If you’re looking for a wholesome, toxin-free way to take your body and mind somewhere they’ve never been, you’ll find what you’re looking for in a breathwork session. Here’s what the experience was like for Annie Ridout…
Claire Frances, breathwork practitioner and healer, is pictured above, in her studio. Annie Ridout shares her experience of a breathwork session led by Claire.
I first heard about meditation as a teenager, in the context of Buddhist monks. Someone told me these monks could clear all thoughts from their mind which led them in mind/body/spirit to a new dimension.
I thought that sounded cool so I lit some incense in my bedroom, sat crossed-legged on the floor and attempted to release all my thoughts.
But I couldn’t do it. I’d start picturing friends and the boys I fancied and have to start again.
Over the years, I continued to try meditating but always found it hard and boring.
But then, this week, I had a breathwork session that changed everything.
It was led by Claire Frances, an amazing practitioner, who taught me about conscious connected breathing. This is where you inhale and exhale without pausing; each breath connected and seamless.
There was a candle lit and beautiful music to ‘breathe to’, with crescendos and decrescendos inspiring the rhythm of my breath, without me realising. Claire also made suggestions for when I should breathe through my nose or mouth, and when I could try speeding up or slowing down.
During our one-hour session, I was both more in my body and mind than I’ve ever been and also transcending both. I made some deep connections, in my thoughts, to my sister and mother. I had all sorts of epiphanies. The number three featured heavily; everything seemed to be in threes.
I felt like my body was completely charged, almost like an electrical current was running through it except that it felt amazing; like I’d taken some kind of mind-enhancing drug. And this was simply through changing my breath. The experience was, to be honest, pretty bananas.
I cried at one point – one tear from each eye – which surprised me, as I very rarely cry.
After the session, I had to quickly go and collect my son from nursery and felt so ‘high’ that I wasn’t sure it was safe to drive. I had 15 minutes to ground myself in the room before leaving which was long enough to feel I’d come back to earth but I wanted to keep processing the experience. Alas, motherhood called.
The following day, after a stressful bout of messages off the back of a disagreement about children’s vaccinations (I’m fervently pro), I decided to try breathwork on my own, to see if I could shift the tension and discomfort.
I closed my eyes and used some of the techniques Claire taught me – and I felt like I’d become a tiger. My fingertips felt were charged with power and I clawed the air.
I appreciate this might sound quite strange but the mind can go to rather interesting places, when you let it. When you have a level of self-trust and are open to ‘letting go’. It requires your full focus (no screens or other distractions) – plus breathwork techniques – and your body can feel as if it is somewhere, or something, else.
Perhaps to some, the idea of feeling like they have become a tiger would be utterly ludicrous and even if that’s where their mind went, the idea of then clawing the air – of allowing your body to respond, in the moment – would feel embarrassing. But when we let go of embarrassment and shame, we open ourselves up to the potential for quite profound experiences, in both body and mind.
There was tension in my head and I felt like I wanted to sweep it away so I did this, using my hands and realised I was creating the shape of a mane around me. I am never more ‘lioness’ than when protecting my children (or ‘cubs’) and it was as if I needed to embody the lion, in that meditation, to remind myself of my power to protect them.
I focused on my breath – or, rather, I breathed deeply and then sometimes fast – for about 1/2 an hour in total. The bodily sensations were charged and wild, it felt like there was a tightening around my waist and that my hands were pulsating. But I felt calmer afterwards; at peace.
If you’re keen to get into meditation but find it hard/boring etc – try breathwork. It’s brilliant, bonkers, magical – all the best things. I feel that one session has opened the doors to something pretty exciting and life-changing for me. It’s literally better than drugs.