As spiritual wellbeing becomes a new measure of health, travellers are searching for a getaway that offers something beyond unlimited spa treatments and bargain shopping, writes Emma Vidgen.
The girls’ trip has come a long way since the all-inclusive booze cruise. As the pace of modern life reaches dizzying new speeds, so too does the need for something meaningful. Healing modalities once dismissed as ‘new age’ are increasingly topping holiday wish lists.
“Most of the people I work with are stereotypical professionals who are living very fast lives and are very often parents,” says Alan Dolan, aka the Breath Guru. “What they have in common is that they’re overloaded and have so many responsibilities.”
Today’s spiritual getaways are all about stepping off the hamster wheel and reconnecting with yourself. Here, we round up five now-age trends coming to a holiday near you…
WHAT IS IT? “Breathwork is a self-healing modality designed to be done by you, for you,” says Dolan. Using a series of connected breathing exercises and techniques, the practice puts participants into a meditative state where the body can rest and repair.
HOW IT WORKS “Breathwork activates the body’s auto-pilot recalibration system,” says Dolan. “The cells begin to work better and more efficiently, and that means you also work more efficiently.” Dolan has helped people with ailments ranging from depression and anxiety to sleep disorders, chronic fatigue and severe pain. “Indigenous tribes have been experimenting with sound, rhythm, movement and breath since the dawn of time. To me, breathwork is very, very ancient. We’re really just rediscovering it.”
WHERE TO TRY IT Dolan runs workshops throughout the year from his property in Lanzarote, Spain. Four-night retreats start from approximately $2000 per person.
“…In our final one-to-one session, Alan says, ‘Let’s see if we can get you to Nirvana…’
With each breathing session, I’ve gone deeper into my body and, by now, the feeling is comfortingly familiar. While I wouldn’t call it blissful, it feels more natural and when the session ends, I surprise myself by finding tears flowing down my cheeks. The strange thing is that I don’t feel sad or emotional, in fact, I feel strangely calm, but every sensation is heightened – touch, sound and vision – it feels quite psychedelic, with the brightness turned up to max. ‘There you go, you made it,’ says Alan. ‘Just wow!’, I scrawl later in my journal.
Back home, and doing daily 10-minute sessions every morning, my exhaustion is a distant memory. I feel charged with energy and ready to handle anything the festive season (and Southern Railway) can throw at me. Connected breathing is one of the best antidotes to stress and anxiety, and at this busy time of year, I’m using it to find calm in the chaos.”
“Breathing techniques have been used for millennia to engage the parasympathetic system (responsible for the body’s unconscious actions), lower stress hormones and calm overactive minds. The brand of “conscious breathing” employed by breath guru Mr Alan Dolan aims to open up the full capacity of the lungs (workaholics and urbanites tend to use just 25%) in order to release excess emotional baggage, increase oxygen to starved tissue and recharge energy levels.
The technique was a game changer for Mr Dolan himself. A former PR manager in the aerospace industry, he achieved his financial goals only to remain deeply unsatisfied. The shift he experienced from breath work encouraged him to formalise a method that has tangible effects on his clients’ daily lives: smokers can be reformed, the anxious can find ease and the vast majority experience some level of emotional release.
Mr Dolan’s popularity means private sessions aren’t always immediately available, a conundrum that led him to create an app that features a series of easy-to-follow instructional videos for each day of the week.”
“…There are City boys who’ve trained with Dolan who say he’s helped them sharpen their focus. There are pop and rock stars who report that his breathing technique gives them a bigger buzz than drugs. The actress Naomie Harris is a past student…
…Suddenly, I know what those hard-partying rockers are on about. My body is flooded with a wonderful energy. The sensation lasts for about 10 blissful minutes before being replaced by a sense of clarity and concentration, which remains for the rest of the day…
…My fellow students are similarly seduced. One is a fiftysomething property developer who realised he had to address his stress levels as he struggled into an ambulance with a suspected heart attack. He reports feelings of elation, vibrations through his body, and a few tears. By day three, he looks 10 years younger. The other is a twentysomething actress on her second visit in six months…
…Back home, I’m now on 20,000 deep breaths a day and officially addicted.”
“…Breathing is one of life’s simplest pleasures and can be done anywhere, anytime, at little-to-no cost — go ahead, try it now. But those who are looking for something a little more high-end can get their kicks with a four-day breathing retreat in a beautiful poolside villa in Lanzarote (one of the Canary Islands)…
…My first foray into capitalistic respiration cost less than a green juice. For $3.99, I obtained a breathing app from the man who runs that Lanzarote retreat I mentioned earlier, “BreathGuru” Alan Dolan… It’s pleasant to lie down and breathe for either 10 or 30 minutes, which are the two options. Nothing much is demanded of you, and breathing is a clinically proven stress reliever (you can read about this March 2017 Stanford University study on breathing’s positive effects on emotion, if you’d like)…
…The BreathGuru’s claims don’t stop at stress relief, however. “Degenerative diseases, cardiac problems, and cancer are linked to oxidative stress and cellular free-radical