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Methodology of Integration in breathwork by Tatiana Ginzburg


Here I am going to present results of my recent research: “Methodology of Integration in breathwork”.

This research has been done by myself during the last couple of years. On 8th October 2004 I received official confirmation of a PhD degree in Psychology (Candidate of Science ) for my research dissertation at the International Academy of Psychology Science in Yaroslavl. I think the results I received and the theme of my research are quite relevant for the international breathwork community. Here I will present these results, in order to raise this theme, to get a feedback and perhaps have an opportunity to develop this theme further.

  1. Couple of words about myself

I have had experience of breathwork for about ten years, both as a client and as a therapist. During that period I was trained by the leading breathing-theory leaders of Russia (S. Gorsky, V. Kozlov, V. Maikov, G. Shirokov) as well as international recognized breathwork teachers, including Leonard Orr (USA) who invented Rebirthing Breathwork; Dan Brule (USA) – one of Orr’s first followers; Nemi Nath (Australia) – founder of the school “Breathconnection”; Cliff Lloyd (England) – ex-chairman of the British Rebirthers Society; and many others besides. For the last six years I have been giving individual breathwork sessions in different styles (Rebirthing Breathwork, Holotropic Breathwork™, VIVATION). I have conducted training in groups orientated towards both therapeutic and teaching purposes.

  1. What is the problem?

Working with different breathwork techniques I met the need for a correct objective assessment of the results people get from breathwork. Has the purpose of the breathwork been achieved? Did integration happen or not? If not – why not? What is needed in order for it happen next time? How to make breathwork a more effective psychotherapeutic tool?

 I have seen that Breathwork itself has a huge potential for integration, for bringing about wholeness in the psyche. However, my experience of learning and teaching in groups shows that the Breathwork process does not necessarily bring about integration. In fact, integration sometimes fails to take place.

  1. Review of research

In order to answer on those questions I tried to find out what is the purpose of breathwork? Summarizing collected information, concerning different styles like Rebirthing, Holotropic Breathwork™, VIVATION, Free Breathing, I came to the conclusion that the main purpose of breathwork is integration. But I had a lot of difficulties in finding the definition of integration. First of all I found several different ideas of what integration in breathwork is:

For example:

  1. Leonard Orr discovered that as an individual progressed through a series of breathing sessions, the strong emotional reactions would disappear if the person could interpret the implications of the traumatic experience they were reliving. This process later became known as integration. (Gunnel Minett “Breathe and Spirit”, P. 24)
  2. Integration means becoming aware of something that you’ve made wrong and suppressed, and then ceasing to make it wrong. Integration is the result that Rebirthing creates. Integration is the transformation from suppression to celebration. (Jim Lenard “ Rebirthing: the science of Enjoying All of Your Life”, P.31)
  3. An experience - which can happen on different levels: physical, energetic, emotional  - that can be characterized by a sensation of easiness, dissolving energy or feeling of deep change. (Catherine  Dowling)
    1. Connecting an experience which had been received at the session with ordinary life and ordinary state of consciousness (S.Grof)
    2.  Connecting experiences activiated in the process of Holotropic breathwork with the whole psyche, in a way when symptoms and feeling which had been activated in a session will disappear (S. Grof)

Secondly, it appears not easy to apply these definitions to reports collected from people who did breathwork.

To illustrate that I will give you an example:

Marina, Rebirthing, Saint-Petersburg, August 2003:

 «It was difficult from the beginning to push myself to breathe. I was angry with myself, it seemed to me that nothing happened. The times when “it happens” and “ it doesn’t happen” changed.

I felt cold at the end, and my legs were twitching. I turned over and felt good. Afterward I felt the feeling of unhappiness and loneliness”.

Did integration happen or not? From one point of view – it didn’t because she is not writing about ecstasy or bliss state, but from another point of view, a new feeling came to her consciousness, which possibly had been suppressed before and it could be sign of integration.

In my dissertation I am using a lot of reports to show the difficulties in defining integration. But here I think it is not necessary to do that in order to demonstrate that this is the real problem.

