In the realm of holistic wellness, where ancient practices meet modern science, individuals like Johanna McWeeney stand at the forefront, blending the art of breathwork with the subtle energy healing of Reiki. As a Certified Oxygen Advantage® Advanced Breathing Instructor and Qualified Usui Reiki practitioner, Johanna brings a unique perspective to the table, intertwining the power of conscious breathing with the gentle touch of Reiki energy. In this Mystic Mag‘s article, we delve into Johanna’s journey, exploring how her dual expertise in Oxygen Advantage® and Reiki has not only transformed her own life but also empowered countless others to find harmony and vitality in theirs.
Can you share a specific success story or transformational experience of a client you’ve worked with, where the combination of Oxygen Advantage® and Usui Reiki had a significant impact on their well-being?
I was thinking about this and the biggest place where I can say there’s been a transformation has been in my own well-being because I initially learned Reiki so I could do self-healing. I had already begun this journey with breathwork because I write professionally, and I had ended up writing for a breathwork expert. So, I’d done loads of reading of research papers, and as I was writing about it, I started to think, you know, there’s something in this, and I tried the techniques myself. It has produced absolute transformations in many areas of my life. The biggest one that comes from combining the two, the breath being the connection with the universe all around, and also the Reiki being this connection with Universal Life Force. For myself, it’s given me a much deeper trust and connection with life.
My first experience of that with Reiki was when I was studying my first Reiki certification. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and I was thinking, I’m one of these people that when I close my eyes and I’m asked to visualize, I don’t see images. So, I was concerned that when I had to give the Reiki session to my fellow student at the end, I wouldn’t feel anything, and I would just almost be having to pretend that there was something happening, and in the same way that they say, you know, visualize it, and if you can’t see it, just imagine how it feels. So, I was worried I was going to have to imagine how it felt. The first time I gave someone Reiki, I felt such a strong energy; it nearly knocked me off my feet. The awareness that that is there any time I want it—and the connection with the breath, that when I breathe out, there’s always air to breathe in—has transformed my approach to everything I do on quite a deep level in terms of healing and working with other people.
There’s a story on my website of a lady who saw an absolute transformation in her health from just doing the breathing exercises. We didn’t do any Reiki together. She came to me with all sorts of health issues and she couldn’t really identify what was causing them, but she’d gone from being incredibly fit and well to finding herself breathless when she came up the stairs. She came to me as kind of a last resort because she’d heard on a podcast about the Oxygen Advantage® breathing, and she thought I looked kind of normal, and you know, I wasn’t sort of wearing lycra and intimidating, so she asked if we could work together. We worked together for a year, and she absolutely transformed her health just using the breathing exercises. But again, what the Reiki brought was that, since I’ve received the Reiki activation, the Reiki is kind of there in everything I do.
She often commented that I was remarkably intuitive and that I would say things to her that were obvious once they’d been said, but she didn’t quite know how I knew them. So, that really helped. Obviously, the breathing attracts a certain type of people as it’s heavily scientific, so you can give evidence and explanations as to why it’s working. Whereas with the Reiki, you can give an explanation of it, but there’s not so much research. So, it attracts a different sort of mindset. But yeah, when I looked at the health issues that she had and we talked, I was able to identify things that connected with the breath because I’ve done so much research into the breath. I work over Zoom. So, even not being in the same room as her, I’m able to pick up or just connect things when somebody tells me things about themselves. So, I think for me as a practitioner it all feeds in, even if I’m not using both modalities.
On a practical level, I believe the combination works well because both Reiki and breathwork produce optimal conditions for the body to heal itself—they just each work via different pathways.
As a certified Oxygen Advantage® Advanced Breathing Instructor and Usui Reiki practitioner, how do you tailor your approach for individuals with different health conditions or wellness goals?
It really depends on what the person comes with. Generally, when people come to a practitioner, they have an issue that’s most pressing. So, whether it’s long COVID or exhaustion or a whole range of stuff, they’ll come to me with an idea of whether they want the breathwork or the Reiki. Because, as I said before, although both work on a very deep level on the nervous system, they attract people at a slightly different level of their need to heal and a slightly different mentality in that, when I send someone Reiki, they just have to lie there. You know, when I receive Reiki myself, I just have to lie on the floor with my blanket around me and just relax and enjoy the healing. But if I want to work on my health with my breath, I have to actively do something. It’s not like a workout program where you’re doing something different because we all breathe 24/7 anyway, but I have to be conscious of what I’m doing, so there’s that difference between just receiving the energy and wanting to actively participate in your healing. I’ve been receiving Reiki recently, I remember right at the start the practitioner said to me: “Don’t try to do anything during the session to interfere with the Reiki. You don’t need to do anything just receive.” I think for a lot of people, the Reiki is kind of a first way in. It’s like some people have never even been for a massage to have that time and have that space. I mean, this is also common to breathing but to have that time and space for yourself. Just to do something that is going to improve your well-being and even if it’s just because you feel relaxed for an hour, it is a really important step for a lot of people because we feel so driven to always be doing things. And we neglect our well-being and our needs. And then, sometimes just having that space to stop. I mean, the lady that I taught breathwork to for a year when I first started teaching her, she didn’t think she had any stress. And the more we talked, the more we uncovered a deep, deep level of stress that had been going on for a long time, she just hadn’t been aware of it and one of the first things that I gave her was actually an audio that Patrick McKeown has recorded, which is a relaxation exercise that involves just reducing the breathing volume. And she came back to me a couple of weeks later and she said, it’s so long since I’ve done anything like that where it’s just time for me. It was absolutely revolutionary, you know, and in those two weeks, between the first and second sessions, her neck pain went away. I remember, that was the first transformation she experienced when she first came. She said her neck had been sore for a very long time. And it was because every time she spoke, she breathed through her mouth, so there was this great big gasp every time she spoke. And just from being aware of that, she came after two weeks and she said, “My neck doesn’t hurt.”
