Tetany is characterized by cramping, tightening, tingling, paralyzing, or numbing sensations of the hands and/or feet. It is a very common occurrence during Breathwork, and if it happens to you the first thing you need to know is that there is NOTHING TO FEAR. The second thing you need to know is that it is temporary and it will go away on its own once you return to a normal breathing pattern. The last thing you need to know is that there is usually a treasure that lies within it.
This article will help you discover what that treasure might be. It will also shed light on the physical and psycho-spiritual causes of tetany and will provide you with practical tools for managing tetany if ever the sensations become too strong.
The Physiological Explanation of Tetany
During breathwork, deep and connected breathing causes the Co2 levels to drop. This results in less oxygen being released into the bloodstream, tissues, and vital organs; and causes the blood pH to become more alkaline (1). The combination of lower Co2 levels and a rise in blood pH levels is what leads to tetany (2).
Something worth mentioning is that many people experience tetany the first couple of times they do breathwork and then it subsides naturally on its own. This may be because the body adapts to the physiological changes that occur or perhaps it has to do with a greater ability to let go, accept and surrender which typically occurs from breathwork (more on this below). Also, in Alchemy of Breath, we emphasize the inhale and allow the exhale to just fall out of us. A forceful exhale can result in lower Co2 levels which can intensify tetany.
The Psycho-Spiritual Explanation
Tetany often causes the hands to form into a claw-like shape, which can be symbolic of holding onto something tightly. In Alchemy of Breath, we view tetany in the absence of a forceful exhale, as a sign that there is something that needs to be let go of. So instead of trying to avoid tetany, see it as a gift and a message – your body is revealing something significant for you to inquire into. It is showing you there is a threshold that is waiting to be crossed, and your breathing session is the perfect opportunity to do so.
When tetany arises turn within and ask the question:
“What is it time for me to let go of?”
It may be a grudge, a childhood trauma, an ex, a fear, an addiction or even a voice in your head that is feeding you negative messages about yourself or the world. It may also be a fear of letting go or of losing control, and perhaps the associated vulnerability that comes along with it. Whatever it is, it is likely keeping you in a state of resistance and preventing you from experiencing your best life. It may also be causing you anxiety or depression. Answering the above question and addressing the emotional background of the pain may just be one of the greatest treasures you will receive in your life. Worth noting, there are different levels of intensity with tetany, and often times the more pronounced the sensation is, the more difficult it is for the breather to relax and surrender in their daily lives.
The answer to what you need to let go of may not be revealed immediately; for some, it may take multiple breathwork sessions, but if you stick with it, it will materialize. And when it does it is not uncommon to experience an instant disappearance of the tetany. In the meantime, if you are finding the tetany overwhelming please don’t let it dissuade you from participating in breathwork. There are things that you can do to make it more manageable, and below is a collaborated list provided by the Alchemy of Breath Facilitator family:
What to Do If The Sensation Becomes Too Much:
- Make sure the exhale is not forced
- Try starting the breathwork sitting up and breathing and circling your body in a forward and back motion in tune with the exhale and inhale – Monika Reimann,https://fullspectrumbreathing.com/
- Try a slower and gentler breathing pattern and concentrate more on breath awareness – Rita Luna, https://www.yourbreathtree.com/
- Include gentle movement of the hands and feet, especially when you first feel it coming on
- Remember that you are safe and it is temporary
- Inquire into the physical sensation, locate exactly where it is in the body and ascribe how it feels e.g. sharp, hot, tense, dull etc. – Monika Reimann
- Practice not resisting the tetany and accept that it might happen. Try to surrender, let go of the fear and breathe/relax into the sensation. Trust yourself to breathe through it – Jules Kandah Carpenter, www.yourbreathyourhealing.com
- Try dancing between your edge – when it becomes too much back-off and return to a normal breath or a gentler breath. Use the time to inquire and regain your determination and then go back into the full conscious connected breathing pattern when you feel ready
- Breathe into your hands or any type of material for a rapid reduction of the sensation
- Reframe it – instead of seeing it as something to avoid, see it as a gift; a message from your body that is waiting to be decoded and received, and an opportunity for personal transformation
Whether you’re a beginner breather or you’ve been practicing for years, there is always more to be discovered, worked through, and released. If you’re ready to take a quantum leap on your life path and to transform constrictive emotions and behaviors into something expansive, beautiful, and graceful then give yourself the gift of our Quantum Shift: Fear to Fierce Grace – 3 Day Mini-Course. To learn more:https://alchemyofbreath.com/product/quantum-shift-fear-to-fierce-grace/
May your journey be fruitful 🙂