In the fall of 2019, I stepped foot into my local meditation studio for my first breathwork experience—an hour-long class focused on Transformational Breath. Although I had long practiced pranayama techniques in meditation or woven in a yoga class, it was usually 15 minutes, at most. At the time, I couldn’t imagine practicing any form of breathwork for a full hour.
But I was intrigued. I knew that a pranayama practice can have a profound impact on one’s life, and that Transformational Breath, in particular, could help me release emotions and experiences that I was holding onto. I started the class not quite knowing what to expect, but I walked away with a deep love of modern forms of breathwork—and feeling free in a way I never had before.
What is transformational breath?
The groundwork for what is now known as Transformational Breath was laid by Judith Kravitz in the late 1970s (she created the Transformational Breath Foundation and its training programs in 1994). This form of breathwork starts with breath pattern analysis, and hinges on the belief that you can uncover a lot about what a person is going through emotionally or in their subconscious by the way they are breathing.
According to Nicole Rager, the Transformational Breath facilitator who taught the hour-long class I attended, this pranayama is conscious, connected, and circular. It’s used to help integrate physical and emotional trauma, as well as expand the respiratory system, so that people can not only breathe easier, but also open the heart, mind, and body so that people can connect spiritually. This style of breath also uses body mapping, acupressure-style touch, sound, affirmations, and movement to facilitate a powerful, healing, and transformative experience. Transformational breath targets the entire system—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual —and brings you back to a place of freedom, peace, and joy to reignite your full potential.
“When we breathe in a conscious, connected way, it raises our vibrational field and begins to clear stuck, stored, or stagnant emotions at a cellular level in the body, so we can integrate experiences that weren’t fully felt or experienced and have been stuck in the body,” says Rager. This helps people be more present and connected to themselves, remembering who they are at their core when they let go of the heaviness they’ve been carrying around.
Who can benefit from transformational breath?
“Everyone can benefit from this practice because everyone can do it,” says Rager.
Whether you’re experiencing grief, trying to relieve stress, or looking to improve your mental and emotional state, a Transformational Breath practice can enhance anyone’s life. Those who are having a hard time letting go of emotional experiences or are holding onto things they are ready to let go of can particularly benefit from Transformational Breath.
My experience with Transformational Breath
When I arrived at my first Transformational Breath class, I was greeted by Rager, whose calm and kind demeanor quickly quelled my feelings of nervousness. The room was completely full, which made the energy quite exciting—something that didn’t feel so unusual pre-pandemic. We all laid down and got comfortable, preparing for class. There was a brief introduction and then music started vibrating from the speakers, and Nicole prompted us to breathe.
At first, it was challenging to get into the rhythm of the breath, and I felt a lot of frustration and resistance. But as the class wore on, the breath cycle became easier and felt more manageable. Soon, I started to experience sensations in my physical body—some tingling and numbing in my hands, feet, and, strangely enough, behind my ears.
From there, the experience intensified. I began to experience an overwhelming release—from a flood of emotion that seemingly came out of nowhere, to sadness, followed by weeping. Rager came over and utilized acupressure points while repeating affirmations that helped me release whatever was needed. Feelings I wasn’t even aware I was holding onto were coming to the surface to be felt and released.
At another point in the class, I experienced a great sense of fear. Logically I knew I was safe, but the sensations in my body felt foreign and made me nervous. We were encouraged to move and shake our limbs and make audible noises if we felt the need to release any building energy. This helped me let go of the fear I was holding onto and surrender into the experience.
The hour flew by, and after the waves of emotion and fear passed, I was filled with an immense sense of bliss and peace. When the class was over, my entire body was buzzing. I felt far lighter than I had before the class, yet slightly tender from the intense experience that had just occurred. My mind felt clear and my heart felt wide open. The entire room of people, dazed, starry-eyed, and some a bit teary, sat up and began to recount their experiences.
This class jump-started my love and commitment to my breathwork practice. It made me aware of how much we’re all holding onto, and how important it is to release stuck emotions. Practicing Transformational Breath has allowed me to maintain a calm and clear state of mind, as well as process difficult feelings and experiences through my breath.
How to practice transformational breath
Transformational breath is accessible for everyone, and you don’t need experience with pranayama to get started. Usually, Transformational Breath is practiced lying down. Create a comfortable and safe space for yourself where you can fully relax, using blankets and props as necessary. The breath pattern includes swift and continuous breaths in and out of the mouth, as Rager demonstrates in the below introductory video:
You might want to start a transformational breath practice with a facilitator, so you can ensure that you are doing it properly, safely, and for an adequate amount of time. You can find facilitators in your area on transformationalbreath.com. If you are unable to work with a facilitator in person, there are many online options, both live and pre-recorded, to kickstart your practice. Rager holds virtual classes every Tuesday at 4 p.m. PST and a free class the last Friday of every month at 1 p.m. PST. You can also practice shorter and beginner-friendly classes on Nicole’s YouTube channel, Breath for Life.