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.

Affirmation Culture Morning Gratitude

“A lot of the active breathwork is about 30 to 40 minutes, but the process of integration afterwards, just being in dialogue around, what's coming up, let's navigate what's going on in your mind and making the connections for how it feels like in your body and how that's reverberating out into other areas in your life and your day to day life. So it's that identifying those patterns in situations that becomes really helpful and really evident in the breathwork experience.”

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Redoux Borage Ginseng Active Serum

“If you've experienced loss, if you've experienced grief, because of that loss, that grief feels like a heaviness on the chest. It feels like a tightness in the back of the throat. And so all of these sensory experiences are still held in the muscles and the fascia and in the cellular DNA, the soul-ular DNA.”

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Bennd Yoga Harda and Madder Root Ayurvedic Yoga Mat

“I think for so many of us that have been isolated from other human beings, we haven't experienced active touch in the way that we used to. And that releases endorphins and helps with the serotonin receptors to help release that energy. So humans are hardwired for active touch, and we haven't really been able to experience that in the ways prior to the pandemic.”

You Are Your Best Thing by Tarana Burke & Brené Brown

“I LOVE Reparations Book Club and I've essentially started a whole library in my house with only books purchased from their site! This is my favorite and most recent purchase from them that is relevant to mental health and healing.

Plant Apothecary Ground Control Certified Organic Body Oil

“The active touch. Another medicine of the body in a way that we receive healing is through the hands. That's another thing that is a component of the healing process of the breathwork process and helping us kind of transcend and integrate the experiences from that.”

Dusk II Onyx Melanated Tarot Card Deck - Travel Edition

“The practice of breathwork can show us how to communicate with the body and how to, how to find the language to really, you know, accurately explain what we're feeling in the moment.”

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HealHaus Therapy Fund

“Heal Haus Health therapy funds is a black owned wellness studio in Brooklyn. They're really the only studio that I collaborate with and do work from. They have a therapy fund [you can donate to] that's raising money for free therapy for black folks.”

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Aesthete Tea Bad Moon Rising Tea

“In the last three to five minutes of your breathwork experience, just give yourself a moment to rest in silence. Just sink into that deeply relaxed state, and then always ending with some movement with the body, whether that's dancing or finding some deep stretches. But give yourself a moment to integrate and feel into the new energy and all the space you've created in the body.”

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Grandma Baby Apothecary Black Gold Lenormand Deck

“There's this idea that meditation, from the more Eastern practices of sitting on a cushion or sitting on top of a mountain and focusing on your breath. Meditation is really just being present in the moment and really activating witness consciousness. And so that's what we do in breathwork.”

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The Ancestor Project Mutual Ceremony Fund

“There's this idea that meditation, from the more Eastern practices of sitting on a cushion or sitting on top of a mountain and focusing on your breath. Meditation is really just being present in the moment and really activating witness consciousness. And so that's what we do in breathwork.”

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oHHo Apple Rose CBDots

“I consider breathwork an active meditation. The definition of meditation is really just a moment to release the thinking mind. Meditation can look like so many things for different people-- running as a meditation for some folks, cleaning is a meditation, dancing as another form of active meditation.”

Angry Black Tea Cacao Smoke Tea

“The active touch. Another medicine of the body in a way that we receive healing is through the hands. That's another thing that is a component of the healing process of the breathwork process and helping us kind of transcend and integrate the experiences from that.”

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Lily CBD The Evening Gift Set

“As aftercare goes, I always love a long hot soak in the bath with sea salts or I'll just treat myself to a self massage. So using a really nice oil or even just shea butter just to massage the body and connect with my breath in that way; to bring myself back into the present moment and saying affirmations like I am safe, I am whole, I am here, I am present."

Black Futures by Kimberly Drew & Jenna Wortham

“I also highly recommend and really love this book, not because I have a written piece in there, but because it’s a fantastic celebration of Black Culture.”

Flora Lee Naturals Gardener's Beauty Oil

“Emotions are a thought and a feeling together. We’ve ruminated on the thoughts, we've ruminated on the emotions, but the feeling and the sensation is still there. So if you could think of a moment when you were happy and you could feel where, what that felt like in your body, maybe your heart felt really light, or there were butterflies in your stomach, or your hands were tingling, or you couldn't stop smiling. That's the sensory experience of that emotion.”

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