Your Complete Guide to Hosting a Community Breathwork Journey

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August 22, 2022
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The secret's out — breathwork is the real deal. More and more people are exploring breathwork to unlock the benefits of profound healing and personal transformation.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because breathwork has made an impact on your life. If that’s the case for you, are you feeling called to share it with the important people in your life?

We believe this is how we create meaningful change - through immersive, shared experiences. With each person touched, that impact ripples outwards. That is why we created this guide – so this practice can be shared with as many people as possible.

This comprehensive guide will take you step by step through leading a breathwork experience for your community.

  • Why host a community breathwork session?
  • Setting up your space
  • The Complete Breathwork Format
  • Post-Breathwork: What’s Next?

Why host a community breathwork session?

Community breathwork happens when we come together as a group to practice breathwork for the purpose of personal growth, insights, emotional release, and tapping into new creative ways of thinking. A gathering of curious and open-minded beings who wish to expand and grow together through the practice of conscious breathing.

Let’s face it — there’s truly no substitute for the magic of in-person connection. We’ve all experienced that these past few years — anyone you talk to is virtually fatigued, and we’re clearly in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. Everyone is craving a deeper sense of real belonging.

The benefits of breathwork alone are profound, but when you incorporate this practice into a group setting you tap into a deep sense of awe and cultivate immense gratitude. This is the kind of work that ripples outwards - to impact your loved ones, inspire your community, and work towards making the world a better place.

While we exist in a society that normalizes socializing with alcohol, or numbing our emotions and mental state, it’s clear, more than ever, that people are seeking ways to relate and connect with one another on a deeper level.

Hosting a group breathwork session is the alternative our society needs — a new healthy way of connecting with one another.

Setting up your space

The first step of hosting your breathwork experience is to create a beautiful container. The way you set your space will lay the foundation for the entire experience, so it’s essential to have key elements in place to provide the greatest ambiance as soon as your breathers walk through the door.

Sound

Good sound quality is crucial. You are creating an immersive experience – the sound quality will take your event to the next level. You’ll need a loud enough stereo system with speakers strategically placed around the room to create a surround sound effect.

Our personal favorite? Three Sonos Play 5 speakers and a subwoofer in the room.

The music you play will also set the tone and curate the mood for the evening. Whether you play ambient, jazzy, organic tunes, it’s ultimately a question of personal taste.

What kind of vibe do you want to create for your experience? What emotions do you want breathers to explore? You are the vibe creator - you get to choose the mood that will best suit the community you are serving.

If you need some inspiration, check out our Breathwork Plus Playlist on Spotify. It’s a nice one.

Optional: You can also use tuning forks, acoustic bowls, koshi chimes, shakers, or a handpan. The more instruments, the better.

These tools amplify the peak of the experience and can guide breathers back to reality as you near the end of the session.

Smell

Did you know your sense of smell has the strongest direct line to the memory and emotional centers of your brain – the hippocampus and amygdala? Studies show that certain scents have a direct effect on our brain, which can promote relaxation and overall well being.

In short — smell is a key ingredient within the magic you’re creating.

Intentional scents will foster even more healing and connection for your breathwork event. Your scent curation will further guide people into a relaxed, secure, and receptive state - the state you can experience the greatest insights and release.

We like to greet our breathers with soothing scents as soon as they enter the space. Our tips:

  • Light Palo Santo - also known as “holy wood” - and a bundle of dried sage at the start of the session. These traditional cleansing woods from South America help clear negative energy and cleanse the space. Palo Santo and sage work well together to shift energy and elevate the mood.
  • If you have a diffuser, create a custom and balanced blend to enhance the setting.
  • If you don’t have a diffuser, simply mix a spray bottle of rosewater and orange blossom. Or, use a custom essential blend to spray throughout the session. Ideally you would have 4-5 blends to accompany each round of breathing. We also like to use grounding incense scents like cedar.

Burn or spray these throughout the breathwork session, as needed. As everyone has different sensitivities, be careful not to make the scents too overpowering. You want to hit the sweet spot for ultimate enhancement.

Optional: Make an essential oil mix with peppermint and ask each breather to rub it on their chest, which helps to open their airways when inhaling. You can also use charcoal with Kopal and Pine Resin for a smoke ritual.

