With the arrival of the Breathe Project in Avalon fast approaching, we spoke to founder Bodhi Whitaker to get a bit of insight into what they and their technique are all about.
Could you tell us a little bit about what inspired the Breathe Project, what it is and how you got started?
Breathe Project was birthed from straight passion and commitment to make real change amongst the old school system. Kat (co-founder) had recently finished her studies of Health Science and Health Promotion when we met and her dream was to build a health promotion initiative. We also met at an 'Art of Breath' workshop that I was teaching at at the Yoga Festival on the Sunshine Coast, and after a couple months of fully immersing in love, the vision of Breathe Project became clearer and clearer. I saw the whole thing unfold on the 5th day of a 10 day silent meditation retreat (Vipassana), and Kat was trekking through the Himalayas on a Spirit Journey with Kevin James (mantra dude), then we spoke and I blurted out my idea of Breathe Project and she said "that's funny, I had a similar idea a few days ago". Freaky, but we both felt the calling and the work we have been doing is answering this call. Young people need help from people actually living their dreams, people that are focused on coming ALIVE and that's what we do.
We got started with a Crowd Funding campaign. It was a flunk at the start, and then by the end we had over 200+ people back us with their own cash totaling $14,000 which was enough for us to move out of our home, into our van and start working with schools face to face. We got to jump straight in there and it was almost like it had been paid forward by people for the schools. We reached 60 schools in this time, all free.
How is the technique you teach with the Breathe Project relevant to mental health? What is the connection between our breath and the state of our mental health?
The technique we teach helps you have control over your mind. Be free from your mind and start to lead life from your heart and breath, so your mind becomes more of a part of you but doesn't own you. Most of us believe everything our mind says and it's not common to teach people how to train it, unless you are an athlete or actor, or some kind of performer. So what we teach is nothing new. This has been practiced for centuries, by people who need to perform at their best. But, our focus has been to bring this to the mainstream. As we are all human beings and we can all train and integrate practices to help us be at our best daily. To show up fully, wholeheartedly and presently to all we do. Many of us (if not all), experience anxiety and depression, and all of us suffer from busy minds, so knowing how to feel more peaceful, calm, and have a clearer mind is essential to moving beyond survival mode and becoming more powerful than anxiety and depression. If you believe you 'have' anxiety or depression, you are basically giving this natural sensation (feeling) in your body and mind more power than it deserves. You are letting this sensation own you. Working with your breath brings the power back to you and you may say "I've been feeling anxious" instead. Mindful Breathing brings more oxygen to our brain, slows our heart rate, lowers blood pressure and calms our nervous system. All within a few minutes practicing.
What sort of improvements do you expect to see when engaging with your technique?
I mentioned a few above. The biggest improvements we see with people is better sleep, ability to self-regulate (emotions), a calmer nervous system and most people after trying Mindful Breathing for 3 minutes will open their eyes and say they feel more calm, settled, peaceful, less worried, less tense, and that for once their mind is blank or clear. One teenager from Sale College wrote to me after and said " Thank you soo much for teaching me this technique today, it gave me the confidence to ask a girl out". Love it! Mindful Breathing brings more oxygen to our brain, slows our heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and calms our nervous system.
Do you have any simple and easy tips that people at home could begin doing today?
Yes. Before you need to know this full technique. Just pausing, and taking 3 slower, deeper breaths can help you (right now). Either sitting comfortably (no need to be in lotus pose), standing up or lying on your back. The other hot tip to start breathing better daily is to breathe deep into your belly. If that is foreign to you and just seems to not happen at all, practice. Expanding your belly as you inhale, and releasing it as you exhale. This is a great start!
What is the most rewarding part of your job and what motivates you to keep moving forward with the Breathe Project?
When a kid from Sanctuary Point Public School yesterday, comes up and says, "Kat and Bodhi, can you be my teachers? I'm going to miss you so much". Or when we see teachers who are completely 'OFF' the idea of doing our workshop after school for one hour, completely transform and walk out feeling great, or even come up and tell us how they just can't believe how much better they feel. I love the face to face work we do. Also getting to co-create with Kat is really special (when it flows well), as we have such a beautiful synergy between us that just feels good and creates magic. What motivates me the most is the fire inside me that just continues to burn brighter and brighter as I break through my own barriers and fears and actually see from an outside perspective the work we are achieving and how if we keep going and keep going, eventually we will crack the old school system by integrating 3-minutes of Mindful Breathing into every school we possibly can. Helping shift the consciousness of our country (and beyond).
What has been your own personal experience of practising a more mindful and conscious way of life?
Being more Mindful and conscious has allowed me to step into the true spirit I am. To be freer and freer every day, as the connection I have with myself builds. I've been able to step up in many ways, take more responsibility and also let go of so many old thought patterns and things and people that don't serve me and the greatness I am. I sleep better at night (not always). Plus it has invited more meaning and appreciation into the work I do, gifts I have and people I have in my life and meet along the way.
Interview by Claire L'Huede & Samantha Callender
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000.