What is rebirthing? Rebirthing is an alternative therapy method used to heal reactive attachment disorder. This therapy exploits a particular type of breathing (breathwork) meant to help you release emotions. Supporters of rebirthing say that by participating in a “rebirth” as a child or adult, you can resolve negative experiences from birth and infancy that may be preventing you from building healthy relationships. Some even say to have memories of their birth during rebirthing. In other words, supporters state that the method gives you a do-over of your entrance into the world, without the trauma or instability you initially experienced. The purpose is to process blocked emotions and energy, leaving you free to build trusting, healthy attachments. A new age spiritual guru named Leonard Orr created the rebirthing technique in the 1960s. At the time, it concentrated only on breathwork. Since then, its definition has broadened to include other kinds of therapy that simulate birth. Rebirthing therapy is debatable because there is few evidence of its effectiveness. In some situations, it has proven to be harmful.
Rebirthing sessions can take various forms, depending on your age and your treatment purpose. Sessions are typically led by trained experts. They work with you one-on-one or two-on-one, coaching your breathwork and leading you through the process. The breathwork technique used in rebirthing is called conscious energy breathing (CEB). With your instructor’s supervision, you’ll practice “circular breathing” — fast, shallow breaths without any breaks between an inhale and an exhale. You’ll do this for one to two hours, taking pauses if you want to. During this time, participants are told to expect a release of emotions or a triggering of complex memories from childhood. The aim of this kind of breathing is to breathe in energy as well as oxygen. Practitioners of rebirthing say that by inhaling energy, you’re healing your body. Your session might include just breathwork, or it might consist of other methods. Some practitioners simulate birth by putting you in an enclosed environment meant to resemble a womb and guiding you to escape from it. This may include blankets, pillows, or other materials. Another widespread technique of rebirthing involves submerging yourself in a bathtub or hot tub and using a breathing device such as a snorkel to stay underwater.
Does rebirthing work?
There is no study in the medical literature to support the use of rebirthing for mental health symptoms. It is not recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Psychiatric Association. Some adults who have tried rebirthing say that it has changed their lives. Leonard Orr travels the world, training followers in how to supervise rebirth and selling books that tout its advantages. His organization, Rebirthing Breathwork International, says to have influenced tens of thousands of lives. Breath-based meditation does have some documented health benefits. Studies have demonstrated that a consistent breath-based meditation practice can enhance:
- stress level
- respiratory health
Breath-based meditation tends to include deep breathing (not the shallow circular breathing of rebirthing). It as well requires regular practice, rather than a single session, to achieve results.
Is rebirthing safe?
Rebirthing breathwork on its own isn’t necessarily dangerous. If you’re supervised by a trained expert and you don’t have any preexisting lung or heart conditions, it’s perhaps as safe as other kinds of breathwork used in meditation and yoga. If you feel dizzy or experience any other negative effects as an outcome of this kind of breathwork, finish doing it right away. The more complex rebirthing method that involves pushing past a physical barrier that represents the birth canal can be harmful, especially for children and adolescents. One tragic instance of the harm of this method is the death of Candace Newmarker, a 10-year-old girl who passed away during a rebirthing therapy session that lasted for over an hour. Newmarker’s death deepened the controversy around rebirthing. A law named in her honor made the method illegal in Colorado, where she died. It is also illegal in North Carolina, where she was born. Bans have been proposed in other states, including Florida, California, Utah, and New Jersey.