So to resolve this problem I decided to research the theme ‘What is Integration?’ widely. The purpose of this research was to:

  1. clarify what professional rebirthers understood by integration;
  2. to define criteria of integration;
  3. to built a model of the process of integration, that happens during a breathwork session;
  4. Interview

So here I am going to publish the interviews I have conducted:

Leonard Orr

Gunnel Minnet

Jim Morningstar

Wilfried Ehrmann

Judee Gee

Alakh Anand and Robin Lawley

Michael Adamedes

Lena Kristina Tuulse

  1. Summary of integration definitions:

So let’s make a summary of what professional breathworkers understood by integration:

  1. Total healing of personality and integration of mind, body and spirit.  This is the global purpose of breathwork (L.Orr)
  2. Relaxation (L.Orr)
  3. Plateaux experience. People can go on with their life and practice using their insights and affirmation (J.Morningstar)
  4. Finding interpretation of the implications of the traumatic experience they were reliving, which will be followed by the disappearance of the strong emotional reactions (G. Minnet)
  5. To bring the breathwork experience to everyday life (G. Minnet)
  6. Integration means the coming together of separate or various elements into wholeness (J. Gee)
  7. An experience - which can happen on different levels: physical, energetic, emotional  - that can be characterized by a sensation of easiness, dissolving energy or a feeling of deep change (C. Dowling)
  8. The integration phase is intentionally included to create a period of “non-doing, just being” that encourages further insight and understanding in relation to what was experienced during the session (J. Gee)
  9. The method itself – like following the flow of the breath, has an integrative tendency, as it connects deeper with the body, as it creates body awareness and it helps to find more sensitivity about your body (W. Ehrman)
  10. To connect emotions and issues that you have in your life and behavioral patterns with the body sensations (W. Ehrmann)
  11. The breathwork experience should always have a form of cognitive structure or understanding, so that the client can also find a place on her cognitive landscape where to put her experience (W. Ehrmann)
  12. Unifying effect and the effect of feeling whole after the breathing session, which can easily happen.  Problems loose their inhibiting impact on the personality. You can have more distance to what is bothering you, or what is worrying you and find different ways of dealing with your problems (W. Ehrmann)
  13. Deep relaxation at the end of the breathing cycle (W.Ehrmann)
  14. Complete gestalt (W.Ehrmann)
  15. It means having the session make a difference to the breather's life from the end of the session, on a physical, emotional and psycho-spiritual level - in other words it means knowing what the session was clearing and how that is evident in my life, or knowing what the session was saying and that making a difference in my life in terms of action and feeling (A. Anand)
  16. Breath release or the state of total relaxation in which "separation" is no longer experienced but rather a state of "unity consciousness"(R. Lawley)
  17. Integration fundamentally is an energetic release in the body, and the body has let go some holding pattern in cellular memory.  When it lets  go of the pattern, more often the energetical level of the body has stepped up, has become more fluid, more easy and more vital (M.Adamedes)
  18. Integration means becoming aware of something that you’ve made wrong and suppressed, and then ceasing to make it wrong. Integration is the result that Rebirthing creates. Integration is the transformation from suppression to celebration. (Jim Leonard)
  19. Integration, healing and completion (I think all these terms are equal) happen when the human being takes responsibility for their own life.(Bob Frissel  Nothing in This Book is true, but it’s exactly how things Are. )
  20. Integration means to make whole from fragmented parts; and in this context, to bring about a total healing. (Colin Sisson, Inner Adventure, P. 161)
  1. Creating the groups of definitions

So there is a wide spectrum of different definitions of integration.

Let’s assume, that many of these definitions are the same in a sense, but formulated in different vocabulary. Let’s make groups of them, based on this assumption.