Lighting

The next element for setting up the optimal space is your lighting. The lighting creates a gentle, inviting, and ambient space for your event. We recommend low and warm lighting, and to avoid harsh or overly bright lights.

Our recommendations:

  • Place candles throughout the room or add Himalayan salt lamps.
  • We use around 60 tiles of Nanoleaf to create a very warm glow perfect for the preamble of the community breathwork session.

When the breathwork session officially starts we recommend the journeyers wear an eye mask. We like to provide a quality blindfold, like Mindfold.

Props for the room

Every breather needs their own personal space for the journey. Lay out enough yoga mats for everyone, with enough comfortable space in between each person. Each breather is unique and their body temperature may fluctuate throughout the course of the evening. So it’s best, if available, to provide a blanket for everyone.

As we touched upon, blindfolds also allow breathers to go deeper into their experience. You can also hand out journals for a group journaling exercise.

  • Yoga mat
  • Blanket
  • Journal + pen

Optional: Offer airway relief for your breathers with some coconut oil before the session starts. They can swirl coconut oil in their mouth and even put coconut oil in their nostrils to enhance breathing and clear their airways.

The Complete Breathwork Format

For an impactful community breathwork experience, our journey builds with the following format:

  • Welcome Breathers
  • First Group Share
  • Intention Setting
  • Journalling
  • Explain Emotional Release + Breathwork
  • Listen to Breathwork Track
  • Soundscape
  • Integration
  • Final Group Share
  • Closing Remarks

Welcoming Breathers

As a breathwork facilitator, your role is to ensure every participant who enters your space feels comfortable and welcomed. The feelings of appreciation and belonging are the foundational building blocks to create a safe group dynamic. This will also facilitate deeper connections.

This is how you can kickoff a powerful community breathwork session:

  • Give everybody that enters a hug and look them in the eye. Learn their name and welcome them personally.
  • Offer essential oils. Ask breathers to rub oil on their hands and smell the scents, which will help ground them and allow them to become more present.
  • Hand out journals, blindfolds and any additional props. You can start by inviting your breathers to journal how they are feeling. Let them test the blind fold out.
  • Once everyone is gathered in the space, take your first collective breath together — invite everyone to tune in and breathe in unison. Lead a big group sigh to release any lingering tension. You can ask the group to exhale with an exaggerated “ahhh” to stimulate the vagus nerve and parasympathetic state. This sets the tone for relaxation.
  • Explain housekeeping notes - ensure everyone where the bathroom is located, where they can keep their stuff, and where water is, if you have some available.

First Group Share

To help kickoff the session and break the ice, divide participants into groups and lead a group share. This portion centers on listening to one another, getting into flow, and bringing awareness to body sensations.  

The most important component of the first group share is for people to answer from a place of authenticity. Authenticity breeds more authenticity. As we reciprocate and let our guard down, this paves the way for more meaningful human connection.

Logistics: You can kick off the group share by sharing first. Then you dictate the direction for the next share. Make direct eye contact with people as they share. Allow for around 3 minutes per person. If you need to, you can use a chime or Koshi to indicate when 2 minutes has passed and a tuning fork when time is up.  

Exercise: The goal of this exercise is to quell the overthinking mind so things naturally flow. When you communicate from a state of presence, everything is more authentic. Let your attendees answer the questions below and ask them to pay attention to how they feel in their body. This will allow them to stay present when they answer.  

  1. What was the best moment of your year? And what did it feel like?
  2. What is one thing you want to let go? And what does that thing feel like?

The themes of these questions are authenticity, gratitude, and vulnerability. Gratitude and authenticity will automatically enhance the mood in the room, making people feel more comfortable. By answering a question that showcases vulnerability, we are reminded that everyone struggles - we all share in the same collective experience of being a human — where both positive and negative emotions are inevitable. This creates a feeling of belonging and oneness.

The group share will prime your breathers to start contemplating their intention for the evening. This is the time to really pay attention to the stories that draw you and your breathers in.

To help set the tone for this exercise, as the facilitator, you should take the lead and go first. Start by answering the questions from a place of vulnerability and authenticity. Once everyone in your group has shared, you can come back together as a larger group and move into the next portion of the journey.

