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The legacy of the murder of George Floyd - what conversations do we really need to have having?

Jun, 2020

This blog poured out after a very difficult week of processing world events following the murder of George Floyd.   For me these are the conversations we really need to be having about racism, misogyny and all the other “isms” out there. 

It’s really about trauma. African Americans in this current situation are carrying generational trauma, that most haven’t been able to resolve. Freedom from slavery didn’t mean freedom from the horrific traumas that had been inflicted upon them; we know now that such trauma unresolved gets passed down the generations. 

You add into the current mix a culture of systemic racism and a  President who explicitly makes racist comments then the whole thing becomes a huge trigger, which for some is experienced as grief and others as anger. Push unresolved stuff under the carpet - as has been done for years - then eventually it’s going to come out as a messy explosion of raw emotion and devastating consequences, as we are seeing now. Traumatised humans who have been triggered will go into “fight” or “flight”, and if they’ve been in “freeze” (as many many people are often without explicitly knowing it) and something big (like the murder of someone by an authority figure) triggers them out of that frozen state, then trauma work shows us that a mammal (yes people we are actually mammals!) coming out of “freeze”, will re-experience “fight” and/or “flight”.  

At a primal level,  after slavery became illegal and "free" black Americans were released, some of white population, especially those in the deep South who had been their oppressors, must have felt fear, because they would have sensed even the repressed anger that black American's would naturally have felt and continue to feel after such terrible and longstanding oppression. 

Fear and anger are not good places from which to create harmonious communities; they hijack our rational minds, as our primative brains take over and focus on survival.  They make us feel paranoid, and misjudge the truth, as they become a filter on our thoughts and perceptions. Humans with their clever rational minds often justify feelings of anger and fear by making judgments about others, for example, but the deepest truth is that they are afraid/angry. Those judgments come out as racism, for example, and the effects have been the systematic continued control and oppression of the vast majority of the African American population. It's very harmful when we begin to believe our judgements are the truth, and even more harmful when those judgements become set in stone as belief systems. Our animal brains were designed to keep us safe, so a belief that for example "standing on the edge of a cliff is dangerous", might be helpful to pass on to a small child.  However a belief, based on a person of another colour being dangerous, is not only wrong, but deeply harmful to pass onto a small child. Yet this is what we do, and this is where people become divided by their belief systems into what is interestingly called "black and white" thinking.  It happens in all areas of life, and to understand how our animal brains are hijacking us is the first step in being able to get underneath all that creates division in the world.  I don't believe that political action can be truly effective without this. 

Our culture sadly supports people viewing themselves as either a “victor” or a “victim”, meaning that in that paradigm you have to fight your way out of victimhood to be the victor. What about a new way where we don’t need to be either, where we find our power in vulnerably speaking how it feels for us without blame or judgement? I am weary of the word “fight” being used, whether it be in healing cancer, corona virus or any other situation; none of it needs to be a fight. 

I hear some people (including a very well educated young black woman), now saying that George Floyd was a drug addict and criminal and not to be seen as a “martyr”, easy for her to say as a “privileged conservative black American”. Of COURSE he was a drug addict (I am feeling frustration now!!!) ; people take drugs as a way to self medicate unbearable feelings and sensations in the body. As the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study clearly shows (huge study, shockingly largely ignored by the establishment - see Dr Nadine Burke Harris you tube talk to learn more). The ACE study shows that early death, poor health, drug taking, poverty, imprisonment ... all have a direct correlation to childhood trauma, which is also passed down generation to generation. 

The path of George Floyd’s life and death is the tragic consequence of trauma that has not been resolved. This for me is the big issue. I don’t see George Floyd as a martyr, he was a (flawed) human like the rest of us, who of course made mistakes like the rest of us, and his tragic death and all the consequences are a massive wake up call to humanity.

This week has unearthed unresolved trauma I also had around experiencing racially abuse and negative bias as child, (from both other children and a couple of teachers). I’ve also been feeling the collective pain around this deep wound in humanity. Its been such a strange week as I never normally think of myself as a “person of colour”; in my awareness I’m just another human walking the planet. Maybe I don’t experience racism anymore because I’ve surrounded myself with those who see that we are all one. But this situation has been a stark reminder of times when I was “othered” because of skin colour. It’s one of many many deep wounds we have on our planet right now, mirrored in what we are doing to each other, to the animals, to the planet.

