Leonard Orr founded Rebirthing Breathwork in the late 1970s. He defined it in two ways:
1. Rebirthing-Breathwork, aka Intuitive Energy Breathing or Conscious Energy Breathing, is the ability to breatheEnergyas well as air. It is the art of learning to breathe from the Breath Itself. Rebirthing is perhaps the most valuable self-healing ability that humans can learn. We cannot have disease and relaxation in the same space at the same time. Relaxation is the ultimate healer. Every breath induces relaxation. Therefore, breathing is the basic healer. Conscious Energy Breathing is the most natural healing ability of all. This ability involves merging the inhale with the exhale in a gentle relaxed rhythm in an intuitive way that floods the body with Divine Energy.
2. Rebirthing also means to unravel the birth-death cycle and to incorporate the body and mind into the conscious Life of the Eternal Spirit – to become a conscious expression of the Eternal Spirit. This involves healing the eight biggies of human trauma, which are the birth trauma, the parental disapproval syndrome, specific negatives, the unconscious death urge, karma from past lives, the religion trauma, the school trauma, and senility, etc.
Rebirthing as I teach it, is a very important spiritual work involving a series of Conscious Intuitive Energy Breathing cycles that give people more health, happiness, success, and peace of mind. Watching Divine Energy move in our own body and mind is very magical, mystical, and miraculous. I never cease to be amazed by this work because it is the essence of Life Itself.
The ancient way of giving birth was seen as a totally natural process where the mother, at the time of labour, made her way to the ‘waters of fertility’ (a nearby river, lake or sea) with a group of female helpers. There she stood in the water, semi-weightless, bore down in the direction of gravity, gently and easily giving birth. The baby, with its gentle transition from sea to sea, from water to water and still supplied with oxygen via the umbilical cord, was then introduced to the world of air. A celebration of life.
Somehow, through the ravages of time, we disconnected from this way of coming into the world because the modern way of giving birth is radically different, with the mother having little or no say as to the way of birth. The mother is usually semi-drugged, on her back with both legs in an almost upward position. The doctor delivered the baby by pulling it out by the head and if this proved difficult, steel forceps would be used.
Caesareans, epidurals and other modern procedures are used to treat this medical ’emergency’. There is little time for bonding between mother and baby. The mind of the newborn is instantly imprinted with the new information received through all its senses and feelings received through the body and brain. These new sensations become the foundation for memory, reactions and responses received through life.
The internal result is a negative thought/feeling based on external experience of the birth itself which can only be consciously changed by unravelling the birth trauma through the process of self awareness and rebirthing. (Excerpt from ‘Rebirthing, Breathwork and Personal Growth’ by Matthew Favaloro – Sydney, Australia.)
Claims of Rebirthing
Rebirthing Breathwork is an experiential, body-centred alternative therapy that uses a gentle yet powerful breathing technique to help activate and release stored stress, pain and emotional trauma of all degrees. The results are often profound as this process works directly at the core of these issues whether conscious or unconscious. The process also includes identifying limiting beliefs that are formed before, during and after birth.
Rebirthing effectively reverses such beliefs and brings about changes that may have been previously difficult to achieve. It creates space in a client’s life for joy, love, health and prosperity and functional relationships. It is recognised as a powerful, efficient healing method.
Areas in which special benefits have been found to occur are making long-awaited changes, psychosomatic illnesses, relationship/sexual issues, feeling ‘stuck’, shutdown or blocked, emotional release, recurrent negative patterns, traumatic births, accelerated growth.
During the initial session, clients are questioned about the details of their birth (if known), their childhood and what they hope Rebirthing will achieve or resolve in their lives.
Clients then lie on a massage table with a trained guide and breath coach present (a ‘Rebirther’) who is there to support the client in the process of self discovery and healing. The Rebirther helps the person to realise the connection between who they are today and their past and how to go about releasing themselves from birth trauma. Rebirthers are able to get the person to the point where they can rebirth themselves.
The technique works through a simple breathing process called “conscious connected breathing” or the “circular breath.” This is a Yoga breathing process where the client inhales and exhales through the mouth, with the inhale connected to the exhale. Breathing fully, freely and without hindrance; in other words, you simply breathe. Breathing exercises take approximately one hour.
