getting, shoving our anger or fitting with our environment or to please our parents and peers. So throughout life, similarly, again, we hold our breath, contracting our muscles, subconsciously shutting down the parts of ourselves that perhaps we haven’t felt safe or simply to adapt within our surroundings. Doing so, we suppress feelings such as grief, guilt, shame and sadness rather than express our true feelings, which leads to anxiety and depression. 

AB: That is fascinating. 

HP: So, using transformational breath technique, we allow the body to remember and relearn how we used to breathe when we were newborns. And by doing so, we release both physical and emotional tension from the body and support our mental health to be full and stronger. It helps to keep our mental status healthy and clear the mental issues. So for example, when we are feeling nervous or stressed and push those feelings down, you might just feel that you are angry as well, or our throat constricts or our chest begins to tighten and even our digestive system can be affected. Yet if we take a moment to consciously breathe deeply into our belly for a short while, we’ll notice the tension release from the diaphragm and other primary breathing muscles. And this helps to increase our lung capacity and oxygen in the blood flow, which has the dual effect of relaxing the body and energising the mind as we become more rational, lighter and clearer. So it helps a lot with the mental side of things. 

AB: That sounds incredible and I’ve tried it. There is definitely something there. I’ve had friends who’ve been on medication and they’ll say, “well, how can simple breath work help get rid of the medication for mental health issues, PTSD.” So is there any research to prove that transformational breathing does work? 

HP: Yes, there has been lots of studies on transformational breath effects over the years. So in Italy, in the hospital, they found that twelve respiratory patients who had COPD were given a series of ten transformational breath sessions and the oxygen capacity was increased on average from 65% to 85%. And physical, mental and emotional symptoms decreased dramatically as well. And in another research, the Facilitator Helmut People of Austria conducted the study. 57% of the subjects reported a significant increase in well being after a six session protocol. So the research used a series of standard health questionnaires to assess the feelings at baseline, after the third session and after the full six sections. 

AB: Okay.

HP: We have Dr. PIPA Webel, who is in the UK in London, and she’s a certified Transformational Breath trainer herself. And she led a study that provides evidence that Transformational Breath helps improve generalised anxiety, social anxiety, music performance anxiety, depression and well being, and reduce psychological measures of anxiety in professional voice users. You can find all those online as well. And another last one, I’ll give you Aycha Zapora. I think that’s how we pronounce it. And she’s from the Netherlands completed peer-reviewed research on cognition relating to types of meditation. It involves transformational breath and found that even a half hour session enhances divergent thinking. This is associated with creativity, finding alternative solutions to a problem, original thinking and generating new ideas. 

AB: Wow. 

HP: So I think it proves that it works. But to see that, I think I would advise you to go and try it. 

AB: That’s great advice. So tell me Harika, you know, when anybody is going through, say, a panic attack, very often they stop breathing or they hold their breath or it’s constricted breathing. Let’s get into something like PTSD, how does something like transformational breathing help with PTSD? 

HP: So, PTSD, which is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening events such as war, sexual abuse, natural disasters and so on. And during these events, the body’s natural mechanism kicks in with the release of adrenaline, triggering some physical changes in the body to generate energy for the fight or flight to survive, so we can survive. Following days, months and years following the traumatic event, we paint some triggers which would make us relive the event again in some flashbacks or nightmares which will result in severe anxiety, angry reactions or avoidance. And when we try our best to avoid triggers of the trauma, the PTSD event remains unprocessed. So the person, the body feels under threat at all times. And transformational breath is used to address and process memories and bodily sensations which are restored in the body at the time of the trauma. So PTSD develops because of our avoidance of trauma reminders and transformational breath suggest that we push the emotions and memories into our subconscious by holding breath during the trauma. So this might ease the intensity of the pain in that moment, but it does not make them go away. So during a transformational breath session, a non pose connected breath assists those trauma memories and feelings stored at mental and emotional level to be integrated and processed. The person will no longer feel that they are under constant danger. So how that happens is with that connected breath, there is a magnetic area that happens and normally the body has a very high energy level, so with that magnetic power, all the trauma and memories, negative memories, they raise up their vibration as well to match the body’s vibration. So the body releases the memories and trauma. 

AB: So in terms of PTSD, you’re saying it works by releasing cellular memories. And tell me Harika, how does it help with anxiety and depression? 

HP: So when we are feeling anxious or stressed, our body can go into fight or flight mode and we pump cortisol and adrenaline around the body and our muscles contract, making the blood pressure rise and our breathing actually speeds up. So the message to the body is to activate this sympathetic nervous system which gets us ready for the battle. But simply when we change our breathing, the way we breathe, we can send the message to our body to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which takes us into a relaxed state. And the relaxed state is a more normal, healthier way for us to function and it helps to keep all our systems in their nature of rhythm, working in balance alongside each other. And using conscious breathing, we can reduce stress, improve our mood and elevate the levels of serotonin and endorphins. Obviously, elevated serotonin and endorphins would definitely be the way out of depression. 

AB: That’s amazing. 

HP: My mentor himself actually suffered from depression for 26 years and within starting six months of transformational breath, his depression was gone.

AB: So what’s the best way of starting with transformational breathing? Can we practise by ourselves? 

