Emma Ferris is passionate about breathing. With a background as a physio therapist and in Pilates, Emma discovered that many – if not all – of her clients health issues had their basis in bad breathing habits. When she discovered ways to improve the overall health of a client she saw how important breath awareness was. It was the key to unlock most people’s physical challenges, which also influence and interact with mental/emotional states. The mind/body link became more apparent until she found her calling and The Big Exhale was born.
These days Emma spreads her passion far and wide, having appeared on National television and she is looking to take her workshop overseas in the new year. We are blessed to have Emma right on our doorstep here in Queenstown, where she has helped countless people improve their quality of health and their responses to stress through her online breathing course, the Find You Calm workshops and her collaboration with Wellness leader Sarsha Hope in which they facilitate a women’s 3-day retreat – Nurture Me, held in Glenorchy.
I attended her Queenstown workshop this week, with Emma having held workshops in both Cromwell and Wanaka. As we began the workshop Emma reminded us of why we were here and what she hoped to offer each of us – tools for managing stress and challenges in everyday life. We are all familiar with the effects of our fast paced always-available modern lifestyles – no less at this time of year, an especially pressured month as we attempt to carve out time and money from nowhere so that we can honor Christmas. With our nervous systems overloaded the effects are seen everywhere – with overwhelm, burnout and anxiety being common. Giving our nervous systems a chance to recuperate and calm down is as vital as getting a decent amount of water, rest and nourishing food into ourselves. Even those necessities are tricky, I know that its not everyday that I can even meet those needs which is why having simple and effective tools which do not add anything more to my load, is vital for balance and self care.
We had a small group which made for an intimate and in depth experience. Emma discussed how even in a group setting she would be looking at our individual habits and focusing the workshop towards our needs, noting that her techniques are definitely not a one-size-fits-all model, which brings true integrity to her work. We discussed the different types of breathing that are common, bad breathing habits and how our emotions and responses to stress affect our breathing. It goes both ways as well – our breathing can and does bring on strong emotional states. Emma is knowledgeable and articulate in the area of breathing research, backing herself up with recent research which is both interesting and illuminating. She has an extremely solid knowledge of anatomy and the surprisingly complex process of breathing, yet she breaks it down so that it is easy to understand and apply to oneself.
We discovered our own natural breathing patterns and the links between how we breathe and the fight/flight/freeze response we use to respond to everyday threats. Modern living threats are vastly different to how our ancestors experienced life, and although survival was tough, Emma pointed out that our forebears were not in a constant state of stress as much as what we now are. Women respond to stress very differently than men and it is now known that we have evolved in a way which means our stress hormones actually decrease around other women – which relates to why women retreats are indeed nourishing as well as the idea of a village of support being behind the Mothers in our community. Now you know why that coffee group is so important to your well being – its not just the caffeine!
The second half of the workshop expanded on simple and very effective stretches for getting the most out of your breathing. These exercises illuminated the mind/body connection in practice and got us ready to experience ‘Chillaxing’ breathing in more depth. We tried this type of breathing near the start of the workshop and after demonstrating the effects of certain stretches, we could see how our ‘Chillaxing’ breathing became even more effective. Finally, Emma had us look at the triggers we experience with regards to stress in our own lives and what ‘relievers’ can be put in place, including better breathing, so that we respond in better ways to everyday stressful experiences. It was a nice way to wind down the session as participants shared about their lives. I know my challenge is based around time pressure and balancing my kids needs with my own needs with general life. Tools such as ‘Chillaxing” breathing, simple stretches and awareness around triggers are immensely powerful in combating everyday pressures. Emma also includes the practice of gratitude into the workshop and it was a positive note to end on as we wrote down three things we are grateful for – ironically for me, these are also the things which cause me stress!
Emma creates a program which is easily accessible for all, whether you come along to the next Find Your Calm workshop, which will be run again in the Queenstown area in the New Year or you can sign up for the Online Breathing Course with access to resources, videos and other benefits of an online support system you can access from anywhere. Nurture Me women’s retreat will be held in March next year, facilitated by Emma and Sarsha Hope. This is a 3 day retreat which truly focuses on making the most out of self care approaches to modern living. In the spirit of giving for this Christmas season, Emma has offered Seeker readers a very special offer of $10 off the online breathing course – The Big Exhale. You can use a discount code especially for Seekers. Emma also offers some other goodies for FREE, you can get a lot out of the free Pilates fusion course and the free 5 days of The Big Exhale (see below).
Its not so much about eliminating stress and pressure, but learning to take better care of ourselves within the hype of the everyday. Pausing to take a deep breath and appreciate those things that add value to our lives is an antidote. Its about learning to activate the brakes on our over wrought nervous systems, giving ourselves the gift of mini breaks throughout the day. This adds an awareness of the present moment, something Santa cannot provide but with a gentle nudge in the right direction, its a gift you can give yourself which continues to give.
The Big Exhale:
Special for Seeker readers: Gain a $10 discount when signing up online, by using discount code SEEKER – Merry Christmas!
Free Pilates Fusion Course:
Free 5 Days of Big Exhale:
Link to Emma’s Directory Listing:
Nurture Me Retreat (March 2019):