We Tried It: Breathwork – Connected Conscious Breathing
Three HONOLULU staffers visited Yoga Room Hawai‘i last weekend to “breathe in, breathe out.” It was much heavier and more enlightening than we imagined.
“This is manifestation on steroids,” says Eric Rosso, the Yoga Room Hawai‘i instructor who offers a monthly workshop called “Connected Conscious Breathing” at Yoga Room Hawai‘i in Kaimukī. We look at each other, scared. Or, confused? We don’t know what he means. He continues with some house rules: If you have heart problems, experience seizures or are pregnant, this class is not for you. There will be 30 minutes of breathwork, he explains, with three screaming/pound-your-hands-on-the-ground breaks—think haka meets 300 the movie. Spoiler alert: This part is actually cathartic, like throwing a grown-up tantrum and releasing all of life’s frustrations.
To prep for the session, every participant is asked to bring a yoga mat and dress comfortably. Everyone is provided a bolster pillow, headset and two blocks. The pillow and blocks are used to create a platform to lie on that keeps your head at a 90-degree angle. Through the headset, music plays to enhance the breathing; it’s also how Rosso communicates and gives instructions. The mood of the room is relaxing with dimmed lighting and a cozy, fall-like temperature. It’s like an adult sleepover!
A tip: The class fills up fast, so it’s best to get there 15 minutes prior to get a good spot. Once everyone is seated on their mats, Rosso describes the breathwork, which he learned about while attending a wellness retreat in Costa Rica. Basically, you close your eyes and breathe only through your mouth, taking short deep inhales that expand your stomach, and then exhale. The rhythm is fast, almost like you’re hyperventilating.
Rosso says that everyone walks away with different emotions and experiences. Seeing stars, shapes and bright colors is common, while some people go through deeper releases of past trauma and bottled emotions. Others have felt tingling sensations and a sense of euphoria.
The class is about two hours, which seems long. But the actual breathing portion is only a half-hour and goes by fast. There’s music throughout, along with affirmations from Rosso. You will hear various sounds—moaning, panting, crying—from others around you. It’s a little shocking and intimidating at first, but as time progresses, it becomes normal.
The breathing portion ends with savasana, a resting pose in which you lie down on your back while soothing music plays. It’s hard not to fall asleep during this part. We’re then encouraged to share our experiences. A few people said memories from their childhood surfaced, both good and bad. Others with ailments said their pain diminished during the class. One woman saw a lady with white hair floating around. Not going to lie, it scared us at first. But she further explained it was a spiritual visitor. This really was “manifestation on steroids,” and overall, every story revealed raw human emotions, uncensored. Among strangers, it’s inspiring to witness vulnerability and trust at such deep levels.
Unfortunately, due to health reasons, I couldn’t participate fully, like my co-workers, but all of us left feeling at peace and motivated to try the class again. Here are our experiences. —Stacey Makiya, HONOLULU Senior Style Editor
I went in more as a writer since I couldn’t do the breathing part fully. So I watched others. Rosso has a soothing voice and a gentleness about him and it definitely sets the tone for what comes next.
I focused more on light breathing and the affirmations; one affirmation that resonated with me was, “who did you feel safe with when you were a child?” I immediately thought of my mom and dad, which brought me peace. Another affirmation I focused on, “what does five years into your future look like?” I thought of my career, relationships and dreams. It brought me joy to manifest the possibilities. I felt slight tingling in my hands and feet, but nothing too mind-blowing.
The idea is that everyone leaves with some form of profoundness. For me, the eye- and heart-opening stories that people shared about their experiences was the best part. I’m not brave enough to open myself up and divulge deep emotions to a crowd of unfamiliar faces, but I admire those who do. It left me feeling connected more to fellow humans. Everyone has emotional scars; everyone is trying their best to find resolutions; and everyone is in search of their happy place, spiritually, mentally and physically.
Brie Thalmann, HONOLULU Managing Style Editor
I don’t know if this rings true for anyone else, but I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for the past two, almost three, years now. From the stress of the pandemic and the last election to the nerve-wracking state of politics and fight over women’s rights to my own health issues, at times, it’s felt like there’s been a 10-ton elephant on my chest that refuses to budge. So, when I heard about this class I leapt at the chance to join, in hopes of releasing some of that tightly bound anxiety.
As I settled back against my bolster pillow I felt some nerves rise up in anticipation. Through the glowing Bluetooth headphones we slipped on over our ears, Rosso informs us that breathwork experiences can range from lightheadedness and tingling throughout the body to floating sensations, temperature changes and an intense “cracking open” of emotions that could bring tears, laughter, anger or sadness. And there was no way to predict which way it would go.
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
Over and over I filled then deflated the balloon I was told to imagine in my stomach. Faster and faster I went, timing my breath to the music and the rhythmic affirmations of self and spirit that Eric repeated in a calm, steady voice, pounding the floor on either side of me and yelling at the top of my lungs into the sky when cued.
At first there was nothing—I was still too aware of how awkward I felt. But at some point, a tingling sensation began in my hands and arms that worked its way up my chest to my neck and face, eventually turning into a high-vibrational buzzing. And then, before I knew it, the 30 minutes of breathwork was up.
I didn’t have any visions of colors or geometric shapes, see my childhood self or get transported to another galaxy like some of the other participants, but as I stepped outside into the cool air of the parking lot after class, I did feel a sense of calm—not tear- or laughter-inducing, but welcome all the same.
James Nakamura, HONOLULU Creative Director
We were in a heated, darkened space lit only by the dim track lights running along the base of the room’s floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The headphones we were given emitted a vibrant green light. Everyone was in rows, lying on yoga mats, their heads propped up by rectangular yoga bolsters. The New Age instrumentals that thrummed through the headphones reminded me of a spy thriller in which a protagonist calmly stalks a target through the streets of another country. When I closed my eyes, no sounds permeated this membrane except for the music, and Rosso’s voice.
“Breathe,” he said.
This added to the effect. I could sense the hazy outline of my body floating right below my consciousness. I snapped my fingers and couldn’t hear them. My body dissipated. “All I am is my breath,” I thought. The tempo quickened. Our breathing was meant to be fast and circular—like heat saturated dogs. He repeated himself, insinuating his affirmations into the music’s rhythm. “Let yourself go. Become who you want to be. Change is scary. Let yourself go.” I felt present, yet disconnected.
Only then, in the lulls between the music and his instructions, could I hear others hyperventilating—a heaving presence in the dark. Rosso instructed us to pound the floor with our hands, and scream. Voices cried out. My limbs were tingling. I turned my head slightly and the room flipped over and over. Still, I breathed in and out as quickly as I could. I imagined my breath as a slivery stream of mercury, coiling into itself until it formed a sphere, each exhalation pouring back into its core, each inhalation pulling out of it. In that same sphere were memories of people who have come and gone. Everything was churning. The room had become ice cold.
There were moments of catharsis as others shared their experiences. Moments of reckoning. Moments of joy. I felt a clean wave of euphoria and I kept my eyes closed as they spoke. Some experiences were introspective, others physiological. Because I couldn’t see them, the people speaking seemed without physical boundaries. For a brief moment, I was living other lives.
Was this a meditation class or some form of performance art in which we were all participants? For an hour and a half, that dark room was transformed, and I was grateful for being there when it did.
Breathwork – Connected Conscious Breathing with Eric Rosso is a special class; check the Yoga Room website for dates and more information. Yoga Room Hawai‘i, 1120 12th Ave., second floor, (808) 376-0087, yogaroomhawaii.com, @yogaroomhawaii