Six groups emerge from this process:

  1. Integration with Higher Self, global integration of Mind, Body and Spirit, which is total healing  (C. Sisson, J. Morningstar, L. Orr). The same as wholeness, which is actually the purpose of Holotropic breathwork.
  2. Connecting experiences activated in the process of breathwork with the whole psyche, in such a way that symptoms and feeling which had been activated in a session will disappear (S. Grof), the same with “Finding interpretation of the implications of the traumatic experience they were reliving, which will be followed by the disappearance of  the strong emotional reactions (G. Minnet)” and with geshtalt completion (W. Ehrmann), with transformation from suppression to celebration (J. Morningstar)
  3. Energetic release (M. Adamedes)
  4. Deep relaxation (L. Orr, R. Lawley, W. Ehrman)
  5. To bring the breathwork experience to everyday life (G. Minnet, J. Morningstar)
  6. Period of “non-doing, just being” that encourages further insight and understanding in relation to what was experienced during the session (J. Gee)

Some of the variants still left not concluded, one of them is method characteristic, some of them are part of  one of the groups, some in one case will apply to one group in another to another group (if Bob Frissel speaking about life as a whole – it will be first group of definitions,  if he is speaking about concrete step – it will be second group).I don’t understand what you’re trying to say here.  – I mean here, that totally I get 20 different variants of definitions before and most of tham belong somehow to one of above 6 groups, but still some of tham – not, but they are not correct definitions or belong to several groups or could belong to one group in one case and to another group in another case. Hope you will understand me. Actually, if you think – it is not important – I can easily delete this.

So almost all definitions belong to six groups.

  1. Systematization of definitions

Why still we have so six groups? Not just one definitions? Let’s try to systematize these definitions in order to understand what is the reason for the differences in definitions of integration.

Possible reason are:

  1. these groups are devoted to radically different concepts
  2. these groups are stages of the same process
  3. these groups are representing the same process, but happening on  different levels of consciousness
  4. synthesis of 1,2,3 variants – some of them  different, some stages, some are happening on different levels

Let’s assume that, most of the definitions are representing the same process, happening on different levels of consciousness (3 variant).

Let’s also assume, the consciousness of human being can function on different levels. And integration on each level will be specific.  There is analogue of this approach – Ken Wilber model of consciousness - ( No boundaries.)

Let’s approach this on the basis that there are three systems in human being, which is – Body, Psyche and Mind.

Body, Psyche and Mind are defined as follows:

Body – sensations, movement, poses, breathing, behavior.

Psyche – emotions, feelings, passion, wishes, relationships, also to the own sensations.

Mind – capacity to make distinctions and to compare, to reflect and to make a forecast for future, create the purpose…

Let’s take a simple definition of integration:

Integration – is uniting parts in one whole.

In this case integration will unite the system of human being: body, psyche and mind in one.

We also look at the human being not separately, but in the context of the outside world. We look at relationships of human being with the World, because our theory wouldn’t be complete if we look at human being just separately. We base our theory on holistic ideology, so we see every thing through its connection with others.

So from this point of view we distinguish four different levels of human functioning:

  1. The three systems (Body, Psyche and Mind) are not working as one ( he may think one thing, feel something different, and do something else again). There is a dysfunction within the three systems, and this dysfunction could be represented through diseases, through problems in relationships, through suffering.
  2. Two system are connected with each other. For example when body and psyche are totally connected, each movement and each sensation is accompanied by a psychic experience. And any emotional experience creates momentary response in the body. Even saying that I am not fully correct, because there is no sequence, there is a union of two systems: sensation, feeling and movement are experienced as one. He is not moving his body, it moves by itself. Usually this type of unity  feels like an ecstasy.
  3. Three systems are working in harmony. State of consciousness while Body, Psyche and Spirit are working as one. Mind is easily understands what is happening with Body and Psyche and any thought or association has an immediate influence on psyche and body. Momentary falling in to this level  is accompany with insight.
  4. Maximum limitless wholeness – state of unity with outside world.

So, every time integration of human being systems leads to new level of functioning, more harmonious, more healthy.

Let’s create model of levels of integration, basing on this reasoning.

Level of integration Which system are integrating  -----   Achieved state
4 level       Body+Psyche+Mind+World   --------   Nirvana, Enlightenment
3 level Body+Psyche+Mind           -------                   Insight World  
2 level Body+Psyche      -----   Catharsis, ecstasy Mind World  
1 level Body Psyche Mind World  

Most of the time the adult human being is on the first level. And any of his problem can be described through lack of connectedness between the systems.

