Inspired to Breathe by Elisa Harris

I have taken away so many wonderful things during my first year of practising at Inspire…… met wonderful people, discovered a love of paddle boarding, become more confident in how I feel about myself (that’s the beauty of a non-competitive & nurturing environment) and learnt how to be kinder to myself…..but the biggest inspiration for me is that I have learnt how to breathe again. Such a simple thing, something we do constantly without thinking about it, 960 times an hour, 23,040 times a day. However, this wasn’t the case for me. I’m a runner – something I have loved to do for as long as I can remember, it gives me total freedom, a sense of release and a chance to clear my head. Then two years ago I began to notice that I had moments where I felt short of breath when exercising – I would have to stop and take a moment as the dizziness set in. I went to see my GP and was referred with a heart murmur – tests followed and in the final one I collapsed……it was at this point I was told my heart was ok but there was a respiratory issue. More tests followed along with a raft of new symptoms – hair loss, tingling down my arms, insomnia, dizzy spells, my confidence slowly disappeared. I no longer went running for fear that something might happen, I quit the gym and no longer wanted to go out and socialise. Eventually I was diagnosed with hyperventilation; I was taking more than double the number of normal breathes and starving my body of oxygen, slowly poisoning my system.

I needed to learn how to slow down and to breathe correctly – sounds simple right? Not for me…..I am one of those people who move through life at a million miles an hour, finding it almost impossible to be still and take a moment. So it was the perfect timing when a friend messaged me about a new hot yoga studio opening in Maidenhead. I had tried two classes before (not hot) and got bored, especially being an inflexible runner I became frustrated at finding it so difficult – I didn’t really get it. However, knowing that I had to find a way to slow down I signed up and went along – scared to be honest and with little expectation. I was shocked to find I fell in love with it straight away (the warm welcome and being in a hot room made a huge difference) –it was perfect learning how to connect the breathe with movement, to back off when the breathe became ragged, not to worry about what anyone else was doing, to still the mind, to only breathe through the nose, to be on a continual journey that was about personal growth and not competing.

My journey continued slowly, I tried different classes; I began to learn how to take control of my breathing outside of the studio (pausing to take a moment when needed, slowing my speech, breathing deeply). I stayed away from running for the next few months and took my first 30 day hot yoga challenge which benefitted me hugely both physically and emotionally.

At the start of this year I felt confident enough to start running again (by myself) short runs to start with and always letting my husband know my route. I felt better – stronger physically and mentally. Hot yoga has given me the tools to breathe more deeply in my running, to be in the moment rather than thinking about the last mile or what lies ahead, increased flexibility (the first time I touched my toes in a class I couldn’t stop smiling), to let go of the things which aren’t important which in turn helps me preserve energy, to scan my body and understand how it feels and most importantly to listen to it! The runs got longer and in March I signed up for my first race in a long time – as I crossed that finish line and got given my medal I could’ve cried, it was such a relief and a real sense of achievement. Since then I have completed 10 events and next week I will run 18 miles in the Thames Path Challenge raising money for charity. I have a place in the London Marathon next year and also my first endurance race booked and with the support of Inspire I truly believe once again that I can do this!

I found this amazing community at Inspire – it has changed my life, this supportive environment where I finally learnt it was ok to let go, to break down and slowly rebuild myself at my own pace to come out the other side stronger. I cannot imagine my life without my mat and yoga now and I also have my running back. I have been inspired in so many ways over the last year – I am happier, calmer, more mindful, all my symptoms have gone, I am running again, my confidence is back, I have learnt to detox my life of negativity and most importantly I finally learnt to let go and exhale……………….