My personal feeling is that the pandemics we need to heal are those of trauma, Corona virus is surface level compared to that; trauma is the hidden pandemic. Only when we each heal our own trauma can we come back to seeing and feeling that we are all one, there is no “other”. One with each other, one with the planet and nature, one with the animals. Connection with others requires us to be connected up fully to ourselves and we can’t compassionately do that without integrating our own trauma and separation. Only then will we truly take care of ourselves, each other, the animals and the planet.

What can we do on an individual basis? Yes we can donate to good causes, yes we can raise awareness of darkness and injustice. However, I deeply know that my main part in all this is to safely and gently heal the trauma, and get underneath limiting belief systems, both in myself and to support others to do it too, through Breath work, through TRE and through compassionate presence. It's deep and profound work. That is why I am honoured to hold safe Healing Space for others.

As a very wise client once said “The more of us who walk this planet cleared of old emotions, the sooner we will have a truly loving world ”. I would add to that "cleared of old belief systems" too.

We push trauma and our limiting beliefs under the carpet at our own peril, as they only serve to hijack our rational minds, and our ability to recognise the oneness that is here now. We can all do our part to heal our traumas big and small, and create love and connection in our own bodies, then we can send the ripples out to friends, to family, to community and to the world ❣️

Recommended reading “The Body Keeps the Score” by Professor Bessel Van Der Kolk - an excellent description of trauma and how it affects body, mind and brain and also an insightful and practical commentary on the social structures necessary to support societies to prevent and heal trauma - must read for all those who work with people.

Catharsis, the "Spiritual Bypass" or the middle ground: 

Safely contained integration

Jan, 2020

On our road to helping ourselves cope with life’s traumas, stresses, pain, anxiety etc. we all have to find our own way, there is no one “right” way for any individual as we are all unique history books of our life experiences. Everyone will have experienced trauma, but only a proportion of us know that we have to get underneath it to fully live our potential, so that we can have any hope of feeling at peace with ourselves, our lives and in our relationships. If not, we just end up repeating old patterns, and old feelings in relationship to life and others. If you are reading this then you probably fall into the category of wanting to live your life fully alive and engaged.

There are 3 main approaches that are taken on the road to healing; Catharsis, the Spiritual Bypass (which is actually a red herring!), and safely contained Integrative modalities. The difference between the three ways is something I’ve been exploring over the years. For me now, it’s about safely contained Integrative work using mainly TRE, Breathwork, and Bodywork, but offered in a way that’s gentle and empowering to clients can be powerfully integrative and create a pathway for clients to learn how to come “home” to themselves in daily life.

So what are these 3 main approaches?


Catharsis tends to involve energised approaches that reactivate old held emotions or sensations in the body, this way emerged from the 1960s and 70s when it was thought that meeting, feeling and “releasing“ such emotions would clear them at the root cause, and there’s no doubt that for some of the people, some of the time a Cathartic release can bring relief. However I suspect (and hear from many clients who come to me having tried more cathartic approaches), that many people are also re-traumatised by what were unbearable emotions at the time (and therefore not to be re-experienced face on without the potential to re-traumatise). Sometimes also the opposite happens when faced with Cathartic modalities, so the body/mind buries the issues deeper, as it seeks to protect itself from further harm. This is also my own story; Cathartic approaches simply didn’t work for me, and kept me stuck, frustrated and feeling hopeless and like a failure, yet I kept at it relentlessly for many years (I will come to the “why” of that later).

As one of my Breathwork teachers, Doug Sawyer, said recently “if catharsis works then you only have to do it once” – So true! Cathartic approaches, which generally involved intense and sometimes overwhelming feelings, often triggered by what I refer to these days as the “pushy, pokey approaches” never worked for me, the deepest issues remained thoroughly stuck. Such approaches only served to trigger strong emotions such as rage, which was then followed by shame, then a plummet back down the path to depression. And yet I persevered with such approaches for many years, why? There are 3 main reasons why we can get stuck in such an approach:

1.Euphoria – Dr Peter Levine describes that we can feel euphoric after a strong emotional episode, and we can feel really alive in those moments; similar to the way you might feel euphoric and alive after a bungee jump. It’s tempting to think therefore that the cathartic approach is working, as we briefly feel better. The proof of any approach, however is in the long term results, is your daily life changing? For some that attraction to adrenaline driven events to feel really alive, becomes an addition, yet they can’t feel alive on quiet walk in nature, or with other people. But a short lived episode of euphoria isn’t necessarily integrating the deep seated root cause of what you have met.

2.The compulsion to go back to situations and feelings that feel familiar from the past. Freud referred to this as “repetition compulsion”, where our subconscious compels us to find people and situations that replicate the past. If we came from a “shouty”, emotionally violent background, we might be drawn to that. Being drawn back to being pushed is common and familiar, perhaps the way we felt as children, so a “pushy” approach feels like coming home and right, until we realise that actually it just doesn’t any more, it’s just bulling ourselves and it’s not working.