HP: The best way to start is receiving a session or joining a workshop. So depending on the person and their preferences, it could be a private one-to-one session, or it could be a group session. They are both good ways of starting. And even if you know the technique, you heard it from somewhere else, just do not start it unless you join their lesson, because it’s very important that you get it absolutely right. And once you go into the session, then you can start practising at home. I would say ten minutes a day, like five minutes when you wake up in the morning and five minutes just before you go to sleep. 

AB: But when will you start seeing a difference? Would it be three weeks? 

HP: Well, it depends on the people. So there was an IBS case, and he was given two weeks of intense sessions, which was every day, one session a day, and IBS was clear. So it depends on if you have a problem or if you are just feeling good, you can do it once a week for six sessions, and then you can just continue at home ten minutes a day and then maybe join in once a month to a workshop. 

AB: So, Harika, can you talk us through some tools that we can use at home to help with each of them, like with PTSD, anxiety, depression? 

HP: Okay, if this is related to transformational breath, I would again say definitely practise five minutes when you wake up. That will energise you and open you to receiving during the day. And you might actually notice that your day will go much better. And if you do it before sleep again, it will prepare you for a better night’s sleep, helping you to wake up feeling good. So if you wake up feeling good, then your day is going to be good, and then you are going to have a better sleep. So you are going to get into this circle of feeling better. 

AB: Okay. 

HP: Alongside transformational breath, everyone can also try different breathing methods and having positive people around them watching positive things or reading positive stuff as well. It’s just dancing. I do a lot of dancing, it really helps. But definitely transformational Breath is the core of everything.

AB: Just like a minute or two if you could give people a flavour of what we’re talking about, that would be great.

HP: So we say transformational breath is open mouth breathing. First of all, take a comfortable position. So make sure you are leaning against something or lying down, You don’t want to be falling over and closing our eyes and relaxing our body. Our mouth is going to be open at least a gap of where a finger can go through your mouth. The inhale is going to be longer than exhale. So imagine putting an arrow and then letting it go. 

AB: Is your exhale so long? 

HP: Inhale short, and relax. Exhale. And it is going to be a connected breath. So there’s no gap between inhale and exhale. And it’s going to be the diaphragmatic breathing. So the breath is going to go to the belly lower abdomen. To make that easier, you can pull your knees close to your chest. If you take a position like that, it will help you to breathe into your lower abdomen. 

AB: And Harika, you’ve said you should do this five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Would you recommend it every day? 

HP: Yes, every day. Please do go to a session or a workshop and learn it properly before you start practising it, because this can take you away. And you might think this is like five minutes, it could be hours before you know. If you are a person who already has a strong connection, you could get connected and then you would lose the time. And it’s very important you get the technique right as well. So first, please go to a session and then start practising at home. 

AB: So you gave us an idea of somewhere like your mentor. You said it’s helped him or her with depression. Give us some more significant changes that you have seen with your clients, areas where it’s helped.

HP: I had one client, she had a neck hernia. It was so painful, she could hardly move. And if she went into a car, she had to leave the car because all the bouncing, she couldn’t handle the pain. She mostly was spending days at home. And we started Transformational Breath with her, and within a few months it cleared. And since 2015, she hasn’t complained about it at all. 

AB: Wow. 

HP: And I had another client who had been single for so many years, and she could never meet someone that she wanted to be with. And after one session, she met the person. They got married. They have a baby now. And she was told at a young age she was going through menopause already and she wouldn’t have a child. So she had the husband and the child as well. 

AB: Wow. 

HP: Exactly. And I had another client, again, after one session, she had no idea she could draw. But after the session, she felt like, “oh, I must draw something.” And she started drawing like the passion pictures, clothes and everything. They were amazing. So it just shows how much it brings your creativity out and your talent that you weren’t even aware of that could come out with the connection that is created by Transformational Breath. 

AB: So from what you’re telling me, it doesn’t just work on a physical and mental level, but it seems to work also on the emotional and the spiritual level. 

HP: Definitely, especially on a spiritual level. Because while you are breathing, if you get it right, you connect to the whole universe. You connect to the source, and the breath starts breathing you, and you completely don’t feel the body, you are just one with the universe. We have other examples. Like many people became coaches because they had these significant changes in their lives. And we have coaches who had many years of drug addiction, alcohol addiction. They have completely given them up. 

AB: Fabulous. Now, Harika, do you have any advice for the people who are listening in? 

HP: My advice is definitely give yourself a chance to have a transformational breath session. Give it a try, because you wouldn’t know it unless you try it. And obviously, once they try it to start practising it, even small amounts at a time at home, and in time, they will see the difference in them, if not straight away. Some people see it straight away. So don’t just, let it be another webinar or podcast. Let this be the beginning of the rest of your life that you want to see yourself in. That’s my advice. And practice, practice, practice. 

AB: That’s actually amazing advice. And I will end with a quote from Rumi. There’s one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. There is another way which is full of love. And to me, love is all about connecting to the universe. So thank you so much for this, Harika. It was such an incredible session. Thanks for joining us. Hope you enjoyed the Wellness Curated podcast. Please subscribe and tell your friends and family about it. And here’s to you, leading your best life.