Intention Setting

In order to have an optimal and purposeful experience, having an intention for your breathwork session is vital. Explain to your breathers briefly how the subconscious mind works, exactly what an intention is and how to set one, and the power in letting go. Feel free to directly read these next paragraphs out loud.

Your subconscious mind

Your subconscious is the part of your mind that makes decisions without needing to actively think. It stores beliefs and values that have been imprinted on you through your lived experience.

You have around 65,000 thoughts per day, which all flow from your subconscious mind. These thoughts turn into emotions, which influence the actions we take, which ultimately determines your behavior. Powerful.

Most of us have limiting beliefs trapped in our subconscious. Thoughts like “I’m not worthy, I’ll never be happy, I’ll never be able to..” plague the minds of many of us. These types of thoughts can be so deeply embedded, we may not even be aware of them and the power they hold over us.

To change your thoughts, and subsequently, your behaviors, you need to access a flow state to communicate with your subconscious mind. In a flow state you are more receptive, suggestible and able to rewire your mind and state of being.

What is an intention?

An intention is a state of being we wish to live our lives guiding by. It differs from goals — which are ultimately an end destination. An intention is designed to guide you — like a rudder on a ship that steers you in a particular direction.

When we focus on an intention, rather than a goal, we let go of expectations tied to a specific outcome. Questions like “When will this play out? How will I make it happen?” are goal-oriented.

Intentions bring us back to the present moment.

This is why, when we set intentions, it’s essential we first invoke the feeling we are moving towards. It’s important to conceptualize it mentally, but a true, guiding intention must be felt in the heart and in the gut — as if it has already happened.

Setting intentions is the foundation of this work. It’s planting the seeds of change into your subconscious. During a breathwork session, mental and emotional patterns become soft and suggestible – we can more easily take hold and direct ourselves towards the guiding light of our intention.

Intentions create new neural pathways that break the molds of our habituated thoughts.

Setting Your Intention

Ask your breathers to contemplate their intention for your journey together.

You can give them a few personal examples to start. Then, ask them to ponder the following questions:

  • How does the intention feel right now?
  • Can you visualize it in your mind’s eye and feel it in your heart, as if it’s already within you?

By reflecting on these questions, your breathers are setting the course for change.

Once the actual breathwork begins, gently remind your breathers to avoid over-analyzing or controlling their experience as best they can – they can leave it to the deeper powers of the subconscious mind.

If someone becomes overwhelmed during the breathwork experience, they can return to their intention – like a force to redirect their ship in the direction they want to go. Their intention is a safe and grounding mantra.

Letting Go

There is tremendous power in letting go. We may not be able to “fix” unpleasant events or situations in our lives, but we can let go of attachment to the story we’re telling ourselves about the experience and the entangled emotions. Anger, grudges, resentment and envy are forms of suffering that are within our control. Letting go means allowing life to carry you to a new place, a deeper and more true rendition of self.

You can let go of:

  • The roles — who or what role are you playing day-to-day? Do you want to let go of this role during your breathwork practice? Start to separate yourself from any ‘roles’ you play (ie. your profession, your role in the family, etc.)
  • Challenges — what’s holding you back in life or weighing you down?

You are there to remind your breathers they do not need to overthink it – let go, and follow the rhythm.

Journaling

Our minds hold so much clutter. If we declutter, our subconscious minds are better able to express themselves and create a deeper level of change. By journaling we can clear the mind and connect to the wisdom of our inner healing intelligence. The answers we’re looking for are already inside of us — we just need to get out of our own way.

The universe is full of conscious creative energy like intuition, innate wisdom, and the authentic self. But this wisdom is often blocked by a distracted society, electronic screens and overwhelming limiting beliefs. Because of these factors, we seldom take the time to tune into that inner wisdom anymore.

Exercise: Once your breathers have chosen an intention and have begun feeling it in their body, have them write it down in their journal. Set a timer for 10-12 minutes and ask them to begin writing about their intention. Instruct them to describe it using descriptive words like colors and smells.

About halfway through the timed session, ask people to answer the question “What do I want to let go of”? Instruct them to boil their answer down to one sentence, and then to one word.

