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Corrie Borris

Breathing Life

Breathing is life. This is a fact that most of us can attest to, but is it a means to healing ailments like chronic pain?

Consider Corrie Borris, a pranayama breathing specialist specialist and healer, who believes this kind of breath work is one of the most crucial keys to unlocking your potential to heal yourself.

Borris employs her particular method of yogic breathing to help clients clear physical blocks, calm their emotions, gain clarity around vital life issues, and increase their vitality and happiness.

Sound good? Then consider a 60-minute session with the bubbly yet grounded Borris, whose keen intuition and calming presence help facilitate an experience that can be positively life changing.

Borris, who has been offering private sessions in San Francisco and Pleasanton since October 2009, found breath work to be integral for connecting to her own sense of vitality and spirituality. She says her path to healing has been circuitous. Borris began to seriously question her lifestyle and emotional world when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease for which there is no cure, at the age of 28. Borris began to seriously question her lifestyle and emotional world.

“I became committed to being my own healer,” she says. “Throughout this process, I gained more clarity around the impact I have on my own health. I just had to get sick to realize this.”

When I meet with Borris to discuss a major life transition, I’m not exactly sure what to expect. I’ve done yoga before, but Borris’s rhythmic, often intense, form of pranayama breathing is unlike anything I’ve done before. After a focused conversation about some of the issues I’ve been experiencing (accompanied by plenty of sage, totally non-“woo woo” advice that eschews overused terms like “energy” in favor of a candid assessment), Borris lowers the lights and I lie on a soft mattress.

“Pranayama breathing is slightly different from the kind of breathing I do with clients,” she explains. “First, you breathe into your belly to acknowledge the influence of the lower chakras and your connection to the earth; second, you breathe into your upper chest to acknowledge the ethers and the influence of other spiritual forces. Then you breathe out … It’s a way to help all of your different ‘bodies’ (physical, emotional, spiritual) enter the playing field.”

Sound fairly simple? Think again. This method of breathing is actually quite intense and detoxifying (i.e., it alkalizes the blood). As I continue to breathe (with the assistance of aromatherapy, music, and Borris’s assistance), I am floored by the sensations coursing through my body — intense heat and a warm tingle that zips through me until it gradually subsides to a comforting yet palpable buzz that seems to envelop the space around my body. The breathing experience, which lasts about 30 minutes, is alternately severe, frightening, emotional, and rejuvenating. After opening my eyes, I am tempted to ask, “What just happened?”

Borris explains, “Everyone who does the breathing has an experience, and the intensity depends on their openness.”

For Borris, the first level of healer training was all about tapping into intuition — a tool that is particularly important when working with sufferers of chronic physical conditions.

“The story of a person’s life unfolds and wants to be released,” she says. “I work to be neutral and without an agenda. What I’m doing is speaking to the energetic source of an individual’s perceived problem, not the physical byproduct … Breath is the first battalion for this work, as it allows the spirit of a person, which might be veiled, to emerge. What people get is 30 minutes of communion with themselves, which can be deeply empowering and healing.”

Perhaps one of the reasons why Borris’s clients and other practitioners of breath work find it so therapeutic is that it focuses on an individual’s ability to direct their experience.

“The place of focus is self-love and acceptance rather than reaching outside oneself to be fulfilled,” she says. “This is a core healing principle.”

While the concept of breath work as an avenue to physical healing may raise a few eyebrows, Borris’s own success in dealing with her rheumatoid arthritis (not to mention the gaggle of clients with chronic health conditions who have alleviated their own suffering with Borris’s techniques) supports some of what we already know — that pranayama techniques can be incredibly useful in improving autonomic functions, treating stress, and developing concentration.

At the same time, the technique may not be for everyone.

“This is an approach that requires a certain level of inquiry and commitment to change,” Borris says. “If somebody’s ready, the shift can be gentle and peaceful.”

My own experience is astonishingly potent, and I find that my single session with Borris trickles into my life for several days. How to hold on to this newfound feeling?

“There are always two shortcuts to healing: gratitude and creativity,” Borris says. “Also remember that how you do anything is how you do everything.”

Definitely words to live by.