Breath and breathing have seemed to become trendy due to the influx of alternative healing, focus on health, and the influence of Eastern practices, especially meditation (visualization, guided imagery, etc.). There are numerous posts about it on Instagram, and the use of apps on smartphones has only increased the information and promotion of these ideas.
New Age/Eastern meditation uses breath as the basis for teaching certain breathing techniques that accompany meditation. Breath is viewed as actually cleansing one spiritually in some Hindu meditations and exercises, and in Buddhism, breathing is used to focus one’s attention on the present.
Ironically, God has made man so that we breathe automatically and do not have to usually think about it. But Eastern religions and the New Age view breath as a way to reach altered states and also to spiritually purify one’s self. Prana, chi, vital force, and other pagan terms refer to a force that is often viewed as entwined with or manipulated by one’s breathing. With the growing popularity of New Age pseudoscience, there are many sources promoting practices having to do with breath, including in some churches.
What is Breathwork?
According to one source, “Breathwork is a method of breath control that attempts to give rise to altered states of consciousness, and to have an effect on physical and mental well-being. Derived from various spiritual and pre-scientific traditions from around the world, it was pioneered in the West by Wilhelm Reich.”
Breathwork comes from the New Age and is based on New Age views of breath, health, and the body (i.e., spiritual views).
There are various forms of breathwork such as Biodynamic breathwork, Clarity Breathwork, Integrative Breathwork, Transformational Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Conscious Connected Breathing, Radiance Breathwork, Zen Yoga Breathwork. Another one is Rebirthing-Breathwork which is a process described as releasing suppressed traumatic childhood memories, especially those related to one’s own birth.
A NY Times article reports on the newest growing activity to make people supposedly feel more peaceful and less stressed – breathwork:
“Long a key part of meditation and some kinds of yoga, breathwork is now becoming a discipline in its own right, with proponents offering classes, one-on-one sessions and apps dedicated to the practice.
…..Instructors started getting basic training in breathwork about two years ago when the company introduced a class called HeadStrong, which blends a high-intensity workout with so-called mindful movement and concludes with breathing.”
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is not done for physical purposes but for spiritual ones. Pranayama is an intrinsic part of Yoga. Pranayama can be described as the control and directing of the breath and the alleged divine energy within the human body [prana] to promote health and spiritual [occult] consciousness and evolution.
It’s not clear to me if breathwork and Pranayama are separate, or Pranayama is under the umbrella of breathwork.
One source reads about hatha Yoga which emphasizes breath:
“The use of breath is important in Yoga because directing the breath is equal to dealing with Prana, believed to be the divine breath of the universe. This is why what is called breathwork (Pranayama) is given such an emphasis in Yoga. What is called breathwork is designed to initiate the rise of the energy coiled at the base of the spine, Kundalini. The occult nature of Yoga is quite clear, and so it is not surprising that Hatha Yoga was only taught in India by gurus to those who sought them, and that occultists were the first ones to use Yoga in the West.”
The same author wrote, “Breath is ‘prana’ in Hindu meditation practices and is considered to be a spiritual cleansing when done according to certain techniques. Prana is the divine breath of the universe and pranayama is the practice of breath control in Yoga. It is done for spiritual purposes – mostly spiritual cleansing but also to suspend thinking.”
Pranayama is part of Yoga and some forms of Eastern-based meditation. Many Yoga teachers teach this but use the benign term, “breathing exercises,” or just “breathing.”
From Yoga Journal (note also how they define the purpose of Yoga):
“You’ve probably heard that the word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means to yoke or unite. And that the ultimate goal of yoga is liberation, also known as samadhi, through the union of the individual self with the universal soul. But just how do we unite what we perceive as a small individual self with something as vast, invisible, and ineffable as the universal soul?
An ancient yoga textbook, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, offers this simple answer: “Breath is the key to ultimate emancipation.” The Upanishads, the Hindu sacred scriptures, likewise equate prana, in the form of breath, with the universal soul. When it is done properly and when a yoga practitioner is ready, pranayama, the yogic practice of regulating and channeling one’s breath, can provide a bridge between the individual self and the universal soul.
B.K.S. Iyengar explains how the three stages of the breath in pranayama—inhalation (puraka), retention (antara kumbhaka), and exhalation (rechaka)—can connect us to the universal soul. During our inhalation, we are inviting prana to come in. According to Iyengar, the individual self must then move out of the way in order to make room for the soul. Iyengar believes that through this process, we are able to generate energy, expansion, and awareness within.”