When the timer is up, ask your breathers to write on one single page the following:

  1. Their final intention in a few sentences
  2. What they want to let go of

Then, ask them to rip their page in half with each question on a separate side of the paper. Their intention (the first half) should be placed on their bedside table. The second half, containing what they want to let go of, can be burned in a fire ceremony after the breathwork session (at home alone or with a group).

Optional: Movement

When animals in the wild have traumatic experiences they move to shake it off. Humans, on the other hand, hold onto emotions in their body like stress, anxiety, and shame. When faced with a traumatic event, it’s common for humans to disassociate for self-preservation. This creates a disconnect between body and mind. Over time, this stress can eventually manifest into illness.

To help relieve and move the stress or trauma that is stored within the body (but cannot be accessed cognitively) — we’ll take a body based approach using Dr. James Gordon’s expressive meditation concept.

Exercise: Play a loud drum song, Dimitro is an Othership favorite. Instruct your breathers to stand up and move vigorously to get out of their head. It’s important to mention – any and all movement is welcome here! Moving hips, ankles, swaying, running on the spot – let the body guide you.

The goal is to have your breathers move intuitively and without inhibition. If they are carrying a lot of emotional weight, the vigorous movement will help release any negative or uncomfortable feelings. Since the gut and psoas muscles hold most of our tension, encourage them to loosen these areas up. Prompt the group to express themselves vocally to deepen release.

Remind your breathers that the more they shake it out in the beginning, the deeper they’ll go into breathwork. The purpose of this exercise is to get out of our head and into the body. When we hear the little voice in our head saying, “This is silly! I look funny. I feel weird” —  pay attention. This is the judgmental inner critic that is holding us back from really being ourselves. When you hear this voice, tell it to back off.

Explaining Emotional Release + Breathwork

Before diving into the breathwork session, let your breathers know what to expect.

Emotional releases. When doing conscious breathwork, many emotions can surface. Setting intentions and moving is the beginning of the work. Now it continues with breathwork. When difficult emotions come up — allow them to. This is the time to move the unprocessed emotions and try to release them. Feeling intense emotions or bouts of frustration, or wanting to quit midway are totally normal. It usually signals the start of a breakthrough. Try to stay dropped into the experience. If it’s too much, slow down the breathing.

On a physical level, this type of breathwork reduces the CO2 in the body so that the blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow to the brain and shutting off the executive function (neocortex) of our brain. This allows for our emotions to flow and to create space.

Surrender to the process. Don’t worry about your intention you’ve set earlier. You’ve already signaled your intent to your subconscious.  Let yourself free flow into the experience and surrender to whatever comes.  While breathwork can feel slightly different for each breather, some common experiences include reduction of negative thoughts and patterns, a new perspective and time out from ordinary mind, feeling of interconnectedness, decrease in ego and improved mood. Some breathers have even felt the transcendence of space and time or left their physical body.

Physical Effects. Just like emotions, bodies react differently to breathwork. Some people feel pins and needles, see colors, or get hot and cold. All of this is normal. Sometimes with long breath holds, the body becomes so hyper oxygenated that hands “claw” up. If this happens, don’t panic. It’s not dangerous and will pass.

Deep Breathing. We are so used to chest breathing in our day to day, that taking a deep breath may be hard at first. Chest breathing actually increases cortisol, adrenaline and stimulates our fight or flight system. But deep breathing helps us stay relaxed and calm (even babies naturally do it!).

Demonstrate to your breathers what a deep breath looks like. Guide them through one round:

  • Put one hand on your chest and belly. Breathe deep into your nose and feel your belly expand. Feel your chest expanding until the belly is totally full. Breath into your nose and feel your belly opening up.
  • Once the diaphragm is full, open the chest.
  • Stay relaxed. Keep your shoulders and jaw relaxed.
  • When exhaling, allow the air to come out naturally. Give it a slight push but don't force it.
  • Keep breathing in a relaxed manner — it should be like a wave, never stopping at the top or bottom.

