Conference Review: 20th Global Inspiration Conference

Bhimtal, Northern India: 21 – 28 April 2013

Reviewed by Catherine Dowling

Therapeutic breathwork, breathwork as a tool of psychotherapy, breathwork in combination with movement, voice, dance, art, visualization, ritual; breathwork in all its dynamic manifestations forms the core of the Global Inspiration Conference (GIC), the annual week-long conference of the International Breathwork Foundation. This year, the conference took place in Bhimtal, Northern India. Next year it will be held in the beautiful Delphi Valley in Co. Galway.

Many psychotherapists have a store of breathing techniques in their therapeutic tool kit. Some focused breathing can help clients manage stress, ground themselves and deepen their awareness. The Global Inspiration Conference showcases a vast range of breathwork techniques from full-on breathwork therapy such as Holotropic, Rebirthing and Transformational Breath to techniques that can be used as adjuncts to other forms of psychotherapy. The GIC is a treasure trove for therapists of all persuasions who want to develop their existing skills, or who want to learn new techniques to help deepen their clients’ experience of therapy.

Breathwork has to be experienced to be understood. So naturally a conference devoted to breathwork is almost entirely experiential. Absent from the GIC are the neat rows of theatre style seating, the bank of tables separating panels of experts from conference participants and the hours of polite listening that define many other conferences. At the Global Inspiration Conference, learning is by doing. It’s primarily workshop based, and the workshop agenda is set by the participants themselves.

Every morning at the general assembly, up to twenty people offer to lead workshops during the afternoon. In addition to daily group breathwork sessions, this year’s offerings included: Sound and Movement, a new breathing technique called Thirteen Breaths, Rites of Initiation and the Awakening of Archetypes, Holographic Breathing, a men’s group, Finding Stillness in Motion, Transformational Breathing, Breathwork and Self-esteem, and Breathwork and Sensuality. The dilemma for participants is choosing from among so many diverse and interesting offerings.

Evenings are taken up with keynote lectures by leading breathworkers and other therapists. In India, Alakh Analda, an Australian breathwork trainer talked about ancient breathwork techniques rooted in the Hindu tradition. Julie Gerland, Chief Permanent UN Representative for the World Organization of Prenatal Education Associations, spoke about mystical experiences and the role of breathwork in birth and the formation of the parent-child bond.

After the workshops and lectures conclude for the day, GIC evenings are filled with socializing and dancing. The GIC’s own professional DJ travels from the UK every year to share his talents at the conference. And on the last night, the conference is rounded off with another participant led event – the often hilarious variety night concert where conference goers display professional (and sometimes not so professional) level talents in music, dancing and comedy.

As a seven day residential conference, the GIC is also a social event. Learning, experiencing, connecting, and networking all flow seamlessly together in a surprisingly affordable package. Informal breathwork and body work sessions are offered as participants get to know each other and freely share their time and talents. Work collaborations take shape over the week and dates are set to visit and run workshops in each other’s countries.

The first GIC took place in Sweden in 1994. It’s grown since then and now attracts participants from over twenty countries. In 2014, it will come to Ireland. The 2014 line up of speakers is still in negotiation, but the lecture schedule in Galway plans to showcase long-term studies of breathwork for the treatment of addiction, as well as the use of breathwork with cancer patients. Other speakers will focus on breathwork for psychological and spiritual development, the role of transpersonal experiences in therapy, and much more.

Catherine Dowling ran a private practice in breathwork therapy in Dublin for twenty years and is a former president of the International Breathwork Foundation. She now lives in California. Her website is<http://www.catherinedowling.com> or email: catherinedowling@yahoo.ie.

(This Review was previously published in the UK journal Self and Society, volume 41(1) Autumn 2013 edition).