3.That’s the way society rolls. We live in a culture that encourages pushing; push through a cold or flu by taking medication, push through pain to keep going, push through tiredness with coffee or stimulants. It’s the “no pain, no gain”, drive on through approach, that long term leaves us depleted. Dennis Lewis in his book “The Tao of natural breathing” discusses this approach is often taken in the West, even in regard to Breathwork, he describes some breath practices taught in yoga as being energetically too much for many westerners, a bit like drinking coffee, so some practices stimulate, but in the long run deplete us. Yet we are drawn to them feeling that forceful breathing is bound to increase our energy. However, breath is much more complicated – and at the same time simple - than that.

To do the opposite, be gentle, surrender yet know when to slow down, is strongly counter culture and it takes time, perseverance and the development of our “inner witness” to create the neural pathways needed to be able to practice this. It takes skill and the support of a practitioner who can reflect the truth, and know when to support us to slow down; we need a space in which we feel safe to gently meet ourselves.

I am now learning the TRE®forAll approach to TRE. In which to make sure that we aren’t meeting what’s held from such a strong place that we either feel overwhelmed or go into dissociation, so we would be slowing down, orientating, moving and grounding for example. In TRE in particular it’s important to know when to slow down and when to stop, it’s a gentle approach of “titration”, knowing when it’s OK to keep going; all this is done from a place of safety, and finding safe places in our body. I am loving that with this amazing new training, the TRE work I can now offer matches the same integrative approach of my breathwork training received at the AIR School of Breathwork.

So even Breathwork and TRE can be “pushy” in my experience; it depends on the type of Breathwork for example and the practitioner we are working with. It also depends on how we approach it as a client.

The evidence shows that Catharsis doesn’t generally work. Accessing your deeply held anger regularly for example just makes you angrier (as well as increasing inflammation in the body). There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry and it can move and integrate in sessions, but if you’re on a loop of feeling repeatedly and regularly angry then you are just harming yourself long term, and probably harming those around you.

The Spiritual Bypass

This is interesting! So the TRE®ForAll, trainer I worked with recently said “most people are dissociating most of the time”. He also asks “How do you know you are meditating and not dissociating”? I really get what he’s saying; mediation is actually not an easy skill, but it’s very easy to be simply washing about in a gentle sea of dissociation; dissociation can feel really nice, sort of floaty, and other words used to describe it are those such as “spacey”, or “in a trance”. It can feel really good, a way to escape the intense sensations in the body.

When I think of the “new age” movement this is what that term conjures for me; approaches that bypass the body, connecting with something “higher” but dissociating and cutting off from the body. According to Michael Brown (The Presence Process), we all learn to do this as children; it’s a protective mechanism to escape uncomfortable feelings and sensations. To be really here now, alive and connected we have to be fully embodied and that is not the norm. Most of us are floating heads, sitting on all kinds of unintegrated material, that could sabotage or trigger at any moment, or perhaps is just silently draining our energy with all our attempts to sedate and control it (TV, phone addiction, alcohol, drugs, work addition, addiction of any kind…). Perhaps we avoid situations, or relationships that might be a trigger, and end up living a much smaller life. To be accessing our spiritual bypass mode is just a red herring and as with the Catharsis, you might feel like you are doing good work, but aren’t really getting to the root cause of what’s held in the body/mind. To be spending time and money with such approaches can be very draining.

What are the clues that we might be dissociating? Well we probably won’t be properly grounded; leading trauma psychiatrist Professor Bessel Van Der Kolk describes grounding as:

“Grounded means that you can feel your butt in your chair, see the light coming through the window, feel the tension in your calves and hear the wind stirring in the trees outside”.

He also says “You can be fully in charge of your life only if you acknowledge the reality of your body, in all its visceral dimensions”.

If we are prone to being ungrounded, we might notice that we are averse to more body based modalities, such as dance or TRE for example, and when we do them we are sort of floating not really fully there. We might not feel connected to life, and others. It’s something to look out for and is tricky to spot especially if it’s been our primary mode of operation since early childhood. We might be unable to sit still and be, and we definitely can’t meditate properly even though we might think we are!

My sense of life really embodied, is that it enables us to be really here, we hear the birds, smell the flowers, and feel alive and are able to notice life all around us. We are awake to life through all our senses. The mind is a tricky beast though, and can really keep us locked into a world in our head, that isn’t actual reality.

