This article first appeared in the Caterham Independent on 4th Oct 2021
Did you know most people spend their lives breathing incorrectly? Babies do it perfectly: taking big belly breaths that oxygenate their blood, and expel carbon dioxide. As we get older, most of us end up taking shallower chest breaths, leaving us utilising only around 30% of our total lung capacity. Breathing is fundamental to creating the energy we use so, by not doing it properly, we’re making it harder for our body to function at its best.
Conscious connected breathing
In the tranquility of her cosy Garden Room, which she uses for her breathwork sessions, Justine Clement explains to me that conscious connected breathing has an abundance of physiological and emotional benefits, including lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, aiding sleep, reducing anxiety and much more.
The 40-minute exercise Justine then takes me through demonstrates just what a difference this breathing technique can make. I am revitalised: my blood is practically fizzing its way through my veins, reeling from the huge kick of oxygen I’ve provided it with.
Justine, who lives in Caterham, has been practising breathwork for 15 years and appreciates the improvement it has made to her health:
“I’ve not been ill once since starting regular sessions and, although moments of stress are inevitable in life, I bounce back from them much more quickly than I could before.”
Breathwork is just one part of Justine’s wellbeing toolbox: she is also a skilled practitioner of forest bathing, through her business Wonderwoods. It’s well-known that connection to the natural world is crucial to our quality of life, but it’s something many people have now lost touch with. Shinrin-yoku (literally ‘bathing in the forest’) emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a way to reconnect city dwellers with both nature and themselves.
Justine and I spend a blissful, sun-filled afternoon in the ancient Great Church Wood, Woldingham. She guides me along our chosen path with gentle suggestions that invoke my senses, and allow me to notice the smallest details around me in a way I’ve never done before. Again, the health benefits of spending time among trees are plentiful, and the whole experience makes me immensely grateful for the beautiful woodlands we are blessed with in this part of Surrey.
Justine’s aim is to help those struggling with stress, anxiety and health issues:
“I want to equip people with the tools to cope with that, as well as boost their immunity. Breathwork, along with reconnecting with nature through shinrin-yoku, is a great way to do that.”
For more details, or to book a breath session or forest bathing experience (or a combination of the two), please email email@example.com
Written by Rosalind Brookman