Ecstatic Breathwork with Scott Schwenk
A hybrid of practicality and visionary insight, Scott Schwenk has been catalyzing the inner evolution and leadership development of individuals, relationships, and larger groups and organizations for more than 25 years. His work and teaching is a blend of stillness, unexpected expansion, laughter, discovery and potent, actionable insights revealing dynamic inner freedom and a thriving outer life. Born with intense empathy and clairaudience (intuitive hearing), Scott sought understanding and freedom at every turn. He spent several years living and studying in a Hindu-Tantric monastery in his mid-twenties, and has since cultivated a number of apprenticeships in leadership development, tantric meditation/philosophy, and Vedic ritual. With this experience, Scott does extensive work coaching clients in waking up, growing up, cleaning up, and showing up.
Scott Schwenk has had many profound experiences, from living in a monastery to studying with monks, but nothing compared to his first time doing breathwork. He experienced an expansion of awareness, shattering of internal blocks, and dissolution of tensions so powerful that he knew he had to share this practice with the world. Breathwork is a highly effective tool for moving energy and purging traumas, anxieties and resentments that have lodged in our nervous system. This clears space in the mind and allows love to grow in the heart. Scott will guide you through every step of this five-day journey. Here are some pointers to keep in mind along the way: While you can practice breathwork at any time of the day, considering doing it first thing in the morning. You’ll find that it’s a great way to kick-start your day with a boost of fresh energy. During the practice, you may feel a tingling or vibration in your hands, face or feet. This is totally normal! Go at your own pace, and take breaks as needed. It's totally normal to feel nervous or strange during the practice. Do your best to stick with it and try to let go of the energy of thinking. The expulsion of stuck energy can also cause cramping in the hands and around the mouth. Don’t be alarmed this occurs. It means the process is working! (Though this doesn’t happen to everyone, so if it doesn't happen to you, that's okay, too.)Approach this journey from an angle of discovery. Keep an open mind as we progress through the days — and remember, you can come back and repeat any day whenever you need!
02: Body: The First Reality
Why Breathwork? This life-changing practice is a spectacular tool for dissolving mental and physical tension. By releasing these tensions, we are empowered to step beyond the thinking mind. Breathwork is a key that unlocks access to the magnificent inner life-force that exists within us all, allowing us to experience and engage with our own consciousness. Breathwork has tangible effects on the physical body, too. In this practice, the nervous system shifts from a sympathetic to parasympathetic state, into a mode of ‘rest and digest,’ where insights and intuitions arise effortlessly. Breathwork also has a tonifying effect on the vagus nerve, which runs down the center of the body. The vagus nerve is responsible for the “gut-brain” connection and links the brain to the heart, lungs and many other parts of the body. Through breathwork, we tone the vagus nerve, in turn boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, decreasing symptoms of anxiety, and depression and building mental and physical resilience. Set Yourself Up For Practice: Prepare the body for today’s practice by assembling a yoga mat and, if you’d like, a bolster or pillow to support your knees. To allow for the optimal flow of breath, do not place anything under your head. During the practice, Scott reminds us to focus on softening tension in six specific parts of the body: soles of the feet, palms of the hand, all four corners of the eyes, the region around the ears, the tongue as it rests in the floor of the mouth, and the entire pelvic floor and groin region. This softening enables the breath to move tension out of the nervous system. As you breathe, focus on an intention. Ask yourself, what would it feel like to know your intention was already fully manifest? Use a memory to evoke a similar feeling, and breathe this feeling into your body. Tools and Tips: In this breathwork practice, we breathe in and out throughout the mouth. You’ll take two breaths in through the mouth, and one breath out through the mouth. On the inhale, the first half of the breath comes right into the low belly, and the second half of the breath comes into the upper chest. Then, you exhale completely. It’s normal (and expected) to experience intense physical sensations. You may take breaks as needed, though be mindful of whether you physically need a break, or if the resistance is simply your mind shying away from an unfamiliar feeling. If the latter, try to breathe into the feeling. If you feel your breath “stuck” at any point, try a deep belly laugh. This may feel silly, but it opens your diaphragm and allows for a strong and smooth flow of breath.
03: Thoughts: What You Think Is What You Get
Every thought shapes and directs energy, for better or worse. By shifting breathing patterns, we disrupt the conditioned flow and begin to consciously architect our own experiences. Not only can breath shift our mood, but it can guide us beyond inherited conditioned ways of seeing ourselves, others, and life itself. In today’s practice, you’ll set up the same way you did in Day 1: on your mat, with a pillow under your knees if needed, and a blanket on-hand in case your body temperature drops. Day 2 hones in on how we can use breathwork to slow down the mindstream. When this happens, we are better able to recognize the tremendous, limitless dynamic stillness behind the thinking mind. We begin to access deeper ways of knowing and creating which are increasingly outside the familiar boxes within which we’ve lived our lives; we train in relaxing into the unknown, where anything is possible. Remember: “What you think is what you get.” Tools and Tips: Stay mindful of the intention you defined in Day 1. Call upon a memory that evokes the same feeling you would experience when your intention realizes, and breathe into that feeling as you practice. Throughout the practice, strive to keep the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands soft. The more you relax the body, the deeper the practice goes.