For me, having tried many modalities over the last 23 years (many of them excellent in their own right), I come back to the Breath and TRE over and over again. Why? Because they are simple, they are effective (after all nature built them into us), they are empowering, and they are affordable. Once learnt and the more we practice them, the more the body/mind tells us when we need to do them to support rebalancing ourselves. It’s a built in system that supports us to come back to our natural state of relaxed aliveness.

To be really alive, we don’t need to cathart, and we don’t need to opt for a Spiritual Bypass, we just need to learn a more gentle and effective approach to embodying that allows us to re-learn that it really is safe to be here in our bodies, here, now and be fully alive. Safe to move, safe to breathe deeply and safe to be here now, really here now. This gives us the resilience to be able to cope with whatever life throws our way. After all a zebra isn’t constantly fearful of a lion attack because it was once chased by a lion; it shakes, it breathes and it leaves the trauma behind so that it can live.

This embodied approach takes time, and practice and perseverance, as it’s an “unlearning” of all we are told and often an uncovering of layers of trauma and defence strategies. It’s also about learning to manage one’s mind; the mind is immensely powerful and creative (for both good and “bad”), and it takes skill to see its tricks. Those tricks may have had a vital function in protecting us in the past, but only serve to limit us when we are ready to grow.

It really is my privilege to work with people in this safely contained and integrative way. With TRE I prepare you for confident and safe home practice over about 2-6 sessions (some may need less, and some more). I also work with people deeply via one to one Integrative Breathwork (generally after a try out session, we recommend a course of 10 sessions for a deep dive that uncovers old patterns and creates a profound life shift).

If you feel drawn to experiencing either, or both, of these amazing integrative modalities, thencontact me for a free 20 minute conversation to explore how Breathwork and TRE can support you to recreate your reality, and become more deeply embodied, more alive and more connected.

Only Drunks and Babies Breathe Properly! ...

Integrative Breathwork as a vehicle for Profound Transformation

Oct, 2019

Haole (/ˈhaʊliː/; Hawaiian [ˈhɔule]) – is a (highly derogatory) Hawaiian term for individuals who are not Native Hawaiian or Polynesian, usually white people.

This word comes from the Hawaiian word “ha” meaning breath; Haole literally means “no breath”

As a Breathworker it makes sense to me that the Hawaiians, a people living in a state of wholeness, as they were at that time, would be shocked by the arrival of white people and that they would observe that the white people couldn’t breathe properly. Indeed it’s been noted that in the west, only drunks and babies breathe properly.

Breathing badly is known to contribute to many ailments, including tension in the chest, abdomen, shoulders and upper back, also to stress and anxiety, imbalances of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As Alison Waring in her excellent book “Breathe with Ease” says “ineffective breathing and stress are inextricably linked”1. So the opposite is equally true, and it’s been well documented with many scientific studies testifying to the fact that good breathing habits have extremely good effects on our body and mind. American Psychiatrists Drs Gerbarg and Brown in their pioneering book “The Healing Power of the Breath” note that they found breathing techniques to be more effective and more empowering than medication for their patients in dealing with stress, anxiety, mood challenges, trauma symptoms, insomnia, depression and other mental health disorders2.

Why don’t we breathe properly?

Somewhere in our evolution, we learnt that suppression of the breath contains and represses the feelings that we have labelled “bad”, such as fear, anger, and grief; it provided a buffering against them. You often hear people use the expression “…and breathe”, an indication after a stressful event that we had probably stopped breathing at some point! Perhaps you can notice times in your day when you hold your own breath; for me it was at traffic junctions (among many other occasions). Now when I come to a junction I actively make sure I am breathing out, by saying “weeeeeeeeee” (I’d started doing it without realising and only noticed recently when I was giving a lift to some friends!).

The down side with this suppression is that the ensuing shallow, fast and high chest breathing pattern makes us feel tense, depressed and anxious; it literally sends “danger” signals to the brain. A Canadian study showed that emotions all come with a signature breathing pattern, and if that pattern is mimicked by someone NOT feeling that way, they pretty quickly start to the feel the emotion3. So bad habits in breathing create long term emotional disorders. Also the muscles required for this kind of breathing were never designed for us to breathe regularly this way, and it results in chronic neck and shoulder tension and pain. Repressing our breath supresses the innate joy that we are all capable of, the kind of joy you might see in a very young child. Children unconsciously mimic the adults raising them, in many ways, including the breath, so it’s not long before childhood joy becomes replaced by a dulled down or overly anxious experience of life. Most of us have carried bad breathing habits for so long that we don’t consciously realise that we are doing it, it requires a retraining. Integrative Breathwork has been described as “taking time out to learn how to breathe”4.

