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Rebirthing and Breathwork (currently out of print)
by Catherine Dowling
Published by Piatkus, 2000, at £9.99
Those of us working in the field of Breathwork/Rebirthing have bewailed the sparse literature on the subject, but recently things have improved, with a new generation of practitioners producing books as well as a steady stream of papers into an academic Website Journal

Catherine Dowling is an Irish practitioner, running an Accredited Rebirthing course, also a teacher and Stress Management trainer. She brings a balanced approach to the subject of Rebirthing and Breathwork, from its origins to current practice, drawing on her own considerable experience in the field.

This is going to be a useful handbook for students on Breathwork courses, and for others wanting to know about the developments in this area of therapy. The author puts Breathwork into a Psychotherapy historical context, citing links with William Reich, Grof, Eastern Breathwork practices, and then the more recent renewal of interest in Rebirthing which surged up in the 1990s with the creation of the International Breathwork Foundation.

The book is in 3 parts. In Part 1 there is a clear explanation of the respiratory mechanism, breathing problems, and the therapeutic effects that can take place from breathing consciously and fully. I was pleased to see recognition for Dr. Robert Fried and others working in the Breathwork field, including the earlier pioneers of Rebirthing as well as more recent writers. There is a detailed description of what a Breathwork session looks like, from the outside, explaining how it can help, who will benefit, and when it is contra-indicated.

Part 2 starts with the Womb, considers birth and bonding, then guidance from parents, and finally the development of our core beliefs about life. Case histories help to clearly show the effects of different types of birth experience , and how early traumas may carry on into adult life. Acknowledging the work of Bob Mandel., Sondra Ray and Deike Begg in this field, she shows how prematurity, breech and Caesarian births can bring a predisposition to certain patterns of feeling and behaviour.

I particularly appreciated the author's view on stages of development in the release of anger and pain, and the necessity to work through these, rather than hopefully trying to forgive, by the use of affirmations. Self-responsibility, as she says, comes at a later stage in the forgiveness process - a process that needed time, honesty and acceptance to help it develop organically - and most therapists would agree with her

Part 3 explains how the Conscious Connected breathing process can take you on a journey, creating increased energy, and enabling suppressed issues to surface to full awareness and intensity. As Catherine Dowling puts it "it is a wonderful experience of flowing with the breath, of giving over to it, and letting it proceed as it will, knowing that it can be trusted completely ..." She describes how this is achieved, through the 5 essential elements of the Rebirthing process, and lists the possible physical effects that can be expected, such as energy release, Breath release, tetany. This is a journey towards insight and self-acceptance, and freedom from conditioning. Deep healing and lasting changes can take place in what becomes a "non-ordinary state of consciousness" during the breathing session. Diversionary behaviours which can occur - from yawning, coughing, non-stop talking, are useful for the new Breath therapist to know about in advance. The energy cycle is explained, with activation of physical or emotional feelings, symbolic visions and encounters which are later discussed with the Therapist in the final stage of Integration.

Integration and adequate completion of a breathwork session are well described, and the importance of consolidating the experiences which have occurred.

In the last two chapters, the author looks at the role of Rebirthing in management of Stress, and in Creativity., with some exercises for home practice. The selected readings which follow include Breathwork books, articles, and a general reading list of relevant material.

This is a clear and informative introductory book on Rebirthing, without excessive claims for it, but with a good understanding of the process, and how it can work effectively for many clients.

Reviewed by Vivienne Silver-Leigh

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