The Power of Holistic Tools to Help Promote Your Body’s Natural Healing Ability with Sarah Lamb

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I’ve personally known Sarah, affectionately known as Mac, for over twenty-five years now. We've been through highs and lows, but I can now put my hand on my heart and say that she is in the best possible space I’ve ever known. Life’s a journey.  Stuff happens, sometimes  good stuff, sometimes bad stuff. But finding tools to cope in times of need (and ideally  holistic natural ways) can really change your life down a different path of reward and positivity.

YOU CAN LISTEN TO OUR CHAT WITH SARAH BY CLICKING HERE.

Good Change

Sarah, firstly, tell us a little bit about you, your upbringing, your background.

Sarah

Wow, all of my background, I think everything has brought me to this space. So, I had quite a traditional upbringing. I'm half Scottish, so there's the Mac, there's the McDonald. And I grew up in Dunedin and Australia and England. We traveled around a lot, and my Dad was a Doctor. It was a wonderful upbringing - so loving and supportive and you know really quite an adventurous upbringing with all these different places that we lived.

But as I’ve had children and kind of looked back, it's really interesting to now see my parents, I guess, in a whole new light and in the way that they were. They were seekers, a little like me. I think they were curious, creative, they kind of fitted into the mould, but they were also looking outside the mould - our way to get more out of life and maybe just to live a little bit differently. So yeah, I’m really inspired by them in the way that they were, in the upbringing that we had, and yeah, I guess that seeker in me is a reflection of that. I had a really wonderful upbringing, yet there are moments that I can really recall where I guess this journey all began for me. There were moments where I felt a little bit alone in the world and I’m not really sure why that was looking back, but I think it was just this feeling that there's something more, and I wasn't really sure what it was. So, I can just pinpoint these moments throughout my life where I guess I began to question, what is this all about, why am I here? It’s almost like I didn't really understand what this gig was all about like, how was I supposed to act, how was I meant to be in this world and for me, that was the beginning of sort of morphing myself into this person that I thought everyone else wanted me to be, you know that sort of lowering of expectations of what is the normal, and how society rewards us and sees us, and I responded really well to that. I became this kind of like expert actor in the play of my life, which was a very interesting process for me. And I see it now in reflection of course. You don't you just notice these things when you're growing up. But yeah, I see that the seeking and this looking for something else started when I was quite young. So that's kind of brought me here and through a very big journey, as you say, to get here.

Good Change

I remember growing up, your dad was a Doctor, but he probably wasn't the conventional doctor? I think he took a year off, he went off and went surfing and played in his band for a year, and you all ended up over in England, your Dad studying at Oxford University doing a specialty and you travelled around Europe at a camper van with four kids squashed in it.

Sarah

I think it was always a battle for them to conform to the society and providing for the family and doing the traditional side you know. Dad was a dreamer and a creator and a star gazer. He was just a real intellect. And my mom was very much a holistic mother, so she really bought us up. I remember being so annoyed as a kid because we never had any treats in the house. It was always like if you want something sweet, there’s raisins. She did transcend into meditation in the nineties way before it was fashionable.

She was interested in the holistic being and the whole person and wellness on a holistic level. So I have the Doctor Dad, who was an anesthetist, so it was all about drugs and that very kind of treatment style medicine, yet he was also really, I would say, a philosopher very much involved in this kind of whole body mind healing aspect. So I think, yeah, all those seeds began this journey for me.

Good Change

I think that was sort of my next question is, how did you end up, all these years down the track, to where you are today in terms of looking at breath work and the power of breath work? I guess it's been fed into you from an early age through your upbringing as well, but how did you actually get to this point, running a business called Breathe Free?

Sarah

I guess it's always been an interest to look for these kind of holistic ways of being. I studied PE at Otago, and this involved looking at the physical body. I actually majored in Physiology, so I’ve done this beautiful round circle right back to diving very deep into the physiology of the breath and how it restores and the changes that are created actually within the body - the science of the breath. So that's been a really amazing return.

