From Academic Kids

This article is part of the branches of CAM series.
CAM Classifications
NCCAM:Mind-Body Intervention that is centered around roleplaying the birth experience.

Rebirthing is a branch of alternative medicine which postulates that human birth is a traumatic event (see birth trauma) and that a discipline consisting of a combination of connected breathing techniques, relaxation and focused awareness can have therapeutic benefits.

Variations on these theories go by the names compression therapy, cuddle time and holding-nurturing process. Rebirthing is also considered an "appropriate" strategy for treatment of attachment disorder.

Rebirthing drew unfavorable attention in 2001 when several therapists (practising under the badge of "rebirthing", but in fact administering a form of "attachment therapy, and using techniques strongly opposed by rebirthing authorities) were sentenced to 16 years in prison for suffocating a 10-year-old Colorado girl during a session. Among other techniques, the session involved wrapping the girl in a sheet and having adults sit on her to simulate contractions and motivate the girl to "emerge from the womb".

In 2003, leading rebirthing pioneer Sondra Ray successfully convinced the Colorado State Legislature to delete the word "rebirthing" from legislation which bans dangerous and questionable therapeutic techniques.



The theories and assumptions behind rebirthing are:

  1. Human birth is traumatic, due to ignorance and misunderstanding on the part of most medical professionals (and parents/family)
  2. Humans never forget their birth - they just suppress the memory
  3. In addition to cerebral memory (based in the brain), humans also possess 'cellular memory', which is distributed amongst the body's cells, tissues, organs etc
  4. The trauma suffered during birth, and the specific nature of this trauma, has a deep effect on one's psyche and shapes one's perception and experience of life, self and the world in ways which one is mostly unaware of
  5. It is possible to gain recall of aspects of birth (also gestation and early childhood) and to release the accompanying emotions; such release usually becomes a decisive, influential and positive 'paradigm shift'
  6. Human breathing is almost universally inadequate; virtually all people are suppressing large amounts of emotional, physical and mental "tensions" and require relatively high levels of CO2 in their blood to keep these tensions suppressed
  7. The major causes of all human illness are these accumulated tensions; release of such tensions can cause physiological transformation to the point where permanent spontaneous remission from such illness becomes possible or highly probable
  8. The breathwork and awareness disciplines taught through Rebirthing practice can open a wide connection between the conscious and subconscious minds; and through this connection, a lifetime of trauma can be incrementally and permanently released from the mind and body
  9. Through ongoing release of blocked tensions, and mastery of several disciplines of physical/emotional/spiritual purification, it is possible to arrest the mechanisms of human degeneration, with vast extension of lifespan, even physical immortality, becoming a viable possibility

Claimed benefits

Rebirthing advocates claim that those practicing rebirthing experience

  • Deep and lasting inner peace
  • Heightened mental clarity
  • Greater insight into the human condition
  • Significant improvements in relationships - intimate, family, social and professional
  • Greater ability to manage the challenges of career and life in general
  • Elimination of negative patterns which had been limiting one's success in life
  • Significant and lasting benefits to health and general well-being
  • A sense of deeper insight into the purpose of one's existence; a greater sense of one's personal relevance to the world
  • Can lead to physical immortality. Many rebirthers are immortalists.


  1. While it is clear that prenatal events can have an influence on the subsequent development and life of the child, there is little scientific support for the claim that the birth process is inherently "traumatic". Studies comparing children born by caesarian section to those born through the birth canal have not found statistically significant differences.
  2. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea of cellular or other "non-cerebral" memory
  3. There is no scientific evidence that any birth memories can be recovered. In fact, the available research strongly indicates that the human brain is unable to form conscious memories until approximately the age of two. There is, however, strong evidence that false memories can be planted (either inadvertently or deliberately).
  4. There is little consensus for the position that normal breathing in a healthy human is inadequate.
  5. There is no evidence that maintaining high levels of CO2 has any effect on the suppression of tension.
  6. No well-controlled studies demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique.


Rebirthing grew from the work of Leonard Orr on what is now called Rebirthing-Breathwork. It was so named because when he first started doing this kind of work he noticed that he would often have what he describes as memories of his birth. Orr developed his process between 1962 and 1974 as he (without any (then) awareness of yoga or breathwork disciplines) discovered that modifications to breathing practices could bring about improvements in health, mental clarity and emotional well-being.

Development of Rebirthing as a therapeutic modality in its own right peaked in 1974, and has been extended from that point since. Orr, accompanied by fellow researchers, refined it into a system that can be practised in the context of a professional therapy session and taught to clients over a series of sessions.

Proponents estimate that, since 1974, more than ten million people worldwide have learned the process, with more than one hundred thousand people completing practitioner training.

In Orr's Rebirthing-Breathwork, the main rebirthing breath technique is a connected breath where the breather does not pause between inhale and exhale. This causes a build up of oxygen in the blood and, according to practitioners, a build up of prana or life energy. Breathing sessions are done laying down and usually last one to two hours.


The philosophies which accompany Rebirthing appear to be a loose, intuitive mix of western metaphysics, gnosticism, hinduism, buddhism, and (what some may argue to be) original Christian teaching. Many are immortalists

External references




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