We usually breathe unconsciously, without paying attention. But we can also control our breathing – inhalation, exhalation and the pause – using the will. We can leave breathing to work as it does naturally, but with our consciousness being also present. This is what "conscious & free breathing" means.
This body-working method is holistic and approaches the human being both in its physical and its emotional/social aspects. "The goal is the human being itself, the unfolding of its possibilities and the acquaintance with its powers", respiratory teacher Cornelis Veening said in the 1940s. Based on his teachings, Ilse Middendorf and Erika Kemmann have in Berlin developed the methods of “the perceptible breath” and “conscious & free breathing”. These methods have enjoyed decades of success in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United States. The Professional Association for Respiratory Education and Respiratory Therapy (Berufsverband für Atempädagogik und Atemtherapie AFA) and the Working and Research Group for Respiratory Education and Respiratory Therapy (Forschungsgemeinschaft für Atempädagogik und Atemtherapie BVA) provide oversight to ensure the quality of breathing work.
In Asia, there has been a focus on the health and spiritual aspects of breathing for 2000 years. Examples include Buddhist meditation, tai chi and yoga. But here in Europe too, there is ancient knowledge on breathing. In many languages, such as Old High German, the word for "breath" is the same as that for "soul." The Greek work "pneuma" means both soul and vapour.