As we step into the promising embrace of 2024, let’s consider a transformative journey that starts with the simple yet profound act of breathwork. A new studio named MAST and the allure of Monarch beckon us to explore this captivating practice. Breathwork, often underestimated in its simplicity, unfolds as a beautifully intricate tapestry of self-discovery and well-being. With this new year’s arrival, let us look at it as a fresh beginning and hopefully, bring with it a breath of fresh air!
Breathwork, seemingly uncomplicated at first glance, holds within its simplicity a profound and exquisite beauty. In a world where the act of breathing is taken for granted, this ancient practice serves as a gentle reminder to reconnect with the natural rhythm of our breath. It is an invitation to nurture our well-being, cultivate self-awareness, and unlock the door to a heart expanded with love, compassion, and freedom. As we embark on this exploration, we find ourselves immersed in the realms of awareness, the mind-body connection, self-care, and the numerous health benefits that breathwork bestows.
Commonly known as transformational breathwork, this practice draws from ancient traditions such as Yogic ‘prana-yama’ and Tibetan Tantric Tummo, offering a rhythmic, trance-like flow for continuous rejuvenation. Considered a safe and easy-to-learn self-healing mechanism, it transcends time, tapping into our innate capacity for transformation.
Navigating breathwork reveals it’s a holistic practice, extending beyond mere inhalation and exhalation. To explore this, it’s crucial to seek local specialized instructors or practitioners, such as those at MAST, a wellness center on Fairgrounds Road, offering mini-retreats and breathwork courses, alongside other options in wellness centers, yoga studios, spas, and gyms across the island that may feature breathwork classes. The island, with its diverse offerings, resonates with opportunities for personal growth.
In the rhythm of our breath, we find the melody of a life well-lived. Cheers to the unfolding chapters of 2024, where each breath holds the promise of a renewed spirit and boundless possibilities. Holly Finigan, a participant and also a local practitioner said, “It’s the best tool that each one of us has… and it doesn’t cost a thing …. and when used effectively, it can profoundly change your whole life.” Key points include awareness of natural breath for health and mental clarity, countering acute stress responses, and potential benefits like reduced blood pressure and an energy shift. Practitioners often suggest starting with baseline observation and gradually increasing breath duration for a gentle transition to altered breathing patterns. Additionally, various cultures and traditions have their own forms of breathwork, each with unique techniques and philosophies.
Sara Boyce, an instructor, regularly sends inspirational invitations, creating a welcoming space for individuals to explore within and discover more about themselves, as she offers breathwork classes and invites participation in sessions that harness the energy of events like the new moon. Sara Boyce teaches breathwork in a variety of locations. She teaches on Zoom, and in-person at Monarch, Great Harbor Yacht Club, and Birdsong for pop ups. If you desire to immerse yourself within the atmosphere and melt into the vibe and surroundings, Birdsong is a very inviting atmosphere. The colorful outdoor statues and solace in the backyard space create a magical al fresco breathing and sensory experience. Inside, there is a retro, artistic and music inspired environment to her Breathwork Classes and Cacao Ceremonies. The atmosphere and tone of her classes place you in the prime environment to maximize your potential of going within. Sara believes “we are each our own best healers – and the breath can take us there. It is amazing how simply altering the pace of our breath can change our energetic state and facilitate deep release and insight.”
Julia Mathison, a breathwork instructor, yoga practitioner, and Ayurvedic chef, penned an insightful article on breathwork. Here’s a glimpse of her writing:“Through my own direct experience, I have come to understand modern breathwork to be focused, intentional exercises using our breath with a specific intention in mind. I have experienced feelings of presence and mindfulness, and an increased ability to self regulate both physically and emotionally. Most of all, I am able to relate to my whole Being differently. With slow and consistent practice, my breath has become a limitless resource that presents the possibility of pause in order to respond and take a more fruitful course of action in my life.”
She continues, “Once we accept self responsibility for our internal landscape (our ability to respond to ourselves) we step up in life in a BIG way. We become empowered, authentic, and more in control of our internal and external life experiences. We can rise out of the mindset that life is happening “to me”. Instead, we breathe in order to support a natural shift in habitual patterns and cycles by taking a birds eye view, a new way out. This is the essence of breathwork. This is what helps to set us free.”
Stacey Dutra, LCSW, conducts a Transformational Breathwork class at MAST, creating a space to reset the nervous system through dynamic music and elements from nature. Despite initial class size concerns, a beautifully lit path and warm hospitality eased worries, inspiring Stacey to consider opening the class to all ages. The session culminated in a cozy Nantucket evening with children enjoying “The Foot Book.” Stacey, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, emphasized breathwork’s potential for stress relief and preventing panic attacks, guiding a transformative experience with loud music to drown out other sounds and some other participants seemed like they had the breathwork down pat, I kiddingly referred to them as “Professional breathers!”
