“I was having one of those bad days,” says Troy Stende, who teaches a breathing workshop called Qi Breathing, designed to expand energy levels (Qi) and breath.  “I had a headache, I was irritable, I was hungry and tired and lethargic. It was just tough. I needed to change it, I decided.”

How? By expanding his breathing, of course.

“After a 30-minute Qi Breathing session, I had a profound shift,” Stende says. “I was happy, energized, excited. I wasn’t tired anymore. I was still hungry, but my headache was gone.”

Stende, 45, and his wife, fellow breathing coach Deanna Reiter, 41, didn’t always know how to breathe through the daily stresses of life.

“When I was in my twenties, I was chronically stressed,” Reiter says. “I had adrenal fatigue, acid reflux and thyroid issues. Troy was also very stressed out in his fast-paced lifestyle as a professional speaker traveling around the country.”

The Minneapolis couple lives differently now.

“Troy is certified in Qigong (a practice that uses breathing, movement and meditation), and I’ve been a breathing coach and yoga instructor for almost a decade,” Reiter says.

How did they get from there to here?

One breath at a time.

Reiter’s journey started as a hard-breathing runner.

“I was in Southern California teaching and running,” Reiter says. “I was a long-distance running coach, and I was just nonstop, I just kept going and going, I filled up every second.

I was burning myself out, hugely. My doctor diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and said I’d be on medication the rest of my life. I also had severe acid reflux.
“So I started getting into yoga,” Reiter says. “That helped me slow down a little bit.”

Reiter’s turning point came after she returned home to Minnesota.

“I learned about rebirthing breathwork and did some sessions of that,” she says.

Rebirthing breathwork is a healing type of breathing practice developed by New Age pioneer Leonard Orr.

“It’s a holistic healing movement through connected, rhythmic breathing,” Reiter says. “It can release physical, emotional and mental trauma through the breath.”

For Reiter, it worked.

“It worked so powerfully for me that after the second session I knew I wanted to learn this,” Reiter says.

“I went to Virginia to learn rebirthing breathwork with Leonard Orr. Then I started doing sessions for friends and family, expanding from there. I help people free up their breath, to become more aware of their breath. Most people breathe at less than 50 percent of their capacity.”

Stende, a certified Qigong instructor, used to be like most people.

“My big turning point was meeting Deanna,” Stende says. “She was my introduction to how powerful breathing could be.”

Stende hadn’t known he had been holding his breath through the tough times.

“I went through a challenging divorce and was still emotionally reeling when I met Deanna,” he says. “The huge shift I was able to have by doing breath work was powerful.”

Although his situation didn’t change, Stende found that this therapeutic, meditation-like breathing helped him see his situation differently.

“Breathing is physical, but it’s also emotional,” Stende says. “During one session, I had a major breakthrough in my relationship with my ex-wife through breathing — I let go of my resentment. I don’t fully understand why breathing works so powerfully, but I think it’s because it gets the mind out of the way, it gets the ego out of the way.”

Adds Reiter: “Your life situation is going to be the same after some deep breathing. What shifts is your perception; what shifts is how you handle the life situation. Something about the past shifts. Or, for example, someone with chronic shoulder pain can be released on some level — whether it’s a minimal shift, where something feels looser, or whether the pain is gone and they can move forward. It’s taking some of those past incidents and being able to heal them on a really deep, cellular level.”

Love can heal, too.

Reiter and Stende were married in 2014. Together, they started on a new path.

“Troy and I came together and developed Qi Breathing, which incorporates his background in Qigong and my background in breathwork,” Reiter says.

Reiter and Stende teach their breathing workshop at Normandale Community College as well as other venues. In a way, it’s a culmination of years of progress both individually and as breathing coaches.

“We have slowly made our way down a more peaceful path,” Reiter says.

WORKSHOP

What: Qi Breathing is a two-day workshop to introduce people to a modern-day twist on ancient breathing practices as a tool to decrease stress and increase energy, focus and health. This workshop on expanded breathing will combine breathing, movement and lectures.
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 16 and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. May 17
Where: Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, 7901 34th Ave. S., Bloomington
Cost: $99 for one person; $129 for two people (Mother’s Day gift cards available)
Info and registration: ExperienceQiBreathing.com

By Molly Guthrey, mguthrey@pioneerpress.com

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