I guess I came to breathwork in the form of addiction and that was a really big journey for me to recover. But you know, I believe everyone has struggles, and these challenges in their lives. And that's our opportunity. It's our break open point, it's our moment where we can take a look inside and probably a theme for another day. It’s a very big topic to go into, but needless to say I had to really strip back to the basics over this recovery and it was partly around what I mentioned earlier - this way that I had learned to be in the world, which was about morphing myself into what everyone else wanted me to be and I had just grown further and further and further away from me. I had just really disconnected.

Good Change

They say you’re like an onion. You build up all these layers over the years from people that you associate with. You’re the product of your environment. And if you just strip it all back again, you can actually get back to the core.

Sarah

Yeah and for me, some of that was forced open through the process of recovering from alcohol addiction but for all of us, we create these layers, this armor, that helps us to survive. We’re all survival machines actually. Everything we're doing, we're doing for ourselves to survive in the world, and so we naturally build up all these various layers. And the breaking down of all of that, I was able to begin to have a proper relationship with myself again, to remember who I was, to kind of come back to myself and I went through this process of rebuilding myself and starting afresh. Starting afresh with my marriage as well, those relationships around you, they're all affected by the way that we are in the world. It's really been a huge transition. As you said the layers of the onion were all peeled away and I was left pretty raw, and I looked for tools to come back to myself, and it probably all started with yoga.

So yoga for me was a way of connecting into my body, and it was a time where I could just slow down and listen. It was self-care. It was all of those things that I needed at the time and I just love yoga. It's such a beautiful part of my life.

I thought for a long time that maybe I’d become a yoga teacher, maybe that's my calling. But, for some reason, I kept putting off doing the training. I was signed up a few times, and something held me back from doing that. But, I really loved Pranayama which is the yoga style of breathing. The breath has its origins in the mystics. It’s thousands of years old. So, I looked at how to teach just the breathing portion of yoga, and then I had an absolutely transformational breathwork journey. I was in Kauai on a woman's wellness retreat, which was a really beautiful, nourishing time, and we did a two hour breathwork session, and there was music and there was a guide, and it just absolutely blew my mind how I responded. The experience that I had, the insights that I had in the sense afterwards, it was this huge sense of freedom. I had just released and let go of all this baggage I’d been carrying with me, and I didn't even really know that I was carrying it so it was really a transformational experience from that moment on. I realized that this is what I’ve been looking for. This is the practice that I can dive into. And now I have the privilege of sharing it with others.

Good Change

It's just fascinating but I’m speaking from someone who is completely ignorant. So I'm thinking that a lot of our readers will probably be in the same boat as us. In terms of learning more about how that transformational process takes place, referring to the old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We have the basic needs - the food, the water, the warmth, the rest, as well as the safety needs in terms of security. We’ve even got the psychological needs, belongingness and love as well as esteem. Finally, at the top of the pyramid we have self-fulfillment needs of self-actualization, so achieving one's full potential including creative activities etc.

Would you say that the power of breathing helps you achieve the top of that pyramid? Is it like the cherry on the top, because to me breathing is something that we all do every day? We walk down the street, and we breathe. We breathe in and breathe out. Or, is it that we are just not doing it properly?

Sarah

Well, there's a lot in that question. I would actually say it's not the cherry on top, it's the foundation of everything that you've just mentioned. Yes, we breathe every day, it's an automatic function of the autonomic nervous system, but we're not breathing properly.

Most people don't breathe properly. I’m not a dysfunctional breathing expert, but most of us are either holding our breath or breathing shallow. Over breathing also causes a lot of problems and is part of what people do when they’re breathing just from the top of the chest. So, I guess it is the cherry on the top in that it can help you to really tune into your highest inner guidance so whatever is going on for you, whatever you deeply know within you, the breath work can really help you tap into that. So, there's that self-actualization, that realizing what your purpose is and what is your truth, what am I here to do, what is really my purpose here on earth, those types of really big questions. It's just a beautiful unfolding that happens with breath work.

