The Breathworks Foundation

Making mindfulness accessible

We are a registered charity, with a mission is to make mindfulness accessible to everyone. Being an organisation that gives back has been important to us from the very beginning. Our Founder Vidyamala was living on benefits for many years before she was able to secure funding through a disability grant to start Breathworks. We know that many who benefit the most from our services are least able to afford it, so we are committed to help those in need through bursaries, scholarships, free resources and other funding initiatives.

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Ginny, our Head of Training and online development lead, has just finished teaching the first 8-week Breathworks Mindfulness for Health course in a fully online format and she has written a very moving blog about the joy this gave her.

I’ve just finished teaching an 8-week Breathworks Mindfulness for Health course in a fully online format and, as ever, it brought me great joy! This was the first run through of a new format that we have just developed for our online Health course. Participants take part in a live weekly online learning session in a virtual classroom, as well as having access to a whole host of resources, audio meditation guidance and discussion forums – all on our virtual learning platform throughout the 8 weeks of the course…and beyond!

"I am very grateful that the course materials are still available to me and I am actively using them. I have done many meditation courses over the years but really fell the Breathworks approach is practical and applicable in daily life and importantly lends itself to a sustainable daily practice."

Like any other mindfulness course, you start off as a group of strangers and, as the weeks go by, those people become friends and a sense of being a community of practice arises. It never ceases to amaze and delight me when this happens, perhaps especially online, as we tend to talk about it as a medium that causes isolation. During our course, people practised a deep sense of kindness towards one another and support one another in their developing practice, laughing and sympathising with one another at all the things that get in the way of our mindfulness practice, as well as sharing aha! moments, new insights, and the occasional picture of their dog ūüėČ

"The course helped me to begin to face chronic pain in a way that allows me to live a full and engaged life. It gave me hope. And it gave me tools to move ahead and continue to improve my life."

We had people from all over the UK and around the world on this particular course, including 2 from the US and one in South Africa. We had a participant who was mainly house-bound with serious illness, who attended sessions with medical monitoring equipment attached (opting to just share their audio and not their video) and another who attended in pyjamas. Most of our course group shared something about their long-term health conditions or pain, and how they had come to this course hoping for help. Some expressed a desire to go on and become mindfulness teachers themselves. One participant said that before our course she had ‘lost all hope’ – by the end of it, I was blown away to hear her share that the course had restored her sense of hope and possibility of living with her health condition through the practices, pacing and self-compassion that she had learned. This was someone who was not new to mindfulness, but who found something unique in the Breathworks approach that made all the difference. What more could I ever want as a mindfulness teacher?

"Ginny was an amazing teacher. She was kind, competent, open, honest, and had a great sense of humour. Her gentleness and warmth had a positive effect on everyone in the class. She is one of the best teachers I have ever had. A gifted teacher."

There are elements from our Health course that take a bit of imagination to bring into the online format, but we rose to the challenge with determination and creativity! It’s not so hard to teach people about key concepts such as the negativity bias by sharing some Powerpoint slides in our virtual classroom and opening it out to discussion, but how do you do course enactments that involve demonstrating learning points by doing things like piling cushions up on someone’s lap to represent their suffering, getting them to lean against another course member who represents their pain, or pretending to be the teacher’s random thoughts when she is meditating? Well, I was helped in this endeavour by the wonderful supporters on the course (three trainee Breathworks teachers supporting the course as part of their training). One of them covered themselves in cushions from their living room as I talked them through the enactment – and at least one participant reported a complete ‘aha’ moment about her suffering as a result. The ‘leaning in’ enactment was performed by a stuffed toy dog and dinosaur (playing the pain, of course!), which brought smiles to faces as well as conveying the learning point.

"I liked the format of the course. Meeting with the other participants each week made this a much richer course than any other I've taken before. Practicing together and participating in discussions and watching demonstrations was very effective. It was a hands-on class taught online. Brilliant!"

By the end of the course, we had established a firm foundation of mutual support and kindness, we had shared lots of reflections about our developing practice, our challenges and insights, and we had made a real difference to one another’s capacity to live with pain, illness and emotional turbulence and strain. Several people who had started the course pretty sceptical about how much the online mode could really give a meaningful mindfulness learning experience said how much they had enjoyed it and been surprised by the sense of warmth and community we generated together. I feel enriched personally by the experience, am profoundly moved by the transformation that I saw in those course participants over the 8 weeks of the course, and cannot wait to deliver my next online course…

Ginny Wall