We can’t return to being babies, and becoming drunk most of the time is probably not what we want either, so how do we change this? Integrative Breathwork is key to learning how to breathe naturally and joyously again.

So what is Integrative Breathwork and how does it help us breathe naturally?

So it’s different from the breathwork used in mindfulness or the regulatory breathing techniques taught in classic stress relief and yoga, for example. It’s important to note that some of the more regulatory breathing techniques, such as slow diaphragmatic breathing are crucial building blocks in healing the breath, however Integrative Breathwork, is a completely different ball game, it is breath as a powerful therapy - and in my breathwork school it’s a gentle and intuitive art form.

Some of the key aspects of Integrative Breathwork sessions are:

-the conscious connected breath (so no gap between in and out breath and breathing rhythmically )

-relaxing the body (normally lying down)

-letting go into surrender on the out breath (so no control)

-allowing energy to build in the body/mind

-a mindful watching of what’s occurring in the body

-integration of old held “patterns”

-learning to trust that everything in a “breathe” works

-an understanding that thoughts and beliefs are creative, so utilising various methods including the breath to discover, challenge and then let of old unhelpful beliefs and thought patterns whilst also breathing into new more empowering beliefs.

The combination of these allows the “magic” to happen. Clients can start to feel energy surging around the body, they can meet and integrate old patterns (including birth experiences, hence the name Rebirthing) and sometimes see imagery. Often imagery is metaphorical, the language of the subconscious mind, for example one client saw herself on a journey that involved climbing mountains and walking in the woods, which for her was deeply empowering.

The theory behind this according to the British Rebirth Society definition is that…

"Through breathing continuously without break, your body takes in more oxygen than usual, which changes the CO2 level in your brain.

You enter a self-induced trance state (a non-ordinary state of consciousness) where memories, pictures, emotions or body sensations can surface to be reviewed, released and integrated.

The power of rebirthing is that in this state you are the experiencer as well as the observer of past incidents that may emerge, enabling you to release and re-interpret what happened in the past from a newly conscious and fresh perspective.

Through conscious connected breathing you accumulate life force (prana, chi, ki) which starts to move freely through your body (experienced as tingling, energy rushes or waves).

This loosens up stored blockages held in your four-body energy system (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual), thus working on all four levels at the same time.”

My experience

In the experience of my body, after 20 odd years of yogic breathing and mindful breathing, and deep inner work nothing has ever opened me to the experiences and profound life changes and access to greater joy, in the way that Integrative Breathwork has done. On a personal level, Breathwork has changed my life in many ways. I came to it, still struggling with anxious patterns and depression. Immediately it opened up a creative flow and an ability to be more comfortable with life (both the life inside me and externally), which is still growing. It’s helped me learn that it’s safe to breathe, safe to be here now, safe to be in my body and be alive. This has reaped so much more love and creativity in my life and continues to do so. It’s also given me a powerful, yet simple way to release stress in daily life, and can often help move stuckness in seconds. I’ve also seen clients experiencing the same, which is deeply rewarding.

Conscious Connected Breath is key to Integrative Breathwork. But what exactly do we mean by this? 

What we mean is a breath that we are consciously observing, but also very importantly, one that is connected, meaning no gap between the in and out breath. This is the way that animals naturally breathe, and it’s the way we naturally breathe when we are asleep.

You only need to do 3-20 of those Consciously Connected type of breaths to begin to experience the changes that can happen (you could try that now – focus your energy on the in breath, then just let go and allow the out breath to “fall” out, breathe in again before you get to a pause). Once we connect up the breath consciously, energy builds. But imagine an hour of this, whilst mindfully relaxing and observing what happens in the body/mind. To be honest you probably can’t imagine what it’s like unless you’ve experienced a held group or individual session of Integrative Breathwork. You can’t really make up what people experience, and it’s unique to every session and every person, but what happens in terms of metaphor is that the breath begins to build energy and reconnect “circuits” in the body/mind. It builds bridges to the repressed unmet parts of us. The way that the unconscious presents that unmet, stuck information varies enormously, it can be imagery, sometimes emotion, or physical sensations, and sometimes simply the feeling of energy moving.

Integrative Breathwork sessions (aka Rebirthing because in its early days many of the pioneers normally went back to their birth experiences, probably because they were breathing in warm water – which is another great way to breathe for the more experienced) supports us to breathe more easily, integrate old held emotions, events held in the body, and step by step, recover our “Natural Breath”.

