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What is Middendorf Breathwork?

By Lauren B. Parks
Updated May 17, 2024
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Born in Germany in 1910, Ilse Middendorf spent her early life developing a path to balance and healing through a connection to natural breath; Der Erfahrbare Atem (Experience of Breath). Her first institute dedicated to the experience of breath opened in Berlin in 1935. In 1965, she began training other teachers in this form of somatic, or bodily, education. This therapeutic work spread easily in Europe. However, it was not until Advanced Seminars, located in Berkley, California, teamed with the Berlin Institute in 1986 that Middendorf Breathwork was brought to the Unites States.

Middendorf Breathwork is meant to aid you in establishing clarity and harmony in your life. Middendorf Breathwork is a path to establishing harmony between body, soul, and spirit as they relate to both the interior and exterior world. When you focus on the inward and outward movement of breath, you are focusing on the give and take, the filling and emptying, the masculine and the feminine that together are seeking growth and balance, harmony.

The basic principle of Middendorf Breathwork is establishing an awareness of breath moving throughout the body. The interactive experience of allowing the breath to come and go freely without interference allows The Self to unwind and blossom into a fulfillment of true balance. Furthermore, feeling, experiencing, and connecting to the breath’s natural, harmonic rhythms can help you connect to vitality, resolve stress, flow with rather than react to life’s challenges, and maintain clarity and effectiveness in communication.

The unadulterated experience of sensing the breath's movement and the breath’s natural rhythms provides access to what practitioners call “somatic intelligence.” Somatic intelligence is not limited to the intellectual realm. Rather, it refers to the physical domains of posture, health and fitness, as well as the spiritual and mental domains of feeling, thought and intuition. With this intelligence, your goal is to move away from controlling your life process, and towards living a deeper truth accessed through your connection to breath movement.

To try Middendorf Breathwork at home, sit on a stool with you feet on the ground. Focus on letting your breath come and go freely while circling your pelvis. Bring your presence to the pelvis, and focus on the movement of your breath. Continue to circle, continue to listen to breath’s natural rhythms.

When you stop circling, place your palms on your lower abdomen, and you will be able to sense breath movement beneath your hands. According to the experts, sensing this movement will allow you to experience vitality, power, and purpose not simply because you thought of them, but because the experience of breath movement makes these sensations available.

If you liked the try-at-home, and want to learn more, contact the Middendorf Institute for Breathexperience. They offer weekly classes, retreats, and individual hands-on work in Berkley, California. For those not from the Northern California region, the institute also provides a list of practitioners located nation-wide.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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