Last updated on September 23rd, 2023.
The act of breathing is such a basic, fundamental aspect of living that we do it roughly 20,000 times per day without giving it very much thought at all. But breathing can do much more than supply our bodies with life-sustaining oxygen. When breathing is controlled and done in a purposeful manner, it can yield profound benefits. Harnessing the power of breathing is known as breathwork.
The concept of breathwork dates back thousands of years to ancient cultures in India, Japan, and China. It was not until the 19th century that breath regulation techniques were introduced to western society and modern breathwork did not take shape until the social revolution of the 1960s and 70s.
The history of breathwork extends for millennia and has been a process of constant evolution. From ancient scholars to radical free-thinkers, many forces have shaped the art of breathwork into what it is today. The fascinating story of the origin of breathwork is below so keep reading.
The Origin of Breathwork
Much like yoga, the art of breathwork is an ancient practice dating back not just hundreds, but thousands, of years. With benefits ranging from the physical to mental to spiritual, breathwork is simply the conscious control of breathing with measured inhalation and exhalation. In recent years, the popularity of breathwork has seen a dramatic resurgence, so where did this ancient art originate?
Who Invented Breathwork?
When it comes to the question of who invented breathwork, the answers can vary depending on the time period involved. In fact, there are actually three ways to answer this question correctly and they each relate to a distinct phase in the history and development of breathwork.
Breathwork in Ancient Times
In ancient India many centuries ago, the great sage and scholar Patanjali wrote what is considered the first complete text devoted to the yogic and meditative arts, The Yoga Sutras. It was in this groundbreaking literary work that the 8 limbs of yoga were established, and one, pranayama (meaning breath regulation in Sanskrit), is widely considered to be the origin of modern breathwork principles.
Breathwork in the 19th Century
The introduction of breathwork to western cultures is largely attributed to the efforts of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th century. As a respected international ambassador of the yogic and meditative arts, the warm reception he received in the U.S. and other western societies, planted the seeds from which the popularity of yoga and breathwork sprung in the decades that followed.
Breathwork in Modern Times
As far as modern breathwork practices are concerned, their origins can be traced to the social and cultural awakenings that occurred during the 1960s and 70s. Renowned figures like Leonard Orr and the husband and wife team of Dr. Stanislov Grof and Christina Grof conducted landmark studies that firmly established the validity of breathwork therapies and their incredible benefits.
What Culture is Breathwork From?
Historically speaking, the culture with which breathwork is most closely associated is ancient India, which is also widely accepted as the birthplace of yoga. The art of pranayama, which is the fourth limb of yoga (there are 8 in total), is viewed by scholars as representing the original breath regulation practice from which all others developed.
In fact, pranayama comprises over 50 breath control methods including ones familiar to yoga practitioners:
- Ujjayi breath
- Breath of Fire
- Belly breathing
But aside from ancient India, early forms of breathwork can also be traced to cultures in Japan and China, with the Japanese breathing technique known as ki and the Chinese concept of chi, which is rooted in ancient traditional Chinese medicine.
Thus, it is likely that the modern versions of breathwork practiced all over the world today have been influenced by the breathing techniques of multiple cultures, as has been noted by Dr. Grof himself.
How do I Become a Breathwork Practitioner?
If yoga has been riding a wave of increasing popularity in recent years, then breathwork’s rise can best be described as meteoric. Flocks of newcomers are joining the already swelling ranks of those who have found that breathwork addresses a vital need in their life.
Are you looking to join the breathwork movement by becoming an instructor or teacher? These two courses are a great place to start your journey as a breathwork practitioner.
Breathe with JP Breathwork Teacher Training
When it comes to breathwork teacher training programs, renowned instructor Jon Paul Crimi’s courses are among the most popular with aspiring practitioners. Breathe with JP offers breathwork teacher training for leading both one-on-one and group sessions.
Both teacher training programs begin with a deep dive into the inner workings of circular breathwork techniques to lay a solid technical foundation. Recognizing that individual sessions produce the fastest results, JP’s one-on-one teacher training course prepares participants to confidently lead individual students on their intensive breathwork journey. Highlights of this program include:
- Dos and don’ts for pre-session work and post-session recovery
- Guided breathwork session playlists and class scripts
- Negative energy cleansing techniques
- Class demonstrations
To complement the one-on-one teacher course, Breathe with JP offers its group session breathwork teacher training program which is geared toward couples and groups of all sizes. While the substantive material is similar, this practitioner course empowers future instructors to lead a studio full of students down the path toward breathwork mastery.
Both courses are offered in-person or online and a breathwork certification is awarded upon successful completion of the two-part program. As has been pointed out by its founder and lead instructor, Jon Paul Crimi, Breathe by JP prepares successful candidates to fill an urgent need for leadership in the breathwork space.
Loka Yoga Online Breathwork Teacher Training
This 20-hour course is exclusively online and 100% self-paced for participants who want to train as breathwork instructors but must work around their busy schedules. Highlights of the Loka Yoga online breathwork teacher training program include:
- Mastery of 24 breathwork techniques
- In-depth study of the physiological aspects of breathwork
- A comprehensive digital library consisting of digital textbooks, videos, audio recordings, and lectures
- Unlimited, lifetime access to all teaching materials and resources
- Accreditation by Yoga Alliance
With no prior experience required or even recommended, this teacher training program prepares participants to become fully qualified instructors in the art of breathwork from the comfort of their home or office and according to their own schedule.
From sacred temples in India to local neighborhood studios, the art of breathwork has traveled the globe and spanned many centuries to reach its modern forms. While its evolutionary journey may be far from over, breathwork is a dynamic practice that is enjoying a surge in popularity like no other in its long and fascinating history.