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I’ve always been an early riser. For me, the calm of the morning is the ideal time to set your intention for the day ahead. Before I get out of bed, I check in with my breathing and practise a few breathwork techniques. This is a way of life for me now and something I do automatically before I check my phone and emails. How I start the morning sets the trajectory for the day, and breath awareness means I can start the day feeling present. After a few minutes of breathwork, I head to the kitchen and make a mushroom coffee – I love Moksha, a decaf coffee with cacao, chai spices and adaptogenic mushrooms. It makes me feel focused, yet calm.
There are tremendous benefits to practising breathwork. Breath is our life-sustaining energy, but it’s often taken for granted. Since it’s part of our autonomic nervous system, it performs its function dutifully throughout our entire life without our awareness (for the most part). However, it’s possible to use the breath as a tool to help change the way we feel and think and help our mental, physical and emotional states throughout the day. To build a breathwork practice, it’s important to know there’s a difference between breath awareness, breath control and breathwork. I like to play with all three throughout the day. When I’m in bed, on the Tube, with clients, exercising or cooking, it becomes a way of being – checking in with the breath, taking time to work with it, to go into a deeper state or using it in challenging situations when I need to be more alert or grounded.
Breathwork is my rescue remedy. I have a history of depression and anxiety, and breathwork helped me through some very difficult times – it’s why I’m so passionate about it. I used to take medication, but I haven’t needed to for 15 years now. There’s no shame in taking medication for your mental health, but for me it was just blocking the root cause rather than helping me move through it. I tried numerous therapies over the years and everything felt like a temporary fix, whereas breathwork helps to keep me balanced and grounded.
Pause for a moment now and take a deep inhalation through your nose. Hold and then exhale outwards, feeling the breath leave your body. It feels good, doesn’t it? It’s very rare we actually stop and pay attention to our breath. Breathwork is far from a new concept – it has roots in ancient practices such as yoga and meditation. Studies show focusing on our inhalations and exhalations can have significant emotional, physical and cognitive advantages for our health. A simple practice to try is 4-7-8 breathing, an exercise which involves a pattern of inhaling, holding the breath and then exhaling to reduce anxiety and promote relaxed sleep. Empty your lungs completely, and then inhale through your nose while counting to four; hold your breath for a count of seven; and slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle six times.
I’ve seen incredible transformations in women over the years. Women are usually caretakers for so many people in their lives, often putting themselves last. When they start practising breathwork, they build self-awareness. Breathwork helps to uproot old patterns of behaviour. I have seen so many incredible transformations in women over the years, from boosting confidence, to feeling healthier and able to manage emotional and mental upheaval. They have more balanced blood pressure and more time in deep sleep. If you practise daily, you’ll start to release stress hormones from the body and encourage more happy hormones, such as serotonin and endorphins.
Intermittent fasting suits me well. I tend to eat later in the morning – breakfast is a green juice with cucumber, apple, celery, lemon and ginger, as well as a couple of boiled eggs and toast. I try to buy organic where possible as I’m conscious of limiting my exposure to pesticides. Of course, this choice tends to make food more expensive, so I try to buy locally and seasonally. I have a sweet tooth and love to snack throughout the day. An apple and peanut butter or a bowl of Greek yoghurt, fruit and honey is my go-to. On the weekend, I make batches of energy bars and balls and keep them in the freezer. Gusto Organic’s soft drinks are great, too.
Walking and reformer Pilates are my preferred workouts. I used to be obsessed with high-impact exercise and used to run a lot, but realised my body now needs a different approach. I practise yoga regularly and recently joined a reformer Pilates studio to build core and back strength. I also do weights at the gym and try to walk between five and ten kilometres most days. Walking is a form of meditation for me and it’s often where I feel most inspired. I also swim as much as I can, especially in the warmer months – it never fails to put me in a meditative mindset.
Supplements keep me on track. I always keep Herbalosophy’s Winter Tonic in my kitchen which, despite the name, is great year-round to ward off colds and boost the immune system. It’s made with elderflower, honey, echinacea and camu camu, a natural source of vitamin C. Happy Mammoth’s Hormone Harmony supplement is also a game-changer – it contains a blend of powerful, science-backed botanicals that are proven to reduce hormonal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, digestive problems, fatigue and mood swings. I also take magnesium before bed – it’s a fantastic sleep aid – and use Chinese herbs to support a recent diagnosis of endometriosis.
Learning when to say ‘no’ is a good way to protect your mental health. If I’ve had a busy or stressful week, I plug into my breath and combine it with movement or sound and affirmations. My other great teacher is being in nature. I live in the countryside and, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I take myself down to the stream or into the forest to rewire my nervous system. I have good boundaries and am much better at saying no than I used to be – doing too much is the simplest way to become overwhelmed. I am a social being, but I also crave solitude. My work means I hold space for a lot of people, so I make sure I have time to decompress. It’s important we put our own oxygen mask on first.
I regularly book acupuncture and energy healing. The world is saturated with wellness practitioners. Thankfully, over the years I’ve discovered some world class therapists who helped me be where I am today. Wendy Mandy is a shaman and acupuncturist – I’ve been seeing her for over ten years. Her book, This Way Up, is a must read. Gill Steer is another exceptional therapist. Her therapy, Body Memory Therapy, is life changing. When someone walks out of her room for the first time, it’s always brilliant to see as they can’t believe what just happened. She reads the body like no-one I know.
Getting quality sleep is crucial for wellbeing. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I really feel it the following day. Like a lot of women my age, I definitely sleep better in my own home, whereas when I was younger, I could sleep anywhere. I love Norfolk Natural Living’s pillow mist and Abeja Reyna’s rose spray – they instantly make me feel sleepy. I always sleep with the window open and have a strict no screens before bedtime rule, which really makes a difference.
For more from Rebecca or to book a session visit BreathingTree.co.uk. Breathwork workshops carried out by Rebecca will also be shown at the Screen on The Canal, Kings Cross’ annual open-air film festival, throughout the summer. Visit KingsCross.co.uk for more information.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.