by Giten Tonkov, Creator of BioDynamic Breathwork & Trauma Release System.
As a part of the BioDynamic Breathwork and Trauma Release approach, we use a concept of unwinding. In this context, the word “unwinding” relates to a repair process for tightly “wound,” tense, and tight deep-core muscular and connective fascial tissues in our physical body. This tightness is usually a response to emotional and/or physical trauma. One interesting note: sometimes long-term tension held in the body can result both in both tense areas and a weak and flaccid core.
In my experience, tension starts to form early in life for most people—and once present, stays in place as a protective mechanism. The past trauma basically triggers the Fight-or-Flight response, which becomes “stuck” in mid-swing, since we usually halt it. Rarely do human beings allow the Fight-or-Flight process to complete, as it does in nature. Therefore, like a metal spring that’s tightly wound and holds energy within it, a traumatized deep core prevents graceful, coordinated movement, as well as free-flowing, conscious emotional expression.
In reality, we use incredible amounts of energy to keep both this tension and its associated emotional charge in place. We find ways to adjust our physical coordination, posture, personality, and emotional responses around the tension.
Can you imagine living your life free from this inner tension? BioDynamic Breathwork is focused on releasing and healing trauma that has been stuck in deep-core physical and connective fascial tissues. BioDynamic Breathwork & Trauma Release has proven to be a very powerful tool, simply because it unlocks our deeply “wound” tension and supports a monitored, connected, and incredibly beneficial process of unwinding.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Based on the knowledge of how our muscular system and connective tissues store tension, the concept is quite simple. In specific Trauma Release Exercises and Core Tension Release Exercises, we focus on activating more superficial musculature while slightly stretching tissues against the resistance of a skilled facilitator. All this is happening with the help of deep, connected breathing . Connected breath through the mouth activates the Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System, which is responsible for the Fight-or-Flight response. At the same time, our particular Deep, Connected Breathing technique is responsible for building an actual physical charge in our bodies—thanks to the simple fact that O2 (oxygen) is converted into energy by our bodies.
Tension release is supported because of the activation of a “static” Fight-or-Flight response—one in which the physical system is activated without an “emergency” to respond to.
Activated energy that has been released by the superficial musculature travels deep into the interior of our body, deep down to the core. There, it activates the core and begins the process of unwinding this metal spring-like tension. If we observe a client in a BioDynamic Breathwork session, a congruent, flowing, unwinding movement—coming from the inside out—is plainly visible. This is what we are looking for while supporting a trauma-release session. The movement looks and feels like it is originating from the core and moving throughout the entire body, in fluid waves, from the inside out.
This fluid wave resembles “De-armoring”—not a cathartic expression that results in an exhausted tiring of the muscles, but the other way around. By engaging the muscular and fascial tissues to start the process that leads to connected and monitored emotional expression, we achieve deep relaxation.
In my supporting and observing hundreds of Breathwork, Trauma Release, and emotional release sessions, I notice that if we focus on emotional expression as a primary component, the resulting relaxation of the physical body is not long lasting. Usually physical tension comes back sooner or later—and sometimes right away, because the physical body might instantly respond to the emotional charge. Such a process can become re-traumatizing for a person who is unaware of how to use available resources and his or her Felt Sense to allow for a more conscious emotional expression.
On the other hand, when we approach Trauma Release through the physical body first, understanding that tension takes root from the outside-in, then the unwinding process can work. It unlocks the core and brings emotional expression to the surface, resulting in a long-lasting shift. Additional benefits include muscular and emotional freedom, as well as a pain-free existence.
HOW WE FUNCTION
Alexander Lowen, a founder of Bioenergetic Therapy and one of the pioneers of body-oriented therapy, identified the Formation of a Personality Structure model, which proposes that there are four layers to human beings. The first and most superficial layer is Ego, or Personality, with all-too familiar attributes such as Denial, Distrust, Blaming, Projection, and Rationalization. It is with this outermost layer that we make our contact with the world outside of ourselves. Since we encounter, interact with, and relate with others through this layer of Ego and Personality, no authentic meeting or encounter can take place without nourishing it. Even though the energy of the heart is activated with these encounters, we form this outermost layer in the first place as a protection—a desire to provide us with an illusion of safety and belonging.
