Training as a yoga teacher in India exposed me to a diverse mix of like-minded people from all over the globe. Throughout the course we shared our experiences and talents with one another, enabling us to gain far more from the month than just a yoga teaching qualification. On the final week I was fortunate to experience an Activate Breathwork session, run by two of my classmates, Martin McNicholl and Elisangela Paes. Their mission is to change the world and empower people through breath and in less than a year their work is making waves across the globe. So I was understandably excited to find out what all the fuss about. After all, how can something so simple be so life changing?
Breathwork is the generic term for specific breathing exercises where breathing is done in a conscious and systematic way, for healing and mind-expanding purposes. It uses several different techniques including Pranayama (yoga breathing) in order to release trapped pain, both physical and emotional. Through my work as an actress I have focused extensively on this concept of releasing emotions, as our past pains and sufferings are a powerful resource to hone in on when one is trying to play out some of life’s darker moments. The very reason I was drawn to acting as a child was because it offered a high-level of emotional freedom, where you can express yourself fully and without censorship, away from societal standards and conditioned behaviours. After an emotional draining story line I always find myself feeling refreshed and revived, as if I’ve emptied my ‘backpack’ of all my unnecessary ‘baggage’ I’ve been carrying around. Activate Breathwork has created a workshop which gives everyone the opportunity to release their emotions, without the need for performance or pretence. It is a guided multi-sensory breathing experience, where sounds, smells and sights amalgamate with the breath in order to take the participant on deep journey to their true inner being. It’s difficult to explain what happened during the 90-minute session, particularly considering that no two experiences are the same, but essentially the deep breathing technique helps to release trapped tension in the body. This initially causes unusual sensations, such as tingling in the fingers and the toes. Yet as you go deeper you might find yourself feeling physical discomfort in certain body parts. For me this was in my knees, which have undergone surgery and years of rehab, so it was interesting that the breath uncovered tension, as I have probably got very good at ignoring discomfort and pain in this area. Breathing deeply into- and through- the body allows you to really notice how you are feeling because focusing on the breath helps us to bridge the gap between the mind and the body. As my breath sunk deeper into the body I started to uncover so much ‘stuff’ that I had been ignoring, such as my Grandma’s death and my concerns about my Dad’s illness. I was swept away by different waves of emotion, which I would ride out until they reached their course: sometimes I was sobbing, then suddenly laughing but by the end I felt safe and secure. This might sound unpleasant and seemingly sad but it was in fact so liberating and by the end of the session I felt incredibly settled and calm. I was lighter and more at ease because my backpack had been emptied of all my unnecessary crap!
It is exercise for the emotional self, which is something we rarely do. Crying is typically seen as a sign of weakness and so far too often we suppress our true feelings. But these feelings don’t just go away, they stay with us until we release them fully or else they start to manifest in other ways, like depression. Whilst I would love to completely re-write this ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude, I think it will be a long time before the world starts to truly embrace the emotional self. So it is incredibly inspiring to know that Activate Breathwork are creating safe spaces around the world to enable people to experience these essential emotional releases. It is like a gym for the emotions and after the workshop I felt tired but refreshed, just like I do after a strenuous yoga class. And amazingly the positive effects of the session stayed with me for a full week, so I am determined to make 'emotional exercise' a regularly fixture in my schedule!
For more information about Activate Breathwork please check out their website:
The group post-workshop showing the activate mudra
-Breathwork for Emotional Healing: https://www.breathwork.eu/
-The Art of Conscious Breathing: A Powerful Exercise to Purify and Rejuvenate the Body and Mind: http://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/breathing-heal-exercises-body-mind/
-Breathing: the little known secret to peace of mind: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201304/breathing-the-little-known-secret-peace-mind