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When our body’s adrenalin response (fight or flight) is activated we are hardwired to suppress uncomfortable emotional and mental states. This may have been a lifesaver for our fur-clad ancestors, but nowadays many of us live a life powered by adrenalin, overloading ourselves with unprocessed mental/emotional material. Fight or flight is no longer helpful or necessary. In fact, for most of us it becomes a liability.

Breathing Space Retreats - Breathguru - Alan Dolan - Mental+Emotional Health

Using the mind to solve a mental or emotional issue can be a lengthy and often futile process. You can’t change or ‘defuse’ your past by re-thinking it. In fact, the reverse is often true. The more attention we give a particular event in our past the more meaningful it seems to be and the more ‘hold’ it has over us.

Instead we need to go deeper and find the energy holding the issues in place. We need to create a shift whereby the energy can be freed and reprocessed. As clearing takes place, the mental, emotional and physical levels recalibrate accordingly.

Breathwork is a quick and effective means of clearing out one’s mental and emotional systems. We can use it to override the fight or flight response and process emotional and mental states as they happen, preventing the need to go anywhere near the ‘overload zone’ ever again.

Clients are not obliged to discuss their pasts with this kind of work. With breathwork we simply draw a clear line separating the past from the present, our aim being to disengage and clear the fallout from our personal histories to such an extent that we are no longer troubled by them. Most people are pleasantly surprised by how easily this process takes place and the results are nothing short of astounding.

Whether we are dealing with stress, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, addictions, panic attacks, grief or anger management issues, the root cause of these phenomena points to a stepping over the threshold of one’s individual capacity to deal with the store of repressed and suppressed material. The answer lies in allowing said material to leave the body safely and easily and learning how to avoid a repetition of events.

Stress/anxiety/panic attacks

Stress and anxiety are endemic in the Western world. Our lives seem faster than ever before and our daily to-do lists grow ever longer, with a great many of us living a significant part of our days above our stress thresholds.

Breathing Space Retreats - Breathguru - Alan Dolan

Alan’s insights

“My particular wake up call was chest pains, at which point I thought I was having heart problems. I later learned that it was my body’s way of telling me it needed more oxygen. At the time my coping strategies for stress and anxiety were cigarettes and alcohol. I knew they weren’t solving the core issues but they were a quick and easy short term fix in the absence of a more healthy solution.”

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Experiencing anxiety is no longer seen as anything particularly unusual, although taboos still exist around ‘not being able to cope’, especially when one resorts to medication. Panic attacks are an all too frequent experience as we attempt to control the seemingly uncontrollable.

We employ a variety of strategies to help us deal with our realities, many of which serve to disassociate us from our feelings rather than help us process and work through the troubling emotions.

Not only is the breath an effective and healthy way to protect ourselves from the ravages of stress and anxiety, it also provides an immediate remedy for dealing with symptoms as they occur. Many clients who were experiencing panic attacks have learned how to ‘pull the plug’ on the process by learning a little more about their physiology and specifically how it can be consciously affected by using their breath in a specific way. Learning to allow all our emotions (especially those we’ve previously not allowed) as they happen is one of the most helpful steps we can take to avoid overloading ourselves with stress.


Whether it’s cigarettes, chocolate or playing computer games we all have our ‘fixes’. Mostly we’re able to manage them but sometimes we find ourselves stepping over a line and are unable to step back. We are no longer in control of our behaviour.

It’s important to recognise that underlying each and every addiction is a positive intention. It may be incredibly well hidden but you can be sure that it’s there.

Most of us know, or at least think we know, what the positive aspects of our addiction are: ‘smoking is how I reward myself’, ‘alcohol helps me to relax’. The question becomes how to reach the same positive goal via less destructive means.

In working with addictions two questions must be answered: do you genuinely want to change this behaviour? And: do you think you can?

If your first answer is ‘No’, then there’s some work to do to convince yourself why it’s in your best interests to modify the behaviour, and how you can reach the same positive goal that the addiction’s trying to satisfy.

If the first answer is ‘Yes’, then you’re probably ready to clear away whatever is holding your addiction in place.

There is no magic bullet where addictions are concerned. Ultimately of course we’re all responsible for ‘picking up the ball and running with it’. The responsibility lies with us. Breathwork is only a tool, albeit an incredibly powerful one.

Anger management

It’s a physiological fact that as humans we are built to suppress or repress emotions which are unpleasant or deemed unattractive by our peers, family or societal norms. Anger is a perfect example of a characteristic which is normally discouraged and often deemed unattractive or unacceptable under any circumstances. A show of anger is often seen as indicative of weakness of character.

Being encouraged to ‘count to ten’, or forbidden to display something as natural and powerful as anger can lead to explosive episodes when we least expect or need them. We overreact to everyday events as our bodies look for ‘safety valve’ opportunities to eject the store of unwanted emotional energy. Being a slave to one’s emotions is clearly a less than productive state of affairs.

The fact that anger can be positive and has a part to play in communicating to others what is and is not acceptable, is becoming more acknowledged. A lot of us however are still following guidelines that were established in our childhoods and almost certainly have no relevance to our adult lives.

Time for a re-think! By working with your breath you’ll be able to access emotional material, such as repressed/suppressed anger, and release it quickly and easily. As your body and being recalibrates accordingly there will often be subsequent cognitive changes which allow you to reframe your beliefs and behaviours, enabling you to find a functional place for anger in your life.