Feeling Resistance to Breathwork or Deep Breathing?: Here’s How to Eliminate the Struggle

Sometimes breathwork experiences can be blissful, sometimes exciting, sometimes gentle but also sometimes they can feel like a struggle, and resistance is extremely common. Some participants report a deep inner battle with intense resistance to the process. This usually occurs leading up to the session (where some inner voice tries to talk you out of it), and during the first part of the breathwork. But if you stick with the breathing pattern, it almost always dissipates.

Occasionally the breathing pattern itself can feel like a struggle, and continuing to breathe more deeply than normal over more than a few minutes can prove difficult for some. This struggle is a manifestation of resistance and may even be accompanied by self-judgment, and thoughts such as – “Why should this be so hard, it’s only breathing, I am breathing every moment?”

In this article, we will explore where this resistance comes from and how to deal with it so that you can get the most out of your sessions.

Where Does Resistance to Deep Breathing & Breathwork Come From?

The opposition to breathwork and continuing with deep, connected breathing in a session comes from your ego mind. There are a few reasons why it rears its ugly head during breathwork:

  1. Firstly, the ego has a deep resistance to change. It fears change and thinks by preventing it, it is keeping you safe. However, the truth is usually quite the opposite. By preventing change, the ego can keep you stuck in old stories, habits, and behaviors that are no longer serving you, and keep you trapped in emotions and memories of your past.
  1. The ego hates feeling emotions and breathwork can stir up all kinds of suppressed emotions so that they can be felt and released. This scares the ego which is trying to prevent feeling the feelings and cultivating positive change. If you look up the work of Wilhelm Reich, he is the one who discovered that restricted breathing can be the result of “body armoring”, a resistance to feeling emotions. This “muscular armor,” or muscular tension is held in the body and blocks impulses to act freely and builds within the body until it disrupts a person’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. His work emphasizes the idea that physical and psychological pain and turmoil were the result of people restricting their breathing and creating this muscular armor.
  1. A third reason why the ego mind has no interest in deep breathing and breathwork sessions is because it can’t be praised for it. The ego loves things that it will be praised and recognized for. Breathing happens naturally. The ego mind cannot proudly say “See how well I breathe!”. ​​​ Nobody will tell you “You are amazing! You deserve fame for your incredible breathing!”. Breathing is so natural that the ego cannot say it is the “doer,” so it has no interest in the breath.

What to Do About Resistance in Breathwork

If you experience resistance to the breathing pattern used in breathwork or to the breathwork session itself, this is all the more reason to partake and see it through. Often times the stronger the resistance that is occurring, the stronger the breakthrough that is waiting to occur. Your ego is simply dialing up the resistance to try and ‘protect you’ from feeling and healing – because that equates to change, which the ego deeply fears. If this happens to you, try one of the following suggestions:

  • Refocus your attention on the breath. Make sure to follow the technique that you started with for several minutes (deep, diaphragmatic breathing through the mouth, a little faster than normal, with no gaps or pauses). If you can stay focused on the breath long enough, the ego will eventually lose interest and loosen its grip. This loosening is what allows for big emotions, insights, and releases to occur. 
  • Alternatively, look for what emotion is being brought up when resistance occurs. It may be frustration, or anger or disappointment. Amplify that emotion, visualize it spreading throughout your body, getting bigger and bigger, and make whatever loud sound your body wants to make for a period of time. This will almost always catapult you past the resistance and deeply into process.
  • If you are feeling frustrated with not being able to breathe more deeply or experiencing an inner battle where your ego tries to talk you out of the breathing technique – dive into the frustration. Really let yourself feel it, let it be like a force of nature, an accumulation of all the frustration you have felt in your entire life. Connect back to moments when you felt like you were not doing something correctly or could not make something work. Dial up the feelings of frustration and then let out sounds and movement to allow for its release.

What to Do If You’re Struggling with the Deep Breathing Pattern Itself

  • If the deep breathing itself is a struggle for you, start with a small step. Let go of the breathing technique that I discuss and find something that works for you where you can just move more air than normal. What I find works for some people is a very deep but slow breath, i.e. a bit slower than normal and making a sound on the out-breath, like an “aahhhh” for the first bit of time. That is what I would start with. If that does not work for you, find another way of breathing that does not feel stressful or hard for your body but still moves more air than normal breathing. 

Closing Thoughts 

Resistance is a natural part of healing and personal growth. If you experience it, simply allow it to be there. Acknowledge its presence, surrender to the emotions it brings up, and welcome the experience. Once you can open your heart and surrender to all of these experiences and welcome all of them equally, without exception, as part of the beauty and majesty of being in this human incarnation, then you have mastered not only the art of the breath but also the art of life.

Try Neurodynamic Breathwork Online For Free for an Entire Month

We offer 2-hour online breathwork workshops several times throughout the week so that people can take a deep dive into their inner healing with a consistent practice. If you would like to join one of our transformational sessions, and partake in faster, deeper breathing to quiet the ego mind and connect to your “Inner Guidance”, we invite you to register for free!

After your first free session, you will receive an email with access to a whole month of free online facilitated breathwork, up to 24 live sessions, which will allow you to continue your journey with the breath and sow the seeds for incredible and lasting change.

Click here to find out more about our online breathwork process.

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