Take a breath
Thank you to Gloss magazine (from Gloss Hair and Spa ) for asking me to write a piece for their spring edition magazine which goes out to over 2000 people in the Oxted, Surrey, area and beyond. Here's how it looked...
Spring is a time of cleansing and celebrating the emerging new life all around us.
For the majority of us, the arrival of more sun in our day makes us happier, doesn’t it? As we begin to cast off our winter cloaks and notice new life pushing up, literally under our feet, spring brings with it a vibrant, new energy. We begin enjoying the lighter evenings, admiring gardens, getting out more and drinking aperitivos in alfresco cafes.
Having lived in London for many years before moving to Caterham, I notice now, how spring calls out even more fervently to those of us lucky enough to live near nature. It gently whispers to us to get out and explore the changes in our neighbourhood. There is so much life beneath us, and around us, taking form - we just need to slow down, take notice and witness it all happening. I like to practice experiencing all these incredible, natural events that accompany spring, with a sense of childlike awe and wonder.
Heading out of the house, I imagine I’m stepping into a Disney movie, or the set of Jurassic Park. I’m a Forest Bathing guide and if you’ve not heard of it, or aren’t sure what that is, Forest Bathing is really as simple as spending time in nature (typically in a wood, or forest) and bathing in the atmosphere with all your five senses. I love seeing adults practicing this childlike sense of awe and wonder, as if for the very first time, watching how they begin to feel the change of seasons through their hearts, rather than their rational mind. Doing this helps to usher in more joy and to feel more connected to the natural world, rather than separate from it. It’s a very simple, but great way to gently, yet deeply, shake off those winter blues. For me it's all about heart connection – stepping out and experiencing nature in this way this way allows me to have a deeper connection not only with myself, but also with the species we share this planet with. It’s a skill most of us need to re-learn, because we’ve forgotten how to just be instead of always doing, doing, doing.
Three legs of a stool
A man I once studied with, asked me to consider the metaphor of a three-legged stool. Each leg, he said, represents a part of you — your mind, your body, and your soul. And each day, he said to make sure you do something for each leg of that stool. It’s so simple, yet so incredibly powerful. Perhaps you might like to try it, too.
For me, the foundation of my wellbeing is grounded in two fundamentals– spending time in nature as described above, and consciously engaging with my breath. As well as being a Forest Bathing guide, I’m a Breathwork coach, which means I lead people through a deep form of Breathwork that works on the physical, emotional and some may describe it as spiritual, elements of themselves. I’ve practiced Breathwork for about 15 years now. It’s changed my life in so many ways. So much so, that I found myself wanting to show others how it could help them, too. I find that Breathwork covers all three legs of the stool, in one go. And when I spend time in nature, practicing Forest Bathing, that too, covers all legs of the stool in one go. My soul feels soothed. My mind learns new things. My body feels invigorated, revived, alive and refreshed.
I hope, if you’re reading this now, that it’s sparked something in you to think about your three legs of a stool, go out, into the woods, onto the Downs or a wooded park, and try for yourself in engaging nature with all your senses and embracing spring with a childlike sense of awe and wonder. Or perhaps see what all this current zeitgeist fuss is about when it comes to noticing and consciously engaging with your own breath. You can do this at home, by yourself, even just once or twice a week. If you can get the hang of it, it will immeasurably improve your health and well-being. Whilst it’s only natural to still feel the pull of hibernation at this time of year and do a little Netflix, Eastenders, or news binging. But to do this all the time, over time, can have a detrimental effect on our health.
I heard a therapist say recently that the clients of hers that were doing the best, were those who carved out a little quiet time for themselves and combined this with time spent time out in nature and made time to engage with their breath. For me, it works — and I see it all the time — the magical effect it has on others, too.
Recently described in Conde Nast Traveller’s Spa & Wellness Guide 2023 as the ‘British Queen of Breathwork’, Justine Clement helps people give their bodies an entire spring clean through the gentle power of their breath. Her form of Breathwork has been described as a ‘detox for every level of your being’. She works from her beautiful garden breath studio in the Caterham valley, on the edge of the Surrey Hills, with 1-1 clients. She combines Breathwork and Forest Bathing from early summer in Surrey and Kent. She also runs retreats, all of which can be found on her website www.wonderbreath.co