The science of slow: Why we all need to take time out to breathe

I have to admit, I have a fraught history with mediation. I can barely lie still during my yoga class's shivasana, and I usually end up daydreaming about breakfast when I'm supposed to be centring myself.

My complete inability to find stillness actually brings me some stress - surely counterproductive - as countless studies emerge on the importance of meditation in the mainstream.

It reportedly improves memory, attention span, blood pressure, weight control - the list of surely endless benefits goes on. So if, like me, you struggle to find stillness unassisted, where can we train that muscle?

Enter brthe (yes, correct spelling, that's how it's spelt) - the 'mind gym' in Parnell offering mentoring in meditation with classes like Exhale, Journal, and Sleep . It's kind of like F45 but for breathing and relaxing - but to be honest, they probably won't run with that tagline.

meditation class at Brthe
A meditation class in action at Brthe. Photo credit: Supplied.

Entering the space, I was a little nervous, but founder Brittany Kendall welcomed me with a tea and a smile. 

I had high hopes for a kindergarten-esque 'nap time', but instead class teacher Hannah took us through Yoga Nidra-type meditation where we relaxed different parts of our bodies. I ended up somewhere between sleep and awake - but 'came back' into the room at the end of the class feeling like it was one of the best snoozes I'd ever had.

One girl in the corner even did drop off into sleep - but that's okay too. You get the impression anything goes in this little city sanctuary.

Sleep class at Brthe
Get comfy in the sleep class. Photo credit: Supplied.

Brittany Kendall told me later it was the hustle bustle and 'fitness culture' of Auckland life that inspired her to start brthe.

"It was born from a deep concern that as a society we place a biased emphasis on our physical health, often fuelled by our 'social media' culture of hyper-comparison," she explained.  "I recognised that we are well-educated about the importance of healthy eating, and cultivating regular exercise, but we lack understanding of the importance and more critically, the tools to turn to, when it comes to caring for our minds, and emotional wellbeing."

Kendall, aware that mediation can sometimes be intimidating for the everyman or woman, said she wanted to make it more readily available.

"I wanted brthe to take mindfulness, layer our own fun, relatable tone - and make a regular practice feel accessible and convenient in a class-like format."

She added she's trying to remove the "'woo-woo stigma' we associate with mediation". 

"I wanted to make it feel familiar and mainstream because I believe it could well be the antidote to our stress epidemic."

The science of slow: Why we all need to take time out to breathe
Photo credit: Supplied.

The dream has been achieved, with Kendall saying they've had hundreds of 'brth-ers' through their doors to pull up a cushion and get zenned.  But for such a 'peace and love' filled space, it didn't come so easy. Kendall says she faced multiple knockbacks trying to bring her vision to life.

"To be honest with you, it was a real challenge bringing brthe to life," she revealed. "I left many meetings heartbroken, after being met with multiple warnings including, 'this will never fly' and 'it's too risky, it's never been done', and right before we were about to open our doors, 'my advice to you is to cut your losses while you still can and let this one go'.

"I think as a young woman, with extremely limited resources in the way of budget (my very pitiful life savings) it was really challenging bringing brthe to life in the way I had imagined - during the fit-out process I was teaching a mindfulness programme, in an Auckland primary school and it was difficult to show up my normal cheerful, energetic self in the face of what felt like setback after setback."

But she pushed through and now has a group of teachers and regular brth-ers through their doors daily.

So if the rat race is getting a little too much, take yourself down for a post-work snooze. In Kendall's words, "Too often we take an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach" - let's get in control of our brains, people.

"I like to think of us as standing at the top of the cliff offering a little support when the going gets tough," she finished. "I feel like we are all craving a little peace amongst our chaotic, 21st-century lifestyles."

Hand in the air over here.