NOW HEAL THIS
BREATHWORK WITH CARLY JO MORGAN
At Wildform, no healing modality is left unturned. Now Heal This is where we explore the ways in which people are diving deeper into self care, diverse and sometimes transcendent practices that share the hopeful promise of internal alignment.
First up is breathwork — a catch-all phrase to describe methods of breath control that can lead to an altered state of consciousness. Our co-founder Caroline swears by it as part of her regular relaxation routine; and while it is relaxing, it’s the type of deep calm associated with journeys of the mind and glimpses of the great beyond. In other words, operating heavy machinery afterwards is not recommended.
We spoke with artist-designer-musician-mom Carly Jo Morgan (a woman with more hyphens to her name who, ultimately, cannot be labeled) who leads breathwork sessions in and around her home in Topanga, California. In her group and private sessions Morgan’s goal is to help those she’s guiding dive deep into their psyches so they can access their inner wisdom.
A longtime student of shamanic practices and the healing arts, Morgan spoke with us about the power of the practice and the ways in which it has transformed her life.
FOR THE UNINITIATED, WHAT IS BREATHWORK?
Breathwork is a shockingly powerful tool for healing emotional trauma and physical pain. It’s hard to explain without experiencing it firsthand!
Energetically speaking, breathwork allows us to transcend the boundaries of the ego and find closure with traumatic memories; it often culminates in a state of peace, even euphoria. People have incredibly mystical experiences, which bring them a sensation of wholeness that they can integrate into their lives.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
As with all mystical experiences, who knows!? There is scientific understanding of how flooding our bodies with oxygen affects the body. I think Jungian psychologists and alchemists offer a much more interesting take on what happens when we dive into the psyche and dig up the shadows. We shed light on them and transmute their poisons to birth the true gifts that we have to offer the world.
IS IT THE SAME THING AS PRANAYAMA?
Not quite. The style that I guide has participants laying down with eye masks and very evocative, layered, intentional prayer music playing that I record with [musician and producer] Paul Butler. It’s most similar to Holotropic Breathwork, which was invented by Stanislav Grof, a scientist who began his career studying the therapeutic effects of LSD. When testing that substance became illegal, he came up with a powerful practice to reach the same states without any substances.
I ALREADY DO YOGA AND MEDITATE. WHY SHOULD I START PRACTICING BREATHWORK?
A deep breathwork session can feel like years of therapy. So much biographical material comes up. People often revisit traumatic childhood experiences in a safe way that allows them to find peace and bring closure to them.
IS IT SAFE?
Yes, it’s absolutely safe, although there are some cases in which it’s not recommended, during pregnancy or for people with high blood pressure, for example.
WHY DO PEOPLE’S FINGERS CURL UP?
That’s called tetany, a muscular spasm, when which does sometimes happen but is only temporary. As you breathe through it, the sensations reach a climax and are often followed by profound relaxation. The cramps often coincide with the release of painful experiences, and as they release, they bring powerful insights.
CAN I DO BREATHWORK BY MYSELF?
Yes, but people often express that it is more powerful in groups and with a guide because unexpected emotions can come up. The beauty is, unlike LSD or plant medicines, you can always slow down the breath and take off your eye mask and return to this realm.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT?
I have been on a path of healing since childhood. Having studied many indigenous shamanic practices and participated in many psychological healing workshops, such as the Hoffman Institute, I have been slowly synthesizing it all into my own healing practice that draws on all parts of my own healing journey. Addiction was an overwhelming theme in my childhood which led me to a deep commitment to helping others find practices to heal trauma and find wholeness.
WHAT HAS IT UNLOCKED IN YOU?
Fearless freedom — finally.
WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING ABOUT DEEPENING YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO BREATHWORK? WHAT HAS IT TAUGHT YOU?
Breathwork has reaffirmed that we all have the answers that we need within ourselves, just below the surface. As Stan Grof would say, it is a journey “to meet your inner healer.” Once we have made that connection we are all good.