Breathing exercises in therapy

One of the most basic rules in psychotherapy, specifically engaged when practicing breathing exercises and forms of mindfulness, is that of holding a safe space for clients' imaginary exploration: a process of enabling, guiding and holding a confidential place where clients can develop and examine their inner worlds and imaginary safe places. 

‘Mind and body alignment and/or emotional connectedness’ may sound like most phrases for desired states of being, certainly some of the most sought after in therapeutic encounters are described as seeking restfulness, peacefulness and inner peace. In many instances, such meditative states are simply about readiness for day/s ahead, a very well established practice as a daily routine and timeout from a rapid, or what’s felt as rapid, pace of daily life. 

Breathing exercises and mindfulness in therapy are very much part of a client’s inner dialogue that then is canvased onto a dialogue and communication with the therapist, the client/patient can create such images with their mind, exploring their aims and creating a safe place that can be reached when feeling overwhelmed and/or distressed, one way or another. Important aspects to keep in mind are that breathing exercises, when practiced in therapy, are facilitated with various considerations in mind. 

Six aspects of breathing practice 

1. Your therapist’s room is not only metaphorically speaking a place of calm and relax – and exists with such considerations already accounted for - if breathing exercises are practised through remote and online mediums, it is also already assured that you are engaged in such communication from a place of quiet.

2. When breathing exercises are practised under guidance, it is highly possible that there is an ample focus on clients’ therapeutic work. Integrating newly elicited meanings and attributions whilst creating such safe places within a larger focus, can better facilitate healing, consolidate therapeutic development and empower you to realise your aims.

3. One central premise when practising breathing exercises in therapy is based around ideas of acceptance. Acceptance is not for things that can be changed, but for things that cannot be changed: we can alleviate, address, enable, empower, live in, and gain insight and all with (self) compassion and a wish for healing.

If colour-emotion associations are created and preluding breathing exercises, such method can encourage and open up a new emotional channel of communication.

4. There are states of being that form part of who we are and these states - restlessness and/or a racing mind - are the very ways of being that then need negotiating, peacefully asserted and guided to ways of coexisting with requirements of reality.

5. Colour and choice of colours are essential in breathing exercises and various forms of meditation. In therapy, you’re encouraged to describe your emotional understanding of different colours and attach personal meanings. 

Colour in emotional terms is not a universal construct and what matters most is whether or not there is harmony, connectedness and creating that emotional dialogue. If colour-emotion associations are created and preluding breathing exercises, such method can encourage and open up a new emotional channel of communication.

In many such cases, using an agreed and established colour-emotion association prior to practising breathing exercises, can assist a progression and development of an all-encompassing emotional vocabulary. An inner dialogue is then formed by both power of emotions and that of colour – each image and/or safe place being created as a compound of both and synchronised through breathing.

6. Breathing exercises in therapy are creative moments and sometimes surprising in their end results. For when simply seeking mind and body connectedness what can then be achieved is so much more, for instance, a realisation that a specific memory in time can be brought to an awareness of ‘today’ and revisited with positivity and potentiality.

There are several other aspects that could be considered in a conversation about breathing exercises in therapy. All the above considerations represent a basic summary as to why such method is employed across various therapeutic models of practice and during specific therapeutic journeys. Also important to note that breathing exercises in therapy can be seen as temporary, gentle reminders of simple and efficient ways to negotiate our inner peace and meet a place of calm. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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