The Real Reason Why Your Hands Curl Up in Breathwork

women lying on their backs with eyes closed practicing breathwork meditation

I’m lying in a fort of yoga bolsters and cushions on the tile floor, air conditioning buzzes somewhere in the corner and my eye pillow is making my face itch. It’s the middle of the afternoon in Thailand and I have a day off from teaching yoga and meditation classes at a wellness retreat I’m staying at for 2 months.

The resident breathwork instructor is treating me to a one-to-one session of Rebirthing, an intense breathwork technique so named because it’s founder literally felt like he was being reborn when he discovered it.

I'm breathing fast and deep, drawing air in through my mouth and immediately expelling it with a sigh in a circular pattern which eliminates any normal momentary pauses between breaths. It's a very different experience from the nasal breathing pranayama techniques I teach and have practiced until this point.

Maybe thirty minutes into what will turn out to be an almost-four-hour experience and there’s an odd sensation creeping into my body.

It starts with micro pins and needles in the tips of my fingers and toes.

I give my digits and wiggle and stretch my hands wide with the intention of moving the feeling through.

Keep breathing! Mouth open!’, says my instructor.

Moving doesn’t do a whole lot to quell the determined tingle, it turns out. It has transformed into a prickly stiffness and is rapidly making a journey into my arms and legs.

I’m now lying in my fort with my hands seized up to such a degree that they've curled and clamped into what feels like a claw, I can’t feel my arms and legs through numbness, and there’s even a hint of tingle teasing the corners of my mouth.

Moments later, the swarm of sensations has spread into my chest and has even found it’s way into my lips, tightening them together into a purse so that I’m now trying to maintain rhythmic, open-mouth breathing while sucking in air through an orafice that feels like a beak.

Why Your Hands Curl In Breathwork

Seasoned breathers often view the stiff, tingly lobster claws frequently developed in breathwork sessions as the symbol of a successful practice. It means you went hard enoug