Through the breath, the technique brings in more life force energy than one is normally used to having in the body. This extra life force energy may appear in the body as heat, pressure, cold, tingling, ‘electrical currents’, vibration and other body sensations. Specific areas of the body may become activated as this force flows through, bringing to awareness all the areas in the body/mind that are blocked. Emotions and memories many now safely surface about these blocks for the purpose of release. Once released, our lives will ‘magically’ appear to change and with long-standing issue having more reported significant changes
The Rebirther or Breathwork Coach is a guide who is trained to support the client in the process of self discovery and healing. They are able to work the broad range of experiences possible through the conscious use of the breath so that after the exercises, experiences or insights that come to light can be discussed with the Rebirther who will help the client to gain greater understanding and to interpret insights. The total time of each full session is about two hours with the recommendation that Rebirthing be undertaken weekly.
The type of clients most likely to benefit are those wanting a closer connection to mind, body, heart and spirit, those who feel they are not progressing in traditional ‘talk therapies’, those searching for depth and meaning in life they aren’t finding elsewhere or those who are just curious and have an intense desire to find new ways to heal.
Rebirthing Breathwork is a questionable alternative therapy with no reliable independent scientific trials available to back it up. It seems to have some benefit for clients but this could be due to several placebo effects, such as belief in the therapist or belief in the therapy itself. Psychosomatic illnesses maybe helped due to lessening of stress through the relaxation techniques employed or suggestible patients may feel better if they are told they look better.
Some of the physical symptoms experienced during the breathing exercises are remarkably similar to those found in hyperventilation (excessive breathing) which is a common manifestation of acute anxiety. The excessive breathing causes an abnormal loss of carbon dioxide from the blood leading to chemical changes that produce symptoms such as dizziness, faintness, trembling, marked tingling in the hands, or cramps in the hands and feet.
Leonard Orr himself particularly recommends a change in diet, especially commending vegetarianism, along with bodily exercise. Diet change and exercise are the mantra of doctors worldwide, as we all know. Fasting, hatha yoga, the five Tibetan rites, using crystals, sitting in a forest, meditation and mind purification also feature, along with many other recommendations.
He is a man who has travelled the world ‘studying all subjects and all religions to find the truth about human happiness – to discover the owner’s manual for divine human beings’. In his own words, he says that he believes ‘the Breath itself is the Breath of Life which is the source of Life – Divine Energy – to the body and mind. Conscious Breathing or Energy Breathing is a healing ability that makes people more spiritually self-sufficient.’
He doesn’t mind mixing and matching religions, stating: ‘Approving of the Self in us and having positive thoughts about ourselves enables us to give approval and positive feelings to others. Our very Self is the Infinite Creator Spirit or Life Energy. To perceive the presence of God in us is love. To perceive it in others is love. Love means spiritual community and spiritual family in which we give and receive support for spiritual growth and personal healing’. And, ‘You can learn more by practising them (the basic principles of spiritual purification) by studying the Bible, the Shiva Purana and all great scriptures’.
The basis of Rebirthing lies in Orr’s belief in pantheism and the New Age Movement. Pantheism is the ideology that lies behind eastern religions and the New Age Movement. God, rather than being seen as a personal being, is seen as an impersonal force of which we are all simply a part. Death leads not to judgement or ‘nothing’ but to reincarnation and morality simply means being in harmony with nature. All is one and all is God. With this world-view shift comes an increasing openness to all sorts of belief that are not Christian along with a scepticism and suspicion about science.
New Age or alternative medicine practitioners see human beings as an integrated whole; but from a pantheistic rather than a theistic perspective.
Modern doctors don’t have much time to treat patients, much less touch them, with the result that patients become just another medical problem, so it is no wonder that they are not trusted. The fact that alternative medicine practitioners can spend so much more time – often up to 90 minutes at a first consultation and 45 minutes on each follow up session – makes clients feel much more valued and trusting of the practitioner’s judgement.
Rebirthing is inextricably bound up with pantheism and the New Age Movement and as such evangelical Christians would recommend that we have nothing to do with it. As Christians, there is only one Lord and Master – Jesus Christ – and we must serve no other gods. We must also bear in mind that there may be real spiritual forces operating to bring about healing but not through God’s power. Evangelical Christians would therefore suggest that such healings may be the bait that Satan then uses to draw a person more deeply into occult realms..
What is Rebirthing Breathwork?- Leonard Orr
Rebirthing is Transformation through the use Breath Awareness Center and of Conscious Breathing -Gene Dillman
Breathwork: A Cycle of Healing Article in ‘The Observer’, Hunterdon, USA 24 Jan 1998