Sadly, some Christian Yoga programs (which is problematic in itself since they are trying to “Christianize” a pagan practice) liken “Pranayama” to “breathing in the Holy Spirit,” which is akin to representing the Holy Spirit as a force that one controls through one’s breath. That seems blasphemous to me.
What is Prana, Chi (Qi, Ki)?
One source reads, “The concepts of chi (qi, ki), Hindu prana (as in pranayama, the breathing in Yoga), the vital force (Vitalism), life force, energy, and “quantum force/energy/field” (as used in the New Age and pseudo-science), which are found throughout “alternative healing,” are pagan attempts to counterfeit God because breath is often equated with divinity itself, or claims to wield God’s power. But God’s power is unquantifiable; unable to be accessed; unable to be replicated; unable to be summoned, controlled, manipulated, or channeled (for healing or for any reason); and, most significantly, is not part of creation. That bears repeating: God’s “breath” or his power that sustains life, is not part of creation, so it does not reside in or around anything in creation.
Therefore, to seek any use of chi or the other named forces, whether for healing, martial arts, or occult magic, or to seek healing or any method based on those concepts, is to reject God for who he is and is a form of occultism that opens the door for deception and even danger.”
The same source wrote, “Moreover, there is no scientific basis for energy such as qi. It is invisible, unquantifiable, unpredictable, and un-testable as an ingredient, element, or other organic material. I do not contest that what men call qi exists. Rather, I assert that it is not what those who believe in it say it is. It is not from God and, in the long run, it is not beneficial no matter the temporary effect, but rather, it is destructive.”
However, “Such a power is a counterfeit power or force from a personal intelligence that is evil and wants to deceive and destroy. Jesus described this personal source of evil in one place as a “thief” – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) (source).
The Potential (Spiritual) Dangers
Personally, after being involved in deliverance ministry for many years, I can’t recall ever praying for deliverance for someone where we discerned the demonization was attributed to breathwork or pranayama. But it doesn’t mean it’s without any dangers. It seems that it likely can lead to demonization.
One article that was referenced earlier reads that there are possible dangers [bold mine]:
“Iyengar also cautions that if at any time during the practice of pranayama you experience pain in the head or tension in your temples, it means that you are initiating the breath from your brain, not your lungs. If this happens, return to normal breathing and relax.”
An ex-new ager turned Christian wrote, “The mind in both Hinduism & Buddhism is seen as part of the material body and therefore a barrier to spiritual enlightenment… Meditation is designed to bypass the mind, using special breathing techniques. The ultimate goal is samadhi with no cognition, or absorption into a state of pure consciousness through disengaging the mind and a loss of self-awareness and subject-object awareness.”
In such a state, “rational judgment and discernment is suspended, and the mind is highly suggestible and open to any influences present,” she warns.
She also wrote, “Instructors of these techniques who teach them as a spiritual discipline often warn students that psychic experiences and supernatural encounters are common, some of them frightening, and that the breathing techniques can be dangerous. The effect for some people is similar to a drug trip. It is this state of mind during which one is supposed to contact guides from the spirit world.”
More examples of its spiritual implications are tinglings and visions? The author of the following article enthusiastically writes that her sessions on breathwork:
“… have been profound with my entire body tingling, seeing visions, crying, and being in and out of consciousness. There’s something very psychedelic about a really deep breathwork session.”
It is no surprise that the effects of some forms of breathwork may be similar to the effects of Eastern/New Age meditation or even psychedelics. These effects can be symptoms of demonization.
United Nations spiritual adviser and spiritist Sri Chinmoy, author of Yoga and the Spiritual Life, admits, “To practice pranayama [breath control] without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it…”
Richard Kieninger, a New Age educator, recalls, “…. Swami Rama warns that advanced forms of patterned breathing, which is a common yoga exercise, can cause a person to harm himself irreparably” (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 604)
In Yoga and Mysticism, Swami Prabhavananda warns about the dangers of the yoga breathing exercises, which so many today think are harmless when he writes:
“Now we come to breathing exercises. Let me caution you: they can be very dangerous. Unless properly done, there is a good chance of injuring the brain. And those who practice such breathing without proper supervision can suffer a disease which no known science or doctor can cure. It is impossible, even for a medical person, to diagnose such an illness… [For example,] I had known a young boy of perhaps 16 or 17 years of age who had begun to practice hatha yoga…. He was acting very strangely. He would prostrate fully on the ground, rise to full height, then repeat the performance–over and over again. The Swami said that he had lost his mind…. Finally, however he became so unmanageable that he had to be confined…. As regards breathing exercises, I know that Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, and all the disciples of Ramakrishna have warned us again not to practice them ( yet Vivekenanda, Ramakrishna’s disciple, encouraged them!)” (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 604).
Yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller comment that the postures (asana) of yoga and its breathing techniques (pranayama) are much more than just physical exercises:
“Again, we see that the control of the vital energy (prana) by way of breathing, like also asana, is not merely a physical exercise, but is accompanied by certain psychomental phenomena. In other words, all techniques falling under the heading of asana and pranayama as, for example, the mudras and bandhas [physical positions or symbolic bodily gestures utilizing pranayama and concentration for physical or spiritual purposes] of Hatha yoga, are psychosomatic exercises. This point, unfortunately, is little understood by Western practitioners…. ” (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 600)
The aim of pranayama is also to arouse the coiled-up power in the muladhara chakra called kundalini:
“Then the whole of nature will begin to change and the door of [psychic] knowledge will open. No more will you need to go to books for knowledge; your own mind will have become your book, containing infinite knowledge” (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 601).
It is very clear that kundalini, a serpent spirit, is a demonic spirit!
One website reads that the goal of pranayama is enlightenment that involves demonic possession [bold mine]:
“A significant number of religions and psychotherapies employ “proper breathing” techniques as a supposed regulator of physical and psychological health, or for purposes of so-called spiritual (occult) enlightenment. Because breath awareness methods are often influenced by Eastern or occultic philosophy and practice (e.g., yoga) and because they are frequently designed to alter one’s consciousness, they are also encountered in the many occultic forms of transpersonal and fringe psychotherapy. Eastern mystics and yogis have long claimed that the breath is a vital tool for altering one’s consciousness. Concentration on the breath and regulation of its “flow” are necessary to attain occult enlightenment. For example, the yogic practice of pranayama attempts to use the breath to regulate the control of mystical life-energy “underneath” the breath, prana. The end goal is occultic enlightenment which frequently involves spirit contact and/or possession. Breath awareness methods have little to do with cardiovascular exercise. They are what the name implies – breath awareness or breath meditation.”
It is a crafty perversion of the truth to make breath into such an idol and part of a spiritual technique. God is the source of life and this knowledge is to make us grateful to him for our life, not fall into manipulating the breath for false spiritual purposes or to find peace or truth apart from our true and only source of life.
“The power of chi, or any other system dealing with qi energy, pales in comparison to the power of Christ, who was given authority and power over all authorities, powers and dominions, both in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20, 21; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Peter 3:22).
…. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10: 11, 14), the Living Bread from heaven (John 6:33, 51), the promised Messiah (John 4:25-26), the Lamb who atoned for sins (John 1:29, 36; Revelation 5:12, 7:10, 22:1, 3), the Door to pastures of eternal life (John 10:9), and the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 6:9)…” (source)
If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can receive Him into your heart, and He can deliver you from darkness and sin and have your name written in His Book of Life.
If you are sincere, you can say this simple prayer to the Father (it doesn’t have to be word for word):
“God, I recognize that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. Please forgive me of all of my sins just as I forgive others. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your only begotten Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross, I believe in my heart Jesus is Lord and was raised from the dead and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord. Take up residence in my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in the Lord and GOD Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.”
2 thoughts on “New Age Breathing: Breathwork/Pranayama Exposed”
Dear Jamaal. Will you please pray for me. My children have not honored me on Mother’s Day or anytime for years and years. I raised them as single mom to live God and they did til married. They refuse to love me. God showed me I married man I did not love and that’s what I get for be devious. They withhold grandchildren from me to punish me like their father who is now dead. If God not holding me up I would collapse and die.
God please help me. Agony unbelievable. Thank you Jamaal. This not something others would understand. Found out children going to amusement park with their children for Mother’s Day. Another year of their rejection. God help me god please help me. Help me to live and not die. Thank you.
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Mary, I will definitely pray for you.
God bless you.