Tatiana Ginzburg has authored a remarkable book that covers the use of breathing as a therapeutic intervention. She begins by tracing the origins of “breathwork” in ancient cultures, notably in Eastern traditions. These include practices in what is today’s China, India, and Tibet, and such practices as yoga, Buddhism, and Sufism. Ginzburg surveys Western precursors of “breathwork” ranging from Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank to Alexander Lowen, Arthur Janov, and Wilhelm Reich. She moves on to include contemporary uses of “breathwork,” citing Leonard Orr (and his “rebirthing” technique) to Jim Lenard (and his “viviation”), Gregory Gorsky (and “free breathing”), to Stanislav Grof (and his “holotropic breathing”). She then interviews several “breathwork” practitioners, focusing on how the “breathwork” experiences can be integrated with clients’ everyday lives. Ginzburg includes interviews with clients who describe their experiences with “breathwork,” and does not neglect some of the negative experiences that may arise. Ginzburg places “breathwork” practices in the frameworks of Humanistic psychology and Transpersonal psychology, both of which emphasize altered consciousness as a viable means of personal growth. Ginzburg presents her original model of integration, a model that pulls together the information that she obtained from her careful reading of the pertinent literature, as well as interviews with some of the leading contemporary “breathwork” practitioners.
The book is beautifully written and her various sections are interesting to read. The range of materials covered in this book give it a unique status and represent considerable research on Ginzburg’s part. It is well organized, which is admirably done viewing the panorama of traditions and practitioners covered. The choice of integration as a focused topic was a wise choice. What good is “breathwork” if it has no applications to a person’s daily life and personal growth? The section on Humanistic and Transpersonal psychology provide a means of encompassing “breathwork” into a broader framework. She could have reviewed the pertinent literature from current psychoanalysis practices, as well as those associated with behaviorism and cognitive psychology, all of which are more widely practiced than those pioneered by Humanistic psychology and Transpersonal psychology. Skeptics of breathwork will note that none of the interventions in this book meet the current criteria of “evidence-based interventions.” This situation could have been explored, with possible suggestions on how to determine if any or all of current “breathwork” practices are amenable to disciplined inquiry. Overall, Ginzburg deserves the gratitude of the readers of her book because they will not find this information anywhere else. The inclusion of Russian practices is especially important because most readers will be completely unfamiliar with those practices and practitioners. Clinical psychologists and other practitioners will be the most likely audience for this book, but its topic will be of interest to Humanistic psychologists and Transpersonal psychologists as well. Historians of psychotherapy will like this book because it will take them into unfamiliar territory, and physiological psychologists will be intrigued by those parts of the book that touch upon what occurs in the body during “breathwork.” In summary, Ginzburg has given the fields of psychology and psychotherapy a valuable gift that they can find nowhere else.
Stanley Krippner, Ph.D.
California Institute of Integral Studies.