There is something about those in the breathwork community who are so welcoming and collaborative. Stacey’s class paints a vivid picture of the welcoming and transformative nature of these practices. Andrew Visellia, another practitioner at MAST who cultivates a similar environment. He runs the Educational Success Program at Nantucket High School as a Special Education teacher. As one of Andrew’s colleague eloquently described one of Andrew’s Breathwork courses, “Overall, Breathwork has a positive impact on mental, emotional and physical well-being. As we journey through each day and each experience, if we are lucky enough, individuals cross our path at the time they’re intended to. Andrew is this individual for me. As fellow educators we agreed regarding the most essential path for our learners to self-reflect and grow. Andrew is most open about his journey from self destruction to inner peace and guidance through his intensive work around meditation and breathwork. He graciously accepts others’ journeys and offers support and tutelage to others regardless of where they are at in their self identity. His gentle yet strong presence allows his students to feel both understood and safe. Any opportunity to learn from Andrew should be welcomed.”
In July 2020, Andrew’s dedication to meditation and breathwork grew, leading him to enroll in a 100-hour meditation teacher training with The Boston Buddha (Andy Kelly). This experience prompted him to start guiding meditation classes on the island. During a 10-day breathwork teacher training at Omega Institute with David Elliott, Stacey Dutra intriguingly remarked, “See you on the other side!” Andrew later realized the significance of her words as he delved into the training and more practices. Initially, thoughts of uncertainty and curiosity crossed his mind during the journey, questioning if Stacey knew something undisclosed. However, through continued breathwork and meditation, clarity emerged, quieting the noise and revealing a path that rose to meet him.
Breathwork refers to any breathing exercise or technique. People often perform them to improve mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. During breathwork, you intentionally change your breathing pattern. Many forms of breathwork therapy involve breathing in a conscious and systematic way.
Navjot, a breathwork practitioner from California said further, “Breathwork has the ability to change you on a cellular level. Our breath is the gateway to our highest level of healing, as it is through the breath we can access not just complete nervous system regulation, but a clarity of mind that can help us tune into our inner guidance. Many of us seek answers externally but rarely do we recognize that the answers are within. But to get past the logical mind for our answers and into our feeling intuition, we must breathe. Breathwork comes from an ancient yogic practice called “Pranayama” which breaks down as “Prana” meaning life force energy and “Yama” meaning control. If we can control our life force, we can send it to places in our body that need it the most for our optimal well being, lower cortisol levels, and peace of mind. Another interesting thing about our breath is it is the only part of our autonomic nervous system that both works on its own without us needing to think about it and if we choose, we can control it. Whereas the other parts of our autonomic nervous system- organ function, digestion, heart rate, we cannot consciously control.”
Another inspirational teacher on Nantucket is Agui Barragan as she began her practice at Shambala, Kula and Modo Yoga. All studios based in New York. She teaches pranayama, mantra meditation and kirtan in the community and a variety of practices at MAST and SUPTA. She is often accompanied by sound bowls, the gong and Harmonium. Many participants report feeling like they went somewhere else after her session is completed and filled with relaxation.
Stacey drew inspiration from David Elliott and the OMEGA Institute in New York City and a California institute. She recommends starting breathwork by focusing on the natural rhythm of your breath to establish a baseline length for each inhale and exhale. Then, progressively increase the breath duration, starting with 4 seconds and extending to 10 seconds if desired.
Breathwork, acknowledged as a therapeutic tool for trauma release, involves deep and intentional breaths to release stored tension and energy in the subconscious, fostering healing. Holly Finigan highlights the profound connection between mind, body, and soul, describing the breath as a force of energy capable of melting the “ice block” of trauma. She emphasizes breathwork as an efficient means to connect with and release what’s stuck in the body.
Susie, owner of MAST, emphasizes the accessibility and meditative qualities of breathwork, involving sound and individual access. She says, “that the main modalities about it is that it is accessible and able to meditate and sit still with oneself.” MAST provides a supportive community, though not necessary, highlighting diverse modalities for connection. Susie underscores the uniqueness of each practice, empowering individuals to create their own formulas for unlocking depth, wisdom, and presence. Instructors offer varied patterns, allowing individuals to set their own pace and enhance their meditation experience.
Holly said, “ I began my breathwork and meditation teacher training five years ago in Bali. I started with a practice called “Ananda Mandala” led by my teacher Punnu Singh Wasu at the Yoga Barn in Ubud. This active consciousness meditation is one where you breathe in and out through the nose only for seven breath cycles and focus on the seven chakras in between each breath cycle. It is a very powerful tool for activating Kundalini energy while unblocking stuck emotions. The first time I did this breathwork, I had the most massive breakthrough around healing the relationship with my parents. I am grateful to now lead this type of breathwork at MAST in something called The Bliss Circle.”
Driving home from the teacher training course, Andrew had a transformative moment, expressing a clearer understanding of Stacey’s “See you on the other side!” remark. Holly, pleased with the awareness spread about breathwork, encourages embracing it as a timeless gift for self-discovery and growth in the new year. Acknowledging that each breathwork practice is a unique experience, she emphasizes the importance of openness to fully embrace and BE in the enchanting journey it unveils.