What type of services do you offer?
I offer Oxygen Advantage® breath coaching over Zoom, and I offer distance Reiki as well.
In your experience, how does the integration of Oxygen Advantage® and Usui Reiki contribute to stress reduction, and what specific techniques do you find most effective for managing stress in your clients?
I’ve already touched on this a little bit with the Reiki—the most basic way it contributes to stress reduction is that the person, when they’re receiving Reiki, is lying down, and doing nothing but receiving Reiki. There’s a proven relaxation that it creates, that it’s a very pleasant experience to receive. Even if you don’t get much sensation, it’s very pleasant. And I think as well in that connection where you know that somebody is sending you something positive. In a sense, that can be very relaxing as well because particularly when we’re in one of those states in life where things can be a bit challenging, we can start to feel a bit like a victim and like things are all against us. And just to have that hour where somebody is sending you something positive that’s just for you, I think it’s actually quite powerful.
Breathing has an absolutely direct effect on stress and on the nervous system because the breath is the only autonomic function that we can consciously control. So, with the breath, we can control heart rate, we can control blood pressure regulation, we can control all of these systems within the body. Every single system in the body is impacted by the breath. So, when you know how to breathe to activate the part of the nervous system that you want to, you have control over the physiological elements of stress because so often we’re in that place where somebody tells you to calm down or don’t be stressed or don’t worry. And that’s a very mental pattern in that I’m feeling stressed because my thoughts are doing this thing, and if I can change my thoughts then I won’t feel stressed. And it doesn’t really work very effectively that way because the body carries a physiological pattern of stress.
If the breath is dysregulated, the body’s chemistry is dysregulated, and the physicality is dysregulated. If you’re breathing into your upper chest, it’s likely that your shoulders are up and if you’re breathing through your mouth, you’re activating the parts of the brain associated with stress. Whereas if you breathe through your nose, you’re activating the intelligent and reasoning parts of your brain. So, with all of those different things, once you understand them, you can create a feedback loop in your system that goes body to brain instead of brain to body and the body to brain stress reduction feedback loop is instantaneous, whereas the brain to body of your brain—trying to tell your brain to calm down—takes much longer.
So, it’s really valid to work on what’s happening in your mind. If your mind is racing, but if your physiology is out of balance, it doesn’t support a calm, serene mind. And there’s also what the ancient yogis knew—that if you hold the breath, you don’t think. Repetitive unconscious thoughts go round and round in our mind. The things that we identify then as unconscious negative beliefs. You know, there’s patterns of thoughts and the way that we talk to ourselves, the part of the brain that they happen in. When we breathe less, that part of the brain slows down and becomes less active. And then actually there was some interesting research that I was reading a while back that said basically a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. So, when the mind is just doing its thing, it’s unhappy because we’re predisposed to think negatively for evolutionary reasons, and that when that part of the brain is less active, people actually live longer.
It all goes back to what the yogis knew, which is that when you breathe less, you live longer and everything is connected and, in that sense, I love that idea that everything in the body is connected and that that’s so evident with the breath. But then with the Reiki, that everything in the universe is connected.
As a practitioner with a dual focus on breathwork and energy healing, how do you balance the physiological aspects of breathing with the more subtle energetic aspects of Reiki during your sessions?
It really depends on what the client is open to. Some people will just want to know something practical they can do, and I can give them some simple breathing exercises, while others are open to trying a Reiki session. So, what I would probably do with someone who’s never experienced Reiki is give them a taster session for free so they can see whether it’s for them. Generally, I find that when I do that, people have a good experience and they want more sessions, but not always. You know, one of my best friends from years back was having some stress, and I offered her a Reiki session, but it gave her a migraine and she didn’t want any more. So, I kind of make this suggestion and let people know what I can offer, but I would never promise, particularly with Reiki. You can never promise any sort of medical result. You can never promise any sort of result, really. You know the Reiki is going to go where it needs to go. You might experience some tiredness or some symptoms afterward, but knowing that the Reiki, whatever it’s producing, is for that person’s good and that there are no dangerous side effects or anything. With breathing, you have to be careful because there can be dangerous side effects if people get it wrong, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions. For example, there are some common popular breathing methods that focus very much on hyperventilation, so they’re really over-breathing and taking big breaths. And if someone has epilepsy, for example, hyperventilation can trigger a seizure.
The way that I work with anyone is incredibly gentle. With the breathwork, I always start with very simple exercises that start to reduce sympathetic nervous system activation, so it’s to take the stress out of the nervous system. Because, you know, even if what you want to do is get physically much fitter or improve your endurance on a run, you have to get the nervous system balanced first. It’s kind of like tuning a violin before you start to play it. You don’t just pick it up and start to play without getting everything balanced. Otherwise, it’s not going to work.