But there's also the foundational aspect of it. I mean, when we're breathing properly, fully and deeply, we are really creating space and freedom in our body. We're creating resilience in our nervous system, so we can cope with the ups and downs and things that are thrown at us. We’re not like leaves in the wind that are just thrown around. There's so much in the breath, and it's really, for me, why breathwork is so powerful because it's both a science and an art form. The science is just undeniable, irrefutable and I love to say to people, maybe who are sceptics or maybe not so much skeptics or they're just they're thinking, “well, it's probably not gonna work for me because I couldn't be hypnotized”, whatever their preconceived ideas are about the breath work, maybe they're just a little resistant to it. And I’ll say, well, “guess what, the breath is going to affect you, whether you like it or not, you just show up and you breathe”, and the physiological changes in your body happen, whether your minds going a million miles an hour the changes will happen in your body, the physiological changes so that in itself is why it is such a foundational practice for people.

Good Change

When you say changes that will happen in your body, do you have an example of someone you've worked with where you saw something happen or they talk to you afterwards about how they experienced it. I’m just trying to think about what it actually feels like or what to expect.

Sarah

Well, there's the physiological changes that are happening, so the things that happen in your body as you breathe and you flood the body with oxygen, you change the CO2 level in your blood and you actually trigger the release of hormones, your body's natural medicines get released from the brain, so there's dopamine, serotonin, there's endorphins, those feel good chemicals. So, on a chemical level, that's what's happening in the body. , but it's actually very complex, but as a basic explanation there's you know, there's the flooding of the body with oxygen. You're oxygenating all the cells and then you're triggering the release of these different neurotransmitters around the body, and this creates this altered state. So we are reaching this altered state and that's what I meant when I said that it's happening whether you’re on board or not. Jump on the train and start breathing and you're going to arrive at an experience, at a destination of an altered experience, a different perspective. So people feel warm, they feel tingly often they can feel like energy moving through their body. They may have emotions come up, things that have just been bubbling away beneath the surface. They can have the feeling of floating, they can have just a deep sense of peace, of bliss, of oneness with themselves with everything around them. Just a really deep sense of peace is often reported. That's what I feel when I when I do breathwork.

So there’s an arc of the journey of a breath work so you breathe over a period of time, and that's how these changes happen in the body and what's really happening is you're sort of switching off your conscious mind and you’re dropping down into your limbic brain but it's your feeling body. It's where you experience things as a ‘feeling’ human being without all of the noise of the stories sometimes or the judgments or the criticisms that we can make of ourselves. So after about fifteen or twenty minutes of breathing, you're really entering that state where you're kind of turning that ‘monkey mind’ off for a while. And it's beautiful, it's so nice to get a relief from all that noise. Your mind is so busy telling you stories, positioning everything and rehearsing and either living in the past, ruminating or projecting into the future, so in breathwork you are in the present moment, and you've switched off that critical mind, so it's really a beautiful place to be.

Good Change

And I think in this day and age as well because it's such a busy, noisy world that we live in and a complicated world as well and there's just so much in terms of technology. There's just stuff being thrown at us in all directions and the heightened anxiety and the depression out there. With breathwork, do you feel like there's an offering here that can give you more than just a traditional medicine through breathwork?

Sarah

Wow, yes, absolutely. I think it's just enhancing what traditional medicine can do. I mean, you can't separate the mind and the body that's the reality. When we have a thought or emotion it creates energy in our body, and that energy moves through our body, so we can make huge affect on our body just through our thoughts and our emotions. So, the breathwork can absolutely enhance. You know, modern medicine is a miracle sometimes but it's often treating the symptom rather than the root cause, and there's almost always an emotional element to either the root cause, but certainly dealing with illness or disease in the body. It's like this emotional element. And that's where the breathwork, if you layer on top of a traditional medicine, you can really start to get the power of your body starting to work in tandem with traditional medicine.