Now let’s see how this model relates to our groups of integration definitions.

Level 4. Body+Psyche+Mind+World almost fully coincide with first group – global healing, global integration of body, mind and spirit. Spirit here – is also what we mean by world. This is level of wholeness and full integration and unity.


Level 3. Body+Psyche+Mind – also almost fully coincide with second group of definitions: this is integration of activated in breathing process part with whole psyche.

Level 2. Body+Psyche – this is fundamental energetical release, characterizing by letting go of energetical patterns – which is third group of definitions.

Level 1. In our model this is the level where three systems are split, and are working separately,  but integration here could be local uniting in physical body level, uniting of part which had been stressed before with rest of the body. This is – deep relaxation, which concern to the 4 group of definitions. In this case human being remain on 1 level of functioning, but connectedness inside his body become better.

So, we also have 5 and 6 groups, which haven’t been correspond to the concrete level of integration.

Group 5. - To bring the breathwork experience to everyday life. This variant is quiet spread in breathwork society. Let’s see on it more precisely. If integration had happen in the session, client had received the insight, have changed himself, and so on these changes naturally will be brought to everyday life, will be embodied to everyday life. And this process it is not correct to name integration, because integration already has happened. This is more correctly – consequence of the integration, than definition of it.   If integration hasn’t happened, there is nothing to bring into everyday life, but human being have some experience, associations, feelings, split ideas with which he could continue to work till truth integration will take place. So this group wouldn’t be correct to define as integration at all, but would be correct to see as criteria of integration.

Group 6 – is phase of the process, period of “non-doing, just being”. The same reasoning we did for group 5 could be applied to this group. This is the phase when integration happen, but this is not integration itself. So this group also wouldn’t be right to consider as integration definition. But this group is important for understanding when integration happen and what is the condition for integration.

So, we got model of level of integration, in which all variant of definitions of integration we get could be join. Our assumption (5) is proved. We could systemize all definition we could collect. So now we could use this information to create a methodology of integration.

  1. Methodology of integration

Now let’s see how using our model we can help human being to reach integration. So far in order to human being come from one level of integration to another it is necessarily  to make some influence through one of the systems (body, psyche or mind).

 Here we are trying to research breathwork as a tool which will help human being to come to another level of integration.. Empirically there had been founded such effect of this technique.

On the base of the model of level of integration and analysis of more than 100 reports made after breathing session author of this work have done the sequence of process of integration in breathing session.

Here is this sequence:

  1. Active breathing
  2. Activation of the body (appearing of sensations, movements, dynamics of the poses…)
  3. Activation of Psyche ( memory, association, emotions…..)
  1. Crisis ( or physical pain, or tension, negative emotions….)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------5. Establishing of stable breathing, as if body breathe like that itself

  1. Spontaneous ( resonance) amplification (spreading) of feelings, process of uniting psyche with body



About the Author Tatiana Ginzburg

Tatiana Ginzburg

Ph.D in transpersonal psychology

(first dissertation on methodology of integration in breathwork, second - on actual infinity and problem of knowability of psyche)

Professional breathworker for twenty years (Rebirthing, Holotropic Breathwork, Vivation, Free Breathing, DA-Breathing)

Founder and Leader of European School of Breathwork, based in Saint-Petersburg -

National Coordinator for IBF for Russia 1998-2001

Organizer of Global Inspiration conference 2000 in Russia

Transformational Game facilitator

Game Master and founder of Game Master's School in Russia

Russian MAPS representative and deep researcher of altered states of consiousness

Leader of the project «Global Enlightenment» -

Founder of eco-village - Shiram -

Founder of Russian House#1 in California, Jenner - place for personal and cultural transformation -

I have been doing Breathwork (Rebirthing, Holotropic Breathwork, Vivation, Free Breathing, DA-breathing), Transformational Game and other personal growth things in Russia - Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, Tverskaya oblast

contacts in Russia - +7-921-9960003

in North California - +1-415-214-57-37



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