On March 26, YWL participated in a breathwork session led by Beth Mountford. The session took place at Chi Junky, an airy and bright yoga studio in the east end.
Beth led the group through breathing exercises that focused awareness on our breathing pattern to bring about relaxation and stress relief. As a legal recruiter and former lawyer, Beth acknowledged the stresses and challenges experienced by lawyers, especially in their first few years of practice.
After we settled in, Beth explained that she would take us through a journey over the next 75-minutes. We would be led through exercises that would vary the pace of our breath, bringing attention to every inhale and exhale.
We lied down on mats with some props that you would typically find at a yoga class, like pillows, cushions and blankets. There were also eye masks for anyone who wanted to participate in complete darkness. I popped a cushion under my legs and draped a blanket on top for some extra warmth.
Beth explained that we might experience some unexpected sensations during the session, such as tingling in our arms and legs or tetany, also called “claw hands”, where your hands become stiff due to your veins contracting. This is a result of a drop in carbon dioxide from rapid breathing. These involuntary muscle contractions are a physiological reaction, but they can also have a psycho-spiritual meaning – a sign of the release of pent up feelings – a “letting go”. Beth turned on some music that played through the session with the beat of each song bringing focus to the pace of our breath.
There was something very meditative and calming about the exercises. I had never spent so much time focusing only on my breathing and nothing else. About halfway into the session I felt pins and needles climbing up my legs. I had to keep wiggling my toes so it would dissipate. When we concluded the session, we discussed the different sensations we felt, from tingling toes to the claw hands. While some may have had a deeper experience than others, everyone seemed very calm and at ease by the end. I left with a peaceful mind and a new openness to practising breathwork.
If you were not able to make it to the session and want to try breathwork at home, Beth suggested “box breathing”. This technique involves a cycle of inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and then holding your breath for four seconds. This method is so simple that you can try it at your desk between Zoom calls.
YWL would like to thank Geez Louise Beverages, a women-owned business that makes prebiotic drinks.
Katrina is a director of ACCESS Community Capital Fund, a charity based in Toronto, and she volunteers as a member-at-large of the Ontario Bar Association Charities and Not-for-Profit Law Section Executive. Katrina has authored articles in the Estates, Trusts & Pensions Journal, Canadian Tax Foundation Conference Report and Ontario Bar Association Section Insider.