Once your breathers have taken a few deep breaths, explain the different speeds they will experience during the breathwork session. There will be songs playing to match the beat of the breath, making it easy to follow along. It will look something like this:

  • Inhale for 2 counts, exhale for 2 counts.
  • After about 3 minutes, the pace will quicken. Breathe in for 1 and out for 1. This breathwork is intentionally vigorous.
  • There will be a pause in breath.
  • There will be a count down to the last ten breaths. 10, 9, 8, 7…. and on the last breath, they’ll be told “last breath in, sip, sip, sip, sip” where they’ll inhale and exhale fully with a long sigh.
  • Hold on the exhale for 30 seconds and increase each round. Once you finish the exhale, hold on empty and connect to stillness.  
  • Then, inhale the first breath of life — holding from the stomach all the way up to the shoulders and head. Upon holding, do a kegel to hold your lower muscles and visualize anything you want to let go of, anything stored in your body. Prepare to let it go.
  • Upon letting go, fully relax your body. Fully release and relax.
  • Slowly exhale and make a noise like an OM or an AAAH. Making these noises creates a vibration throughout the body and stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects the base of the brain to the body, connecting the nervous system to organs.  

Listen to an Othership Breathwork Track

After explaining how the breathwork will work, it’s time to play the session on Othership Breathing App. Let your breathers know if they have any issues or need anything during the session — they can raise their hand and you will assist them.

Some of our favorite sessions you can choose for your breathers include:

  • Expansion
  • Othertrip // Roller Coaster
  • Inner Child
  • Personal Power

Soundscape

After the breathwork journey, it's important for breathers to have space to simmer in the effects from the breathing. We recommend incorporating around 30 minutes of curated songs that will gently take participants on a deeper, reflective journey.

This portion of the journey allows breathers to tap into and reflect upon any insights, emotions, or memories that arose during the breathwork.

We recommend adding songs to a Spotify playlist that you can play after the breathwork session has finished.

Integration

When the breathwork session has come to a close, invite your breathers to gently stretch in any way that feels good to them. You can guide them to:

  • Smile
  • Stretch their arms over head
  • Give themselves a big hug
  • Rock back and forth with knees to chest
  • Come into happy baby pose

Ask your breathers to come to a sitting position when they feel ready. Then, ask them to take out their journal for a final writing exercise.

Exercise: Set the timer for 10-12 minutes. Have your breathers answer the following questions in their journal. Remind them to send compassion and love to anything uncomfortable that comes up.

  • What is one of the main messages you received?
  • What was one of the most memorable feelings you experienced?
  • Write what you remember of the experience. Draw a picture if you like.
  • Do you notice any changes from before the session? Do you feel different?

While people are journaling, you can help them ground into their space by offering fruit, tea, or water.

Optional: If you are continuing with a fire ceremony, burn the piece of paper from the first journaling exercise that contains what people want to let go of. As breathers burn this piece of paper, have them imagine that what they are letting go of is dissolving with it.

Final Group Share

Group sharing is one of the most important parts of the integration process. It builds intimacy and connection. Similar to the first group share, you can start the sharing, and then assess whether you want to go in a circle sharing, or if it's best to allow people to organically share when they feel ready.

If your breathers need more guidance, you can ask them:

  • What is one of the main messages you received?
  • What was one of the most memorable feelings you experienced?

Closing Remarks

After the final group share, take a moment to offer gratitude to everyone for showing up, doing the work and committing to taking the steps toward positive transformation. While the effects of the breathwork are high at this point, the real ceremony starts after the community breathwork session. It’s time to put their intention into action and live by it. As life inevitably tests us — approach these challenging scenarios as an opportunity for change.

Remind your breathers that the following week is a sensitive and crucial time for them to maintain their vibration. Instruct your breathers to:

  • Think of one small action they can do tomorrow that will integrate the lessons from today’s breathwork experience. Commit to it.
  • Consider what they’ll be exposing their consciousness to over the next few days. Encourage time in nature, journaling, minimizing social media and screen time. Allow themselves to integrate through art, time with loved ones or alone time.

Post-Breathwork: What’s Next?

We highly recommend following up with your breathers - no later than one week after the session. You can email or call them and encourage the continued integration of their experience.

In the follow up:

  • Remind them to welcome suppressed feelings. They are coming up for a reason.
  • Encourage them to find an integration therapist if necessary.
  • Suggest that they continue breathwork with the Othership Breathing App

There you have it! Your complete guide to facilitating your own Community Breathwork Journey. Congratulations on creating a meaningful + powerful experience for your community. By paying it forward, the impacts of this work ripple outwards - one conscious breath at a time.