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Rebirthing-breathwork (a.k.a. rebirthing) is a discipline of breathwork and focused awareness which seeks to rid people of accumulated past tensions, and optimise the energy and self-healing capability of the body, mind and spirit.

Rebirthing was developed between 1962 and 1974 by US researcher Leonard Orr, who (without any (then) awareness of yoga or breathwork disciplines) discovered that modifications to one's breathing practices can bring about substantial improvements in health, mental clarity and emotional well-being.

The development of rebirthing as a therapeutic modality in its own right peaked in 1974, and has been extended from that point since. Orr and other researchers experimented with variations of the process and, through trial and error, refined it into a system that can be practised in the context of a professional therapy session, and taught to clients over a series of sessions.

Advocates of this process estimate that, since 1974, more than ten million people worldwide have learned the process, with more than one hundred thousand people completing practitioner training and now incorporating rebirthing into their careers, many even basing their professional practice mostly or totally on rebirthing.

Rebirthing is not to be confused with Pentacostal or 'Born-Again' Christianity. In its philosophies, it bears little or no resemblance to Christianity as practised by the vast majority of Christians. The philosophies which accompany rebirthing appear to be a loose, intuitive mix of western metaphysics, gnosticism, Hinduism, Buddhism and what some might call "original" Christian teaching.

However, the success of Rebirthing sessions does not require one to subscribe to any system of belief. In fact, people with sceptical attitudes often seem to gain more from the process than those who accept any spiritual assertions on face value.

Rebirthing practitioners make some provocative assertions which challenge our everyday assumptions about the human experience. Amongst these assertions are:

  • Humans never forget their birth - they just suppress the memory of it in their subsonscious
  • In addition to cerebral memory (based in the brain), humans also possess 'cellular memory', which is distributed amongst the aggregate of the body's cells, tissues, organs etc
  • The breathwork and awareness disciplines taught through rebirthing practice can open a wide connection between the conscious and subconscious minds; this connecion rivals and even surpasses that which is induced by other therapies such as hypnosis; through this connection, a lifetime of trauma can be incrementally and permanently released from the mind and body
  • Human birth is typically very traumatic, due to ignorance and misunderstanding on the part of most medical professionals (and parents/family)
  • The trauma suffered during birth, and the specific nature of this trauma, has a deep and resilient effect on one's psyche, and shapes one's perception and experience of life, self and the world in ways which one is mostly unaware of
  • It is possible to gain recall of aspects of one's birth (also gestation and early childhood), and release the accompanying emotions; such release almost invariably makes a huge difference in one's life, and usually lives in one's memory as a decisive, influential and positive 'paradigm shift'
  • Human breathing is almost universally inadequate; virtually all people are suppressing large amounts of emotional, physical and mental tensions, and require relatively high levels of CO2 in their blood to keep these tensions suppressed
  • The major causes of all human illness are these accumulated tensions; release of such tensions can cause physiological transformation to the point where permanent spontaneous remission from such illness becomes possible or highly probable
  • Through ongoing release of blocked tensions, and mastery of several disciplines of physical/emotional/spiritual purification, it is possible to arrest the mechanisms of human degeneration, with vast extension of lifespan, even physical immortality, becoming a viable possibility

The general experience of rebirthing clients appears to be consistent with these assertions. However, little has been done in the way of controlled experiments to confirm or refute these. Within the confines of mainstream medicine, personal experiences are generally rejected as hearsay, and not taken seriously as evidence. Until or unless such studies proceed, rebirthing may continue to suffer the derogatory label of pseudoscience.

