Constricted Breathing: introducing EFT, calming, safety, assessment, back-up, and homework
Often just “mentioned in passing” as part of a training course on EFT, this technique is gentle, powerful and useful in a variety of situations. What all can this underutilized method do?
1. Create a bridge – Just like pointing out that the EFT points used are familiar to us: we rub around our eyes, we put our hand to chest, we place our hands under our arm, we scratch our head, etc., breathing is a familiar concept as well! Combining breathing and tapping as the person’s first introduction to EFT is a terrific bridge. Simply having someone focus on their current level of taking a comfortable breath [instructions below] is a very natural – and calming – lead in to using EFT in other ways. And, Constricted Breathing is probably the most underutilized of the EFT techniques.
2. Calming – Our emotions show up in our body – AND our breath. Tapping for a constricted breath decreases anxiety and sets up the body to ease into whatever issue is presented.
3. Creating and deepening rapport and sense of safety – Tapping for the breath is a neutral place to start a session. The client has a positive experience of calming using EFT without focusing on any of their “stuff.” They immediately see that tapping can be helpful even if the depth of their breath does not increase all the way to 100%. It’s a safe and – almost always – effective technique.
4. Assessment – Tapping first for the breath gives you a strong indicator of their level of body awareness. The breathing exercise can begin the process of developing and increasing body awareness, particularly in those out of touch with their body. You can note, too, how well they are willing to use and to respond to EFT and you can be assessing and increasing the depth of rapport as well.
5. Back-up – Sometimes our clients – and ourselves as practitioners – may get stuck, or the session seems to just be going in circles, or you’re just not sure what’s going on, or things are getting heavy, etc. Take a break to simply breathe and tap for the level of the breath. You are tapping to increase the depth of the breath and, at the same time, decrease the intensity of the fear, anxiety, confusion etc. that the client is/was feeling about getting into their issue.
Follow with question, “What comes up for you now?” A question that often seems to break the cycle and give a fresh start and give you a better idea as to what’s going on with the client.
6. Homework –Your clients already happily complete any and all assignments you suggest for them – right? Just kidding. Compliance with “homework” is an issue no matter your modality or skill level. I’ve found that compliance is significantly increased when given the instruction to simply, “When you are feeling any upset, stop to focus on the depth of your breathing. Then tap whatever points you remember until you are calm.” results in much better compliance and consumer satisfaction.
I do give other homework, depending on the issue .When I’ve asked clients after several session what “tool” I’ve shared is most helpful? It’s not unusual for the client to say, “Tapping and breathing.” It makes sense to them. They don’t have to think about the details or words. Clients don’t always realize what it is that is bothering them. Fortunately they don’t have to know to be able to calm themselves. The higher the emotion, the less the cognitive brain functions, so keeping instructions and the process simple, especially at first, makes using EFT much easier for them.
It is also a terrific tool for your self care as well.
Most of us were briefly introduced to Constricted Breathing Exercise in an EFT classes “just” to introduce the EFT points and give a little bit of practice using EFT. The class generally quickly moves on to focusing on “getting specific,” finding a short experience to use, developing Setup language, finding and tapping on all the aspects and testing, etc.. Constricted Breathing often gets lost and easily forgotten. Most never see the power and variety of Constricted Breathing as a meaningful option.
Just like with any other technique you will carefully watch what’s happening with the client and adjust your responses and techniques appropriately. Constricted Breathing can be a very gentle way to introduce EFT and to ease into difficult issues. Try it. Pull it out of the back of your tool box, dust it off, and use it. It’s a powerful tool.
Instructions for Constricted Breathing
Take three slow comfortable breaths, don’t force it.
- Assess the level of constriction in your current breath as compared to a truly full breath. I like to use percentages, but the 0 to 10 scale works as well.
“What percentage did you take of a full deep breath?”
(If it’s 100% ask them to try to go to a 120%).
- Develop a Setup:
“Even though I’m breathing at [X] %, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I am not breathing to my full capacity, I accept myself anyway.”
- Tap the points (I tend to tap at least two rounds) using Reminder Phrases such as,
“Not breathing to my full capacity.” Only breathing at X %. “Not taking a full breath.”
- Take another full breath and reassess %. If not at 100% repeat a couple of times.
- Tap around the points several times (I usually do three rounds)