Stine, you asked me about feedback people have given me from breathwork and whether there's some examples of people who are doing breathwork and what kind of benefits that they're receiving. So, I’m working currently with a woman who has quite severe anxiety. She's got young children and all the usual pressures. She's been diagnosed with postnatal depression and is under the guidance of mental health professionals. So you asked how breathwork ties in with traditional therapies? It's really about layering the breathwork on top of what the help that she's already getting but what she's reporting to me is how much she just loves our sessions because she's able to really not have to go in anymore into the details of what's been going on in her life and she can actually escape it for a while. She can really go deeper into her body and actually have this beautiful experience where she feels no anxiety at all, where she feels really peaceful in that moment. She's not thinking about ruminating on the past, she's not worrying about the future. She's just having this deep, deep sense of wellbeing and peace and calm. And I’ve been able to give her some takeaway practices, just like a short five minute technique that she uses whenever she feels anxiety rising during the day. She'll just stop and do a very short breath technique, and it just helps to bring her back to center. And, because she we're doing the longer breathwork journeys together her body and mind kind of remembers this feeling that she's just had in that longer, breathwork session, and she's able to really quickly feel a sense of calm, and it just really helps her.

Good Change

Yes, I guess some people might do some breathing through yoga or meditation, but that focused breath work is a bit of an add on. I’m thinking, in our busy lives, I would probably have time for five minutes as a novice.

Sarah

Absolutely, I mean five minutes is enough, and this is what I give to my clients is take away practices depending on how they want to change the way they feel. That's the magic and beauty of the breath is that the breath actually changes the way we feel and that you can do it in just a few minutes. So there's techniques. Generally a long, slow, deep breath with a long slow exhale is going to calm the nervous system down. So, if you're feeling anxiety, you want to make sure that your exhaling longer than you're inhaling and inhaling through your nose so you're not activating the body too much. So that's one style. I actually did some breath work in the car on the way here. I mean, just breathing, taking awareness to your belly and breathing. You can just do it now. You can just take your breath instead of feeling it where it stops, which is normally around the upper chest, if you just take a breath in and feel it come right down into your belly and then you just let that breath out long and slow and through pursed lips as well like you're blowing through a straw, that is the most calming effect on your nervous system, so a long, slow inhale through the nose, breathing down into your belly. I like to put my hands on my belly because it reminds me that I'm breathing into that space and then long and slow through the mouth, and that honestly, even just a few minutes of that, you will feel different. You feel calmer. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed. We juggle so much. We have so much on our plate. So that's a really nice centering, grounding calming technique.

Good Change

I think that's very practical, and I can use it stirring a pot for dinner or sitting in the car or whether you want to do it while the children are screaming? That's amazing, though, because there seems to be a real worldwide shift towards mindfulness and such a hectic world that we live in. It seems to be getting busier and busier and busier. There's so much noise out there. So we're just so grateful to hear that there's these really simple proactive steps that we can take, and we can do it in five minutes. I love it to help create the calm and bring on that lovely peace that we're all looking for.

Sarah

I think what's so beautiful is that the breath is yours. It's with you all throughout the day and when you learn these really simple techniques you can really change the way that you can are in the world, the way that you show up, the way that you react and this in turn vibrates that to everyone around you, the way that you are and that's how you actually attract your reality. I can pretty much tell in the morning from our morning routine, how the day is going to go, when you're feeling a little bit anxious, and you're a bit short with the kids. In turn, they respond to that energy that you're putting out. So if you can just take a moment to center yourself and create more space and a little bit of distance between yourself and your reactions as well, (that's the other thing that the breath can give you is just that little moment of awareness between a thought and reacting because breathwork is all about tuning in and becoming a bit more of an observer about the way that you are, the way that you're feeling) you can become a bit more emotionally intelligent in stopping and listening in this busy world.

You can reach Sarah at her website www.breathefree.co.nz and learn more about her range of courses available.

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