Beneath this layer is the Muscular layer, which holds tension related to our past traumas, conditioning, and unmet needs. Chronic muscular tension is a main quality of this layer in cases when conscious bodywork and trauma release sessions are not utilized.
Next is the Emotional layer. Whatever unaddressed chronic muscular tension is held in the Muscular layer above translates to Pain, Fear, Rage, and Despair in the third layer. Then, beyond Emotion is the fourth and deepest layer—our Core. This is the layer of the heart. The essence of this layer always remains the same: it is the essence of love and connection.
We all associate our heart with love, and love only grows when it is shared. The energy of the heart always wants to reach out to the periphery. It wants to connect to the outside world and wants to be met in this reaching out. Issues begin to arise when the impulse to reach out for connection and sharing is met with deprivation, frustration, or punishment. This in turn produces anxiety, which causes us to erect our muscular and emotional defenses—which then impacts the formation of our personality and ego. It’s easy to see how we develop defenses to protect us. However, later in life, defenses become hindrances to accessing unbound amounts of physical energy, as well as pleasure and joy.
The good news is that no matter how long our natural impulse to reach out has been interrupted—or stuck, or wound-up in our core—it never goes away. It is always alive under all the other layers that block its path.
The beauty of releasing our Muscular layer first—the second layer, resting between the Ego and Emotional layers—is that we can easily access our muscles. We can soften our muscles, releasing tension and thus relaxing both adjoining layers. The energetic impulse travels from released muscular tension to the core, passing though the emotional layer. This gentle process stimulates the unwinding process, and along with it a soft emotional release.
This means that as you relax your physical tension, both your personality structure and emotional responses are directly affected. This happens simply because the energetic impulse from the core is able to reach to the periphery of your body, traveling freely. No more blocks of tension; no more unaddressed or incomplete traumatic responses; no more interrupted Fight-or-Flight or Freeze-Dissociation.
When the energy of the Core/Heart is allowed to move though all the other layers, they become unbound in a great and liberating way. The personality and ego begins to transform; Denial, Distrust, Blaming, Projection, and Rationalization become Self-Awareness, Self-Assertion, and Self-Possession. Chronic muscular tension becomes Graceful, Coordinated, Effective Action. Emotions transform from Pain, Fear, Rage, and Despair into Pleasure, Joy, and general good feelings. Importantly, the emotions of Pain and Sorrow can still be present, but they are no longer overwhelming and do not dominate our lives. These emotional responses, like everything else, are accepted as a passing experience. We learn to recognize that no state is permanent, no matter how painful or how blissful it may be.
Just as a tightly wound screw that holds two pieces of wood together is unwound, thus freeing the pieces of wood, our freed bioenergy starts to move from the core to periphery. More space is created in all the layers, starting from most superficial to the deepest. What used to be instantaneous reactions to particular situations become reasoned, or measured responses. As more physical space is created in our bodies, we enlarge—and in some cases create a brand new container that can hold our emotional responses without our being overwhelmed by them. We develop the ability to be with whatever is available to feel, and we view every experience as a passing one.
It is no longer a hypothesis but a known fact that unaddressed past traumas cause an onset of disease. By addressing our inner tension in a systematic, scientific way, we prevent an onset of an array of potentially life threatening and debilitating trauma-related diseases. BioDynamic Breath &Trauma Release effects our entire system, releasing core tension, and setting us free to live up to our true potential as well-integrated individuals.
Giten Tonkov, Creator of BioDynamic Breathwork & Trauma Release System
Founder of BioDynamic Breathwork & Trauma Release Institute
Co-founder of Integral Body Institute.