March is one and a half years into his new career choice, a certified breathwork coach. Inspired by personal reasons to pursue better mental health, March aims to share his passion, teaching others how to relax and become more balanced.
What did you do at university?
I studied History of Art at Leeds. For me it was more an opportunity for personal growth and development, as opposed to growth for my career. It allowed me time to figure out what I wanted to do. I appreciate this sounds cliche, but after university I went to India for eight months to explore meditation, which was really what inspired the path I am now pursuing.
That’s not a typical ‘young person’s’ thing to do, what sparked your interest?
My brother took me on a meditation retreat whilst I was at university, and I quickly realized in that week that there was far more to meditation than just relaxing. And it blew my mind! I’ve been exploring it as a personal passion and intrigue ever since. I wanted to be in a better place myself; I had experienced bouts of loneliness and anxiety, and this instigated an interest in maintaining better mental health.
Was there pressure from your family to ‘get a proper job’?
To begin with, yes. Having just come back from eight months in India I thought that was fair enough. So, for the next three years I did just that, in property. But it wasn’t me. I think the pressures were more in my own head: from my upbringing, what everyone around me was doing. Wanting to do something different and not traditional can be scary.
You’re now a breathwork coach, what does this mean?
By definition, Breathwork is a term used for conscious breathing techniques to alter your mental, emotional and physical state. So, I teach scientifically-backed breathing techniques as a self-regulation tool, correcting breathing patterns, to regulate your nervous system, manage your emotions and optimize your mental and physical health.
It may sound surprising that something as simple as your breath can have such a significant impact on your life but take a moment to register this – some people may be able to survive without food for a couple of weeks, or a few days without water, but we can only survive a few minutes without air. I was amazed when I learnt that one-third of your energy comes from food and water, and the other two-thirds from your breath. Yet we pay so much attention to the food we eat but very little to how we breathe.
We breathe up to 23,000 times a day, with each breath sending signals back to the mind and body to shift in a certain direction. That’s a lot of breaths when you realize the impact each breath is having on your body. And, with most people using only a third of their respiratory capacity, suffering from shallow and constricted patterns, have you ever considered the potential impact such a fundamental function can have on our body? It’s understood that 60 – 80 per cent of us are breathing incorrectly, and this is either causing or provoking a variety of chronic diseases.
The good news is, our breath is very adaptable. With the right knowledge and the right breathing practices, we can help and totally transform our mental, physical and emotional health for the better.
• Better sleep
• Alleviate depression, anxiety and stress
• Increase energy
• Calm nervous system
• Increase focus, performance and productivity
• Increase Heart Rate Variability
• Emotional release & dealing with trauma
And so much more.
How does it work for people with trauma?
Breathwork is a quick and effective means of clearing out one’s mental and emotional systems. Using the mind to solve a mental or emotional issue can be a lengthy and often futile process. You can’t change or ‘defuse’ your past by re-thinking it. The more attention we give a particular event in our past, the more meaningful it seems to be and the more ‘hold’ it has over us. Instead, we need to go deeper and find the energy holding the emotions in place.
As adults we can lose our ability to release our emotions in the same way young children do. But through breathwork we can let go of these suppressed emotions and any stagnant energy that we might be holding onto in our body. The experience can be physical, cathartic and meditative in nature. A number of clients have found breathwork to be very helpful for grieving, for example; previously holding emotions in and becoming emotionally numb, but are able to drop down their barrier and let go of these emotions through breathwork. This technique is called Conscious Connected Breathwork – it is a cyclical breath that can create a powerful healing experience through altered states of consciousness.
There are always sceptics when it comes to alternative health, how do you deal with them?
Many people think that breathwork is ‘wishy washy’ but there is nothing ‘wishy washy’ about it. It is very physiological. There has been some interesting research recently by a Stanford neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman, who has explored the effects of meditation and breathwork. Breathwork is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress in a 5-minute period. It’s also been shown to enhance sports performance and alter your physiology.
If children could learn about breathwork it would dramatically improve their mental and physical health. But people need to become more open to it; like all these things, it will just take time.
Have you worked with children?
I’ve taught in some schools with ages 6 to 13. Those that would benefit the most are the 13- to 18-year-olds due to their ability to concentrate on the practice at hand. I truly believe that if kids learnt how to self-regulate, it would dramatically improve their mental and physical health. To be able to go into schools and teach breathing techniques would be awesome but it is difficult to do: regulations, time, budget etc.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a breathwork app which I’m building with two friends from Radley. It will launch later on this year. The app will have pre-recorded sessions, and this is something schools could subscribe to.
I would love to continue teaching in schools, perhaps introducing breathwork clubs, where students have the option once a week to join a 20-minute session to connect with themselves and learn these self-regulation tools.
How do you keep up with the latest techniques and research?
I take plenty of courses myself, currently I’m taking an Oxygen Advantage course. There is a lot of research going on at universities with research papers being published. I read plenty of books on the topic, and I follow pioneering breathwork teachers such as Stuart Sandeman and, the person most people have probably heard of, Wim Hof.
Do you work on this 100% of the time?
Yes, I do. I admit I was finding it difficult to make enough money to live at the start. Like with most freelance work, it requires a lot of work to begin with, but I find it very inspiring and couldn’t imagine doing anything different. I teach breathwork at companies in London, in schools, at yoga studios, on a 1-to-1 basis, and am now spending a lot of my time on the app.
Did Radley help in any way with career choices, or how to embrace an entrepreneurial spirit?
I loved Radley, but I think it was one size fits all, though I think that’s probably true of all educational systems. Radley was great for personable skills: public speaking, confidence, teamwork but what about learning how to invest money, how to start a business, how to regulate your nervous system? People are only limited by their vision; how do you exercise your creativity?
I do an exercise each morning where I think of five new ideas, it’s to exercise that side of my brain. They can be small or big ideas, often useless ideas! But if you do that every day eventually you will come up with a good one. I would like schools to teach about longevity, rather than the memory game of passing exams.
Do you remember any particularly special times at Radley?
I hung out in my house quite a lot as there was always something going on. I’m still friends with a lovely group of people from school and it’s amazing how tight we still are today. I loved sport and I remember playing lots of golf.
If you would like to find out more, check out March’s website.