In September last year, he invited Breathless Expeditions founder Johannes Egberts, a breathwork expert and mentee of Mr Hof, to run two sessions at a company conference for Mad Mex’s suppliers and franchisees.

Mr Egberts hosted a one-hour breathwork session on both days of the conference, and followed the second session with an ice bath challenge that about a third of the 120 attendees opted into.

“It absolutely blew everyone away,” Mr Young said. “People came out and hugged me and said, ‘that’s the most important thing I’ve ever done’.”

The fast-food company founder told The Australian Financial Review the sessions combined team bonding with personal development and exposed attendees to new ideas that could help them become better leaders.

He said it felt like an appropriate and non-intrusive way of supporting the mental health of his suppliers and franchisees after a challenging pandemic.

“As a business leader, it’s awfully hard to know when and where to get involved in people’s mental health,” Mr Young said. “Exposing people to tools you know can be beneficial for stress management seems like a good thing to do.”

Mr Egberts has led more than 100 face-to-face workshops with employees from ASX-listed companies and introduced more than 3000 people to breathwork, ice experiences and free diving over the past 12 months. Prices range from $85 for a three-hour breathwork session to $2199 for a four-day retreat in the Snowy Mountains that includes food and accommodation.

Breathwork expert Johannes Egberts (left) also hosts expeditions to the Snowy Mountains in NSW.  

Mr Egberts told the Financial Review the corporate side of his business had grown organically. People who worked in the corporate sector often attended his workshops privately before inviting him to visit their companies and host sessions for their teams, he said.

Earlier this year, he hosted three sessions at The Outside, PwC’s four-day festival for emerging leaders that employees have dubbed “Corporate Coachella”. He has also run workshops for Optus and Atlassian.

“I teach them breathing techniques and skills to manage stress more effectively,” Mr Egberts said, adding that he often starts with a few stories about the power and importance of the breath before moving into practical exercises.

“Quite often, that will look like everybody laying down on the floor, getting comfortable, and then in the space of half an hour, [I will guide them through] some quite dynamic and varied exercises that can take people quite deep within themselves.”

Mr Egberts said these exercises often provided “an instant relief of tension and anxiety”.

“We hear that people can focus better, they can keep their concentration in one place more effectively, and they can make connections between ideas more easily,” Mr Egberts said.

MinterEllison’s Sarah Jacobson says breathwork and cold-water exposure has helped her build resilience, mental fortitude and self-awareness. 

MinterEllison’s director of knowledge management, Sarah Jacobson, has done a one-night breathwork experience and two longer retreats with Mr Egberts, including a four-day retreat in the Snowy Mountains that encompassed yoga, breathwork and cold-water exposure.

“It makes you realise that you’re so much more capable than you think you are,” Ms Jacobson said of the experiences.

Research has shown that breathwork can improve stress response and lower cortisol, blood pressure and heart rate variability, as well as relieving anxiety and improving people’s overall sense of wellbeing.

But a safety disclaimer for Mr Egberts’ PwC sessions discourages people with serious health concerns, such as heart problems, high blood pressure and kidney failure, from participating in cold-water activities.

Last month, a 39-year-old woman died of an undiagnosed heart condition when she took part in a cold-water session in the River Goyt in England, prompting calls for the regulation of cold-water therapy in Britain.

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