People who learn and practise Rebirthing typically experience several or all of the following benefits:

  • Deep and lasting inner peace
  • Heightened mental clarity
  • Greater insight into the human condition
  • Significant improvements in relationships - intimate, family, social and professional
  • Greater ability to manage the challenges of career and life in general
  • Elimination of negative patterns which had been limiting one's success in life
  • Significant and lasting benefits to health and general well-being
  • A sense of deeper insight into the purpose of one's existence; a greater sense of one's personal relevance to the world

Typically, a Rebirthing session will follow a format such as

  1. Discussion, lasting five minutes to an hour or more, which includes personal history (and, in subsequent sessions) progress since the previous session
  2. One to two hours of connected breathing, consisting of:
    1. Full and rhythmic breathing, whereby the breath is pulled up high into the chest on inhale, and completely released (like a big sigh) on the exhale
    2. Client typically lying down with eyes closed.
    3. A blanket is placed over the client (up to the client's chest), to preserve body warmth (since it is possible for body temperature to drop temporarily during the session)
    4. Close coaching and emotional support from the practitioner
  3. Discussion for ten to thirty minutes, in which the happenings of the session are discussed
  4. Setting of homework to be attempted before the next session

Over the one to two hours of connected breathing, the client typically feels a sense of energy increasing in the body, reaching a peak, then dissolving into feelings of unfathomably deep release and relaxation, even ecstasy. As one approaches the energy peak, and for some time after the peak, the client may feel a wide range of emotions surfacing and releasing; Rebirthing sessions may be very cathartic.

Rebirthers describe this movement towards and over such a 'peak' as an 'energy cycle'.

The experience of the Energy Cycle can feel unfamiliar, and can evoke fear. Therefore, it is crucial to have competent professional support during the first few sessions.

Those teaching rebirthing do so with the aim that, within approximately ten sessions, a client will be proficient enough in the breathing and awareness disciplines to be able to practise rebirthing without assistance, similar to how many people learn forms of yoga then use them privately. This is consistent with the rebirther's emphasis on empowering the client (rather than setting up any kind of dependent relationship).

There have been numerous cases of people experiencing lasting spontaneous remissions[?] from various illnesses, even as serious as cancer and AIDS, who attribute their healing to the beneficial effects of rebirthing. However, these claims are difficult to verify and nearly impossible to refute, since rebirthing is rarely or never practised in a scientifically controlled environment, and because spontaneous remission from cancer and other serious illnesses does occur with or without rebirthing or any other treatment.

Amongst those advocating Rebirthing as a tool in healing of illness is Pauline Avis. Avis enjoys the disctinction of having featured in a NZ nationwide documentary, in which a medical practitioner credited Rebirthing, and Avis' work with him, with healing his (otherwise terminal) non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

[In the course of healing from illness, deeply intimate and sensitive psychological matters are often implicated, which may deter many from 'going public' about their healing. This claim is a convenient way of avoiding testing, however: it should be possible to report the success of the treatment without revealing confidential or private psychological issues.]

Objective testing of Rebirthing in a scientifically controlled environment would undoubtedly be a large undertaking. It would require:

  • A statistically-significant group of volunteers
  • A set of objectively measurable factors in common amongst the volunteer pool, for example, a testable disease condition
  • Willingness for the volunteers to sustain their participation for up to a full year or more
  • Financial support to cover cost of staff - doctors, protocol and ethics committees, research scientist, Rebirthing practitioners, plus laboratory expenses (for testing of outcomes)

Since Rebirthing at present appeals to a small niche market in most worldwide regions, the difficulty of mobilising enthusiastic staff, a viable pool of volunteers and requisite funding and administrators in one local area is very significant; there are also huge complexities involved in bringing to such a study a level of methodological rigor which would silence even the most hardened detractors.

In countries such as Venezuela, where Rebirthing enjoys a very high per-capita participation, such a study may well be viable in the near to medium term future.

Advocates of Rebirthing feel that the world as a whole would be far better off if entire populations learned and practised the process en masse. They claim that much or most of human trauma is caused by certain decisive damage which nearly all humans suffer in early life, including:

  • Birth trauma
  • Parent Approval and Disapproval Syndrome
  • The Unconscious Death Urge
  • Specific Negative Beliefs
  • Unresolved trauma from (for those who believe in this) 'past lives'
  • Infancy trauma
  • School and Religious trauma
  • Senility Trauma (whereby the body tends to follow family patterns of health degeneration at certain ages)
  • Pathological levels of attachment to family bloodline

Rebirthing advocates are keen to see Rebirthing taught in schools, hositals and corporations.

More information on Rebirthing can be found at the following websites:

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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