04: Entering the Heart: Cultivating a Chosen Feeling State
In the open space of the breathwork experience, there is a current of energy, a palpable vibration moving through the nervous system. Combining this energy and the power of the breath with your chosen feeling state will change the ecology of the nervous system over time. Just like with a plot of land in which the soil has been depleted or damaged, with the right attention and nutrients over time, we can transform the soil from barren and arid to supremely creative life-giving material. The same is true for consciousness through the body. Breathwork is one way to get there. In today’s practice, we focus on opening the heart and dissolving the layers of conditioning that keeps us stuck. Any overwhelming experience, positive or negative, doesn't get digested in the moment but gets stored in the body, but the breath can clear it out. As you breathe, observe where tension remains in the body. Focus on softening that tension, and notice that the breath flows freer when you release the tension. As you notice this happening, ask yourself the question: Where can I be more free? Bring the breath there, and let go. Tools and Tips: Now that we’re in Day 3, it’s normal for old memories to surface, even when you’re off the mat. When this happens, acknowledge the thought and the feelings it brings to light, and then exhale it out of the body. You can imagine your exhale sending this memory back into the earth, where it is composted and returns on the inhale as fresh energy for you to carry forth into the present. Breathwork is a deeply transformative practice, and as a result, it can leave us feeling raw and vulnerable. Practice intentional self-care during these 5 days, and make an effort to ground yourself: find a patch of grass, take off your shoes and let your bare feet touch the earth; get in water and drink plenty of it; consume cooked root vegetables and healthy fats.
05: Feeling: Transforming Difficult Emotions
Everyone has difficult emotions, but we don’t have to turn these feelings into a big production. You might be thinking, “easier said than done.” But the truth is, emotions are phenomena of inhabiting an animal body. They are an evolutionary mechanism meant to keep the body alive and healthy; in order words, they are immediate signals about the environment meant to shift behavior in the moment, and then be digested and released. Think of two dogs fighting over a bone: energy floods to the jaws and to the feet, and when the scuffle is done, the dogs literally shake off the energy and move on with their lives. We too can use the body to release difficult emotions that get “stuck.” The key is in finding where these feelings reside in the body. To do this, we can follow this formula: First, ask yourself: Where is this feeling physically felt in my body right now? Direct gentle, firm focus and breath into this. Operate from a perspective of curiosity and openness – not judgment. Watch the texture of energy transform under your compassionate gaze. As one area completely dissolves, once again internally ask the question again, and follow the steps. If you encounter something really difficult, perhaps a pocket of sadness or anger, cultivate a feeling of compassion. If needed, bring to mind a person or place that you love, and surround the difficult emotion with a sense of kindness and care. If you get confused, lost or distracted, exhale the energy of thinking. Focus on softening the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and deepen your breath to bring yourself back into practice. Ultimately, we can bring this skill of releasing tension and transforming energy off the mat and into our everyday lives. Through this practice, we learn to digest life as it is happening, rather than repeating versions of past experience over and over again. Remember: “Your inner feeling is determining the outcome of each action and each interaction. Fearless, compassionate and present, we train in being with the emotions as they arise, neither buying into their stories, nor avoiding them altogether. With breath and softening, we practice digest emotions as they arise, freeing the body, freeing the mind, opening the heart.” Tools and Tips: After completing a breathwork session, you are in a prime position to experience insights and intuitions. Take advantage of this opportunity and spend some time in quiet reflection. If you get lost at all during the day, remember the feeling you experienced in the relaxation portion of this session. Lightly touching on this expanded state of awareness during the day can reap relaxing effects on your entire nervous system. Laughter is such an easy but powerful way to tone the vagus nerve. If you’re ever feeling particularly stressed, anxious or uneasy, set a timer for one minute and laugh out loud–even if it feels silly, or forced. After just 60 seconds, you’ll feel a noticeable improvement in your mind and body.
In Day 1, we learned a three-part, diaphragmatic breath technique and how, and why, to practice Ecstatic Breathwork. In Day 2, we worked on dissolving habitual thinking patterns to create space for new circumstances to manifest in our lives. In Day 3, we breathed into our spiritual center, with the goal of thawing physical tension and opening the heart. In Day 4, we learned how to find and free difficult emotions. And today, we learn how–and why– to take this practice off the mat and into each and every moment of our lives. Indeed, daily breathwork is a simple and powerful way to maintain a sparkling internal hygiene, a bit akin to a satisfying shower for the whole being. While just one day’s session of breathwork can refresh our body and mind, there is great reward in consistently and continuously engaging with the practice. In doing so, we can journey further down the path into our consciousness and also digest emotions and memories before they become blocks. Thank you for showing up for yourself. Completing five days of breathwork is a major accomplishment. As you carry this practice forward, you will find that it elevates not only your inner-world, but also elevates others around you. Do remember that this course is intended not only as a one-time experience but as a lifetime experience. It is designed to be repeated as many times as we are willing to experience the evolution of our own consciousness, to love and be loved without limit, to release stored imprints within the body and nervous system from undigested past experiences, to taste the fullness of all that we are, beyond the rational mind’s ability to articulate.
07: Thank You
Thank you so much for joining this journey. The state of consciousness that you have cultivated in this course sets the stage for even deeper, more spacious fields of awareness – waiting for you not only when you come back to breathwork, but also to other practices: yoga, meditation, and quite simply, the practice of everyday living. Remember, the breath is not the work but a tool of the work, a tool that you can use in so many different ways on this journey through life. And, this tool gets even finer with use. The more experience we have with breathwork, the better we get at it, and the deeper we can go. So stay with the journey. Repeat the course from time to time, or dedicate three weeks to a consistent daily practice, especially if you're going through a transition in your life. Keep coming back with an intention, and with the mindset of discovery. Whenever you need to move energy, re-set the mind or body, or simply experience the spaciousness of your own inner-world, Ecstatic Breathwork will be here for you.