What is a breathwork session like?

There are also many kinds of Integrative Breathwork out there now; my particular school of breathwork is a gentle, yet powerful approach that recognises the body’s innate ability to reconnect with our natural breath. Sessions are up to two hours long, with up to an hour of Conscious Connected Breathing. The session is led by the client’s energy, needs and willingness, with the practitioner observing, supporting and guiding, using a highly intuitive approach to support the client whilst they relax, generally in a reclined position, into their breathing pattern. Sometimes, but not always, touch is used to support the client to let go or feel grounded, for example. Sometimes we use “body talk” and inner child work to meet old held energy patterns as they emerge. Every time the mind body integrates an old pattern the breath become more free and easy, and a series of guided sessions can therefore be profoundly transformative.

The structure and format of Integrative Breathwork sessions, which also allow for some psycho-therapeutic tools, allows the integration of, for example old held events and belief systems that were formed. It’s powerful and transformational and the absolute joy of it is that for the most part, we can bypass the thinking mind, so we can integrate quickly and effortlessly.

Most clients, by the end of a session are experiencing a state of oneness, of basking in a sea of energy that feels utterly blissful. If there’s a powerful way to heal the breath and heal our lives, then Integrative Breathwork is it. Leonard Orr , the creator described this practice, as the "end to drama", because it powerfully encourages self-responsibility, and integration of the old emotional material that causes us to create dramas in our lives.

Over time repeated sessions can be profoundly transformational, and because the more we breathe connectedly, the more the body will come “home” to it when it needs to during a day. One client reported recently that she was at home experiencing the symptoms building up to a panic attack. She noticed that her breath then became connected, and trusting her breath to guide her, the whole attack simply subsided with ease. Another reported that whilst driving, she started be experiencing stress, tension, and anxiety but connected the breath and watched those symptoms just dissipate. It’s so empowering to be able to access this in moments of need, and no one needs to know we are doing it!

“I laid down and made myself comfortable. Deborah guided us on how to breathe. Music was playing in the background and soon enough I found myself on a wave of energy and tingling sensations in my hands and lower arms. When it was time to stop the Breathwork, I didn't want the sensations to go. Afterwards I felt relaxed, calm and energised. Who would of thought breathing can make you feel so good!”

It’s the kind of thing that has to be experienced to be really understood, so if any of this has caught your interest, do look on my website for breathing workshops . There will also be a regular monthly breathing circle coming soon, so do sign up for the newsletter or follow the Healing Space Facebook page (if you aren’t already) and you’d like to hear more. Alternatively you can book a one to one session to experience an Integrative Breathwork Session tailored just for you.

Get in touch to start your healing breathwork journey today…

Deborah Maddison BA Hons (Oxon)

Practitioner, Therapist, Coach based near Bath.


1.Waring A. 2018, ‘Breathe with Ease’

2.Brown P, Gerbard L, 2012 ‘The Healing Power of the Breath’ Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enahance Concentration and Balance Your Emotions contains a CD, to support healthy breathing practices

3.Philippot P, Chapelle G, Blairy S ‘Respiratory Feedback in the Generation of Emotion’ Congnition and Emotion, Vol. 16 Issue 5 (2002)

4.Leonard J, Laut P 1983 ‘Rebirthing – The science of Enjoying All of Your Life’

The Healing Power of a 20 Second Hug

Jul, 2019

I posted about this in the May Healing Space Newsletter - but since then have had a ponder as what if there isn't someone around to hug for 20 seconds? Read on to find out about hugging yourself!

Hugging for two

A hug that lasts 20 seconds or more has positive therapeutic effects.  It increases Oxytocin, our "feel good" hormone, and reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including it's impact on your blood pressure and heart rate.  In our family we've made it a "3 Breath Hug", so 3 long slow deep breaths, which is much more relaxing than counting (which gets you into your head). By breath 3 I can feel my teenagers softening (I've insisted we have at least 2 of these hugs a day, and they are doing it!). 

Looking for images of hugging I came across the one here; it really moved me (click on the image to read more) 

Hugging for one

So if it's just you, instead what you can do is put one hand on your heart and the other on your solar plexus, now take 3 long slow deep breaths, breathing first into the belly hand, then up into the heart if you have enough air space left. Focus your attention on the in breath, and on the out breath just let go like the feeling when you have a big sigh; you could even connect the breaths so there's no gap between the in and out breath. Now notice how you feel.

Maybe even try 20, and see you how feel then!

Article: Hugging makes you healthier

A simple stress interruper

Dec, 2018

1.Smile – even a fake smile does actually make you feel better, as silly as it may feel initially.

2.Posture – sit or stand up straight rather than being hunched up.

3.Breathe – Coherent Breathing (6 seconds in, 6 seconds out) – see the full homework with App recommendation here

4.Tapping - You can learn EFT tapping, but just simply tapping with all your fingers over your head and chest can break up the cycle.

5.Stop focusing on the symptoms – this will only exacerbate the stress, the breath gives you something more positive to focus on and can interrupt the thoughts too, whilst helping mind and body to come back to a more relaxed state. So breathe breathe and breathe some more. 

Our breath can be a simple yet profound way to:

•increase our energy

•live more alive

•heal deep seated issues such as anxiety and depression ...

Sep, 2018

 All the spiritual masters talk about the importance of breath in connecting us to our life force so allowing more life, energy, and so much more…

There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity. Rumi

Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. Thich Nhat Hanh

When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore one should learn to control the breath.Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about breath, as there is just so much that could be said. As an Apprentice Breathworker studying with AIR, I learn more every week, BUT what I do know is that we don’t need to be a spiritual master or even practice yoga to learn simple and easy methods to improve our breathing, enhance our health, calm our chattering minds and soothe our nervous systems. It’s one of the simplest and easily accessible methods that we can use, any time, any place, to improve how we feel.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of it, but if you think about it logically the neural links from brain to our breathing apparatus are the fastest in our bodies; if there’s any impediment to breathing, our brain needs to know about it pretty quickly in order to resolve the issue, we have approximately 3 minutes to do so as most of us can’t last longer than that without breathing. When we change our breathing, we send a message very quickly via our nervous system to our brain, which tells us that we are calm. It’s a question of “faking it until you make it”, a bottom up, body/mind approach !

Humans mostly don’t do it (breathing) properly, drunks and babies are apparently the only ones who breathe in the relaxed way that nature intended. As with T.R.E. the breath is something we’ve learned to repress. You can even hear reference to this repression in our language when someone is stressed we often say “….AND Breathe” or after a stressful event “you can breathe now”.  Anxious shallow high breathing is what most of us do, to a greater or lesser extent, and we become so used to it that we don’t even know it’s happening. When we breathe this way we are constantly reinforcing the nervous system’s fight/flight response. But we don’t need to reach for the bottle of wine or wish we were still a baby to establish good breathing habits!

Naturally animals breathe in a relaxed way that comes from the diaphragm. Animals also breathe in a “connected” way, so there is no pause between in breath and out breath. Although many valuable yoga breath techniques include pauses, our breathing when we are in deep sleep, for example is connected. Stopping and constricting our breath, is a learned behaviour that we have conditioned ourselves to practice as a way to stop ourselves feeling. The deeper diaphragmatic, connected breath stimulates that all important vagus nerve, and bring the “rest and digest” side of the nervous system on line, allowing the “fight/flight” side to stand down.

Coherent Breathing (also known as Resonant breathing); it’s simple yet profound and scientifically proven - over hundreds of studies - to improve health in many ways. It’s something that I teach to all my clients, and tell everyone who will listen! It’s something I do every day, and my teacher Brigitte Martin-Powell is teaching it to refugees as part of a developing UN programme, to give them a simple way to restore balance to their stressed nervous systems The Young People I’ve been working with recently are finding it very helpfuland I practice it daily. Combine it with diaphragmatic breathing and we have a simple and effective daily tool to support our wellbeing.

If you want to read more about Coherent Breathing, here’s a link to the homework that I set for all my clients. I start every client session, workshop and course with this breath. It includes recommended breathing Apps, which can really support learning this breath.

As part of World Mental Health Day next week, I am offering two FREE events in the next few days where you can come, listen to a talk about our mind/body and nervous system, then lie down relax and learn this amazing yet simple technique. 

"If music be the food of love, play on" ... the interesting science behind this 

Aug, 2018

There’s science behind Shakespeare’s assertion that “music be the food of love”.

As well as being soothing to all of us, music can also help the traumatised to come back to a more socially engaged state according to Neuroscientist Professor Steven Porges. This is because sound can directly activate our vagus nerve (the largest nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system - our rest, relax and digest side). Just in the way that a mother’s soft voice or lullaby can calm a baby, we can all be soothed by the right kinds of auditory stimulation.

We all need to bring our parasympathetic nervous system on line more; it helps us feel relaxed, happy, sociable and engaged with life. When the sympathetic (fight/flight) side is even slightly dominant, our serotonin production decreases, for example, you wouldn't want to feel warm and fuzzy when you need to fight. 

 So music or soothing sounds can be one way to help us engage the vagus nerve and feel calmer, which is just one of the reasons why sound healing can be so relaxing.

The opposite can happen too so shouting or harsh noises can set us on edge and engage the brake onto our vagus nerve, which then activates the sympathetic nervous system (our fight/flight response). Essentially the vagus nerve is linked to our feelings of safety, allowing us to sense when it’s safe to relax, or when we need to be on alert.

As mammals this nerve developed in a highly complex way and it connects to many parts of the body, so as well as the ears it connect to the gut, heart, lungs, facial muscles, and throat. That’s why it’s called the vagus nerve, because it literally wanders – like a vagrant – all over the body. All of these are sending and receiving signals from the brain, so there’s two way feedback happening via the nervous system. The essential question being asked continuously at a subconscious level, is “am I safe”, if safe then relax, if not safe then put the brake onto the vagus nerve.

Apart from music, there are of course many other ways to soothe the nervous system and bring the vagus nerve online, rhythmic movement (exercise, dancing …), rocking, yoga, breathing practices, T.R.E., and bodywork are some.

So one of the reasons why I always play music at my sessions is that soothing music is a beautiful way to stimulate the vagus nerve and help create a calming environment that feels safe and good to be in, then we can start to let go. Combine that with T.R.E. and Breathwork, as all my sessions do, and you have a recipe for true relaxation as well as calming tools for use in daily life (see upcoming courses and workshops on the T.R.E. Events Page).

More on breathing next month...I am currently recording some guided breath relaxations so will be sending them out to everyone on my mailing list as soon as they are ready.

On that note I am off to pack ready for Didmarton Blue Grass Festival, to immerse in beautiful soul soothing music.

Are anxiety and stress an epidemic now as our society becomes more and more device/head based? What's the solution?

July, 2018

I've been thinking about stress and anxiety and why it seems to be an epidemic; my personal theory is that we are all spending so much more time on devices that it is making us more and more "head" based, and that stress, tension and anxiety that builds in the body doesn't get a chance to release. I can feel it in my own body if I spend too much time on my laptop (how ironic as I've been sitting here too long now and can actually feel it myself right now). 

Exercise and being active helps, but it's not the whole story as humans have repressed  two of the main mechanisms that nature gave us for stress release (Tremoring - TRE - and Breath). The cutting edge of psychiatry is saying that we need to get stress, anxiety and trauma OUT OF THE BODY and that talking alone often cannot do that (there's a lot of science backing this up now, and showing that stressful and traumatic events are trapped in the mind/body as sensory information, and often haven't been able to process fully through to the left side of the brain which enables us to truly know at all levels that the event was the past and no longer needs to bother us).  Our rational thinking minds are also so clever - and often detached from the body - that we can talk about our stress or trauma, without actually having  released it ...


I can start getting quite geeky about all the science, but won't pontificate too much now; Professor Bessel Van Der Kolk's book says it all "The Body Keeps The Score".  TRE gets underneath the rational thinking brain, into the Brain Stem and allows us to release nervous system tension at a much deeper level than our mind can grasp.  The "no-talking" aspect of TRE can also feel like a huge relief, and many describe it as "liberating" to free up the body/mind through this practice.

So I am offering early bird booking rates on all TRE Workshops and Courses until the end of the July. I am particularly looking forward to my first workshop for Young People, on 8th September as they are a group - more device based than ever - who seem to desperately need empowering practices to release and manage stress. 

Stress release is not all serious - there's laughter too

June, 2018

You might think that the business of T.R.E. stress release must be a very serious and emotional business, but this is definitely not always the case.  Of course there are times when a client releases something deeply moving, but quite often especially during first session clients want to laugh.  Why is this? Because T.R.E. is a truly amazing natural release coming from the core muscles of the body;  these core muscles (the psoas or "fight/flight" muscles) can start to move and shake and wobble and release and it can feel like a massage from the inside out.  It's great and people sometimes just want to laugh.  I remember one course I ran where every participant was laughing at session 1... and of course the more we release through T.R.E. and allow the nervous system to come back into balance, we bring the "rest and digest" part of the nervous system back on line so the more happy, relaxed and sociable we feel.  When I remember, I do tell groups to laugh if they want to laugh, because oddly we sometimes also want to stop ourselves and feel it "should" be serious...I must say though, there's nothing wrong either if you don't feel like laughing, it all depends on what is held in the body and that will be different every time someone comes to their mat for T.R.E. practice.

We have lots of workshops and courses coming up this autumn and I look forward to seeing what they brings, maybe some laughter, maybe not.

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