Twenty years ago an American called Leonard Orr was practising his Yogic breathing in the bath when, all of a sudden, he found himself transported to a higher plane of consciousness in which he not only re-experienced his own birth but became aware of "a direct mental perception of the spiritIand a physical sensation of the actual life energy flowing through the flesh". He immediately took himself off to India, where he discovered that the technique, known variously as Maha Yoga, the "breath of life", or spiritual breathing, had been around for eons.
On his return to America, he set about training others to use the technique and named the process "rebirthing". It has now become a well-established New Age "healing" therapy; there is even a British Rebirth Society.
Most rebirthings begin with a counselling session, in which you - as the client - unburden your soul in a general way. Then, often lying in a foetal position, you use a "relaxed, connected breathing rhythm, which unlocks memories of your birth or any other traumatic experience that may have led to negative thoughts and behaviour patterns". While all this is going on, a psychic energy (the unique feature of rebirthing) is supposed to build up in your body, helping to free you from the damaging effects of your past.
Although the first rebirthings were always done in a bath, to simulate the safe, warm atmosphere of the womb, some people found the emotions this aroused too intense. So now you can choose between a wet, naked rebirth or a dry, clothed one.
Because it is intuitive, not mental, rebirthing is sold as a short cut to the healing of heart, mind and spirit. The theory goes that instead of having to wade through the mire of conventional psychotherapy, you are simply returned to the state of innocence in which you took your first breath, thus cleansing your inner self of all the junk and baggage that you'd be better off without.