Breathworks CEO Helen Sullivan - Breathworks 13 October 2021

Breathworks Chief Executive Helen Sullivan shares some reflections, important milestones and what’s ahead for the organisation.

It’s a great honour to be the Chief Executive of Breathworks as the organisation celebrates its 20 year anniversary. As someone whose life has been drastically changed by Mindfulness, I jumped at the chance when I was offered the opportunity to join the team in 2014. I stepped up as Chief Executive in 2018, and was wowed by the determination and focus of Breathworks Co-Founder, Vidyamala Burch, an inspiring woman who created the organisation with the true good will to help others. It has been an honour to lead our incredible team of staff, associates and volunteers to share our life changing programmes with more people. In this 20th year, I’d like to reflect back on all that we have made possible, and look ahead to how we wish to continue our mission in the next 20 years.

Our Charity

Breathworks was founded as a not for profit social enterprise in 2004 by three amazing individuals: Vidyamala Burch, Gary Hennesey and Sona Fricker. In 2009, the Breathworks Foundation Charity was created to help raise funds and enable Breathworks programmes to be available to the broadest range of people possible and provide funding for bursaries and scholarships. As we matured as an organisation, and two of our three founders retired from their active roles, it felt timely to bring the Breathworks Community Interest Company (CIC) and The Breathworks Foundation Charity together under the shared aims of making high quality mindfulness programmes and training available to all.

This marks an important milestone in our organisation’s history as Breathworks will now be run entirely under a Charitable structure which is aligned with our deepest aims and values. As Breathworks Co-founder Vidyamala shared in her 20th Anniversary Letter, we set out on this journey with the simple aim of wanting to help people, and this step forward is helping us do just that. 

Breathworks across 20 years, illustrated by Alison Soye

Our new fundraising model allows us to fully realise our mission to make mindfulness accessible to everyone. In a "pay it forward" system, a percentage of course payments are funnelled back into our Bursary Programme, allowing one third of places on our online Mindfulness for Health Courses, Mindfulness for Stress Courses and Teacher Training Programme to be subsidised. In the last year, we were thrilled to be able to offer 99 people who were otherwise financially limited the opportunity to join one of our programmes. What we love most about this model is that it allows the community to support one another in a virtuous cycle of generosity and kindness. 

We are always looking at ways we can encourage and support diversity and inclusion on our courses, so it goes without saying that we are delighted that our charity status allows us to access grant funding to bring our programmes to wider groups of people and communities.

Building Community

Something that deserves celebration in this 20th anniversary is our mindfulness community platform: the Breathworks Community of Practice. This was established over the last year with the generous support of several donors, allowing us to reach people all around the world during the pandemic to offer support, community and connection. We provide regular practices and teachings (of Breathworks and other mindfulness approaches) as well as community hangouts, book clubs, poetry events, special interest groups and much more. We have been delighted to hear from many how this has been a lifeline, particularly during the pandemic and periods of lockdown, and how the community we are offering is such a highlight in their lives.

April 2021, we made the decision to make the Community of Practice free of charge to fulfil our mission of reaching as many people as possible around the world. To continue to offer it as a free community platform, we are seeking sponsorship and donations from individuals and organisations. If you would like to help, or know of anyone who might, please get in touch.

What’s next?

As we look ahead, we are thinking big about what we are able to achieve over the next 20 years. Our mission by 2041 is to:

  • Help millions of people globally who live with pain, stress and illness by introducing them to mindfulness based approaches to living well.
  • Provide a 24-hour mindfulness community that gives ongoing support and inspiration to people around the world.
  • Widen the reach of our courses through initiatives such as our People of Colour Internship Programme and grant funding.

If you would like to understand more about The Breathworks Foundation, you can read our latest annual report for 2020 here.


Helen Sullivan

Chief Executive