A Thing Called Breathwork
By Tiffany Curren
I used to think that I was damaged.
From a very young age until I was 19 years old, I’d experienced countless boundary violations that stole my innocence, my sense of trust, and made me feel devalued. I was told, more than once, that no one would believe my story, and that telling it would alienate me from everyone that I loved. I believed the lies, believed that I was worthless, and I always did what I was told and kept my mouth shut.
I became afraid to sleep at night, afraid to turn my back to an open room, I was even afraid of the dark. As a teen, I developed OCD and it would sometimes take me five minutes to shut the lights, or lock the door. My fear hacked my spirit and started taking up space, pushing out the light, the faith, the love. As I got older, I acted out. I exhibited dangerous, attention seeking behavior.s I was always waiting to die. Fear overwhelmed me.
I went to therapy, and tried talking it out. I tried tapping techniques, yelling, used homeopathic remedies and herbs. Still, I lived in fear. I had no idea what it felt like to just relax.
As I got older, my fear escalated. I began having anxiety attacks, sometimes so many in a day that I couldn’t leave the house. More than once, I woke up in the middle of the night, literally paralyzed. Did I have a stroke? Was I dying? My heart was pounding hard in my chest, I was covered in sweat, and felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t speak. As soon as I could move, I’d get up and into my car (in my pajamas) and drive myself to the emergency room. Once I’d get there, the panic would have subsided and I’d return home.
Once, while visiting my dermatologist, the panic started to set it. It came on at any time, without warning. I told my doctor something was wrong, I felt like I was having a heart attack and as I did, I began to cry. She recognized what was happening. She looked me in the eyes and said, “You know, living with this level of stress is much worse than trying some medication.” I’d always been so against it, but in this moment, she made sense. My life was collapsing under me, and I was running out of options. I left her office and went right to my doctor. I told her what was going on, how terrified I was, and that I couldn’t function any longer. Together, we decided that I would benefit from taking Xanax.
Taking medication helped me feel whole. I felt calm, and really came to life. But as time passed, I needed more and more to stay level. I’d see my pill bottle getting low and, concerned, call the doctor for more. I couldn’t leave the house without it. And when it was time for a new doctor (my regular doctor was on leave of absence for an illness), she said she couldn’t allow me to continue that
level of medication. I had two options: a systemic SSRI or to find a new doctor. I didn’t want to live on medication. I was sitting home, scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post about breathwork. I was lost, scared, and always living in anxiety. I had no idea what it meant to feel grounded. The post made breathwork sound like a magical cure. I barely believed that it would help me, but I was desperate. I booked a session.
Before my first appointment, I looked up Erin Telford, the person I’d heard so much about in the breathwork community, and watched her seven-minute breathwork meditation. It totally blew my mind. What was this, and could I handle it? It seemed basic enough, just breathing in a prescribed pattern, but at the same time, very profound. Since I’d lived in a constant state of anxiety, I was nervous about even trying to do this. I was tied to a thrice-daily Xanax script, and I certainly did not need one more thing to feel anxious about. At the same time, I was intrigued.
When I began the practice, I was blown away by how my breath was able to take me into deep places within my emotional body, releasing all the fear, the sadness, the rejection I held, and was awed by how that same breath was able to shine the light on my life. I knew I needed to learn more.
So much shifted. I started forgetting to take Xanax. I began to realize that I didn’t need it. I noticed that I felt freer and worried less, and I started speaking my mind and standing in my power. I began to value myself. I witnessed my past experiences and recognized that I was not at fault. I had been robbed of my power in those moments. I was always enough, always. I just didn’t have a voice. Breathwork helped me take my power back.
This breath, a two-part pranayama all through the mouth, was powerful. It had no name, just breathwork, and yet it was the greatest thing I had ever experienced.
After months of doing my own breathwork practice, I signed up for Healer Training with Erin Telford. As I went through breathwork healer training, I realized that my traumas were what made me so strong. I’d been to awful places and come through stronger, smarter and with countless lessons. I learned from them all, and became grateful for them. My wounds provided me the ability to walk into the darkness with my head held high, knowing that I bring the light. We all bring the light and, much like flipping a switch, once we know how to access it, we can experience the shift. I believe that, without my experiences, I wouldn’t be able to meet people in their place of pain. The experiences of my past allow me the ability to hold safe space for people processing really difficult, scary, sad emotions with confidence. And that’s a gift.
I flew out to Los Angeles to continue my training with David Elliott, the amazing man who brought this breath into the mainstream. Being with David and openly sharing my experiences was powerful. I knew that I had been called to do this work. Just a week after I returned home from Los Angeles, I held my first breathwork circle. I witnessed people making the choice to go deep and move into their power. I felt the importance of my job, to hold space and stay grounded, and knew that I had to stand strong in that role.
My journey has 100% altered my path and shifted my life. I don’t have anxiety anymore. I don’t take Xanax or any other medication to shift my emotions. I have confidence and trust that I am ready for what the world has to offer me, and can handle any challenges that I face. I am not afraid. I hold space while people use their breath to find their voice, release bottled up emotions, and heal. I am comfortable witnessing expressions of sadness and pain, and joyfully witness moments of glory.
Mostly, through the practice of breathwork, I’ve learned that we all have the ability to heal ourselves
by trusting our breath and breathing into what no longer serves us. Breathing into it allows the energy to be shaken up, activated and released, so our past becomes a story without pain.
Tiffany Curren is a breathwork facilitator from New Jersey. She travels to studios and spaces all across the country, with the goal of sharing breathwork with as many people as she’s able to reach. Find out more about her at