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Just keep breathing

I found a short film clip of my father on my computer recently.  In the film, I asked him, “what’s the best advice you could give me for my life?”  He replied, with a smile on his face,”just keep breathing.” Nothing more and nothing less. Now, I know that his number one family value was health, without that we can’t do much else, so it made sense watching him back that in all its simplicity, breathing is the most important thing.

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Last month, I spent an amazing weekend away at 42 Acres Retreat in Somerset.  The weekend was hosted by Jess, Aimee and Rebecca from Inspiration Space and combined yoga, relaxation and transformational breathing.

For those not familiar with transformational breathing, here is a short description for you taken from the Inspiration Space website.

Transformational Breath®, is a self-healing technique that helps people to access the full potential of their breathing system for better physical, emotional and mental well-being. The connected pattern of conscious breathing is a natural, safe and easy –to-learn technique, which has proven to have many benefits almost universally, including increased energy, better immune response and increased ability to deal with stress in a positive way.

Breathing controls the functioning of every cell and the physiology of the entire body. With the majority of the population using only approximately 25% of their full respiratory capacity, it is no surprise that improper breathing is a contributory factor to ill health. Transformational Breath® helps correct old unhealthy patterns of breathing and helps access full breathing potential, encouraging a fuller more conscious breath.  

My advice is simply to try it, it will blow your mind, but I will try to explain how it helped me whilst I was on the retreat.

When I arrived, I had just received some bad news about a family member, I put on a brave face, greeted everyone and surprise surprise, suppressed my emotions about the news.  The other people were really friendly and we all sat down to enjoy an incredible meal (all the food at 42 Acres was unbelievable) before our first yoga class with Jess (deep relaxation, which was lucky because I was shattered from the week).

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The view out of most of the windows in 42 Acres

Day two and it was morning yoga, I lay down and within five minutes I was in tears.  Grief often comes out for me in either tears or anger; day to day life leaves little space for it and each time I see one of my peers with their parents it hits me, ditto grandparents. When these little hurts occur, I can feel the tears brewing under the surface and push them down, in essence I change my breathing pattern and often become more tense. I left the yoga class (after a lovely hug from Jess, the teacher) and took myself off for a walk in the fields.

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Walking in the grounds of 42 Acres was so calming and one of my favourite parts of the weekend. I saw deer jumping over fence posts, misty sunrises and starry nights. There is nothing quite like nature to ground you when you need it.

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We did not go hungry and after each session would be offered something delicious, including these Moju turmeric boosters (I need a fridge full at home)

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Thoughtful little touches had been added around 42 Acres by the Inspiration Space girls, including these cards from School for the Mind

Our first transformational breathing session was an introduction to the process from Aimee and Rebecca. Some people on the retreat have regular sessions with Aimee and Rebecca and others had never tried it before.  We all lay down, were propped up into various positions and began to follow instructions from the teachers. Soon, the room sounded like a noisy labour ward as we concentrated hard on our breath.

Aimee and Rebecca were going round to each person and were using our acupressure points to release stuck energy in our bodies.  I could hear a few people crying, and knew from a previous breathing session that I more than likely would cry too. The teachers kept reminding us to “return to the breath” and to “breathe through it”, when one them reached me to work on my acupressure points, it took one press and I the floodgates opened.  I just let it all out but kept up with the breathing exercise even when crying. Most of the others were the same and it felt like a safe place just to let go.

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My bed in the nicest dorm room I have ever seen. Photo credit : 42 Acres

Over the weekend we had several breathing sessions, by the end everyone said how much lighter, calmer and more relaxed they felt.  This was down to a combination of the yoga and breathing, the peace within 42 Acres and the laughter we had too.  I came away feeling like I had released lots of tension, reminded myself what quiet is like (never easy with three young boys at home) and renewed energy to take into my every day life.

My top eight favourite things about the weekend.

  1. The venue.

42 Acres is not only set in stunning grounds but has been renovated to the highest         possible spec in the most beautiful taste by interiors designer, Jo Berryman (I would love a house like this).

2. The food.

Mark and his team created combinations of food that I would never put together. Every single thing was healthy and delicious. They are running a cooking course next year and I am very tempted to go.

3. The girls from Inspiration Space

Aimee, Jess and Rebecca tended to our every need, from washing up, to providing us with a packed tea to head home with (to avoid motorway rubbish), I felt throughly nurtured and cared for. All three are lovely and I came away wanting to be best friends with them all.

4. Yoga with Jess

Jess Horn is one of the best yoga teachers I have even been taught by.  Her voice is so relaxing, it feels like being in a meditation session at the same time. She also runs yoga retreats, again its on my to do list.

5. Laughing lots

I can’t remember a weekend away with girls where I have laughed so much, without booze being involved.  A revelation for me! Amongst the tears from letting stuff out, lots of laughs were had.

6. Having space to be quiet

Most of us said at the end of the weekend how rare it is that we stop and just be. With patchy phone signal (unless you searched it out) we all switched our phones off, read and walked. A luxury that we often don’t have with our busy lives.

7. Rumour of a retreat in Ibiza 2017

Hanging out with these lovely girls and doing all of this in sunshine would be dreamy. Whether this is realistic work wise who knows but it’s on my list for my 40th year, 2017.

8. Bringing home new techniques with me

Aimee has set up some breathing videos online, as well as some audio exercises. I have been doing these at home and it’s really been helping bring some of that calm from 42 Acres into my life. You can try these for yourself here and I really recommend that you give it a go.

Jess Horn teachers yoga in Hertfordshire and North-West London.

Rebecca has written a book about transformational breathing, called And Breathe that you can buy here.

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