Naomi Osaka’s decision to pull out of the French Open has become a lightning rod in sports media, but also shines a spotlight on a challenge that faces nearly everyone, no matter how famous: protecting one’s mental health is the most important thing one can do for themselves.
Siedeh Foxie, a certified therapeutic breathwork facilitator based in Portland, Oregon, sees a specific challenge in mental health awareness in communities of color, and focuses her work on people from the African diaspora and marginalized communities. “I think in communities of color, there's not a lot of conversation around mental health beyond just stress and anxiety,” Foxie said in a recent interview. “Mental health is not something until maybe like the last two, three years that I think communities of color have really focused on, or even have begun to have the conversations around.”
Foxie focuses on utilizing the spirit of breath as a catalyst for transpersonal shifts and self-actualization. “Just sharing breathwork that way, and also realizing that a body-based practice of breathwork was going to be the most efficient and the most profound in terms of working with black and brown bodies, because so much information is stored there,” she said.
Foxie started her journey into her study of breathwork eight years ago, after working in the nightlife industry and looking for a more stable career. Her study of breathwork helped her understand trauma, and its psychological and physical impact on the body. “Breathwork helps us heal a lot of those traumas and those mental strongholds, because the breath activates that same region of the brain where we experienced trauma or where trauma is activated,” she said.
Talk therapy is often the focus in mental health conversations— just look at Prince Harry and Oprah’s recent Apple TV+ series—but breathwork can be a major component of any mental health practice. Foxie defines breathwork as the manipulation of breathing to create an accelerated breathing pattern, which leads to the physiological changes that activate the autonomic nervous system— aka the flight or fight response. “It's conscious breathing, meaning you are changing the pace and the pattern of your breath to elicit a change in your state of awareness, right?” she said. “So your state of awareness is like your consciousness. And through this, at a slow rate, these accelerated breathing patterns or this accelerated style of breathing is a logical change that happens in the body.”
To get started, Foxie recommends carving out 15 minutes in a day and finding a quiet place to lie down or even sit in a supportive chair. Breathe into the low belly and exit through the mouth, which helps the body come into a deeper relaxed state.
In closing out each breathwork session, Foxie says an affirmation to herself and her participants that has helped to keep her grounded in the past year: “I call back all the parts of myself. I am whole, I am complete. I am present in this moment. I call back all the parts of myself. I am whole, I am complete. I am present in this moment, a callback, all the parts of myself I am present. I am whole, I am complete”
We asked Foxie to share the products she recommends to complement the maintenance of mental health and breathwork practice, which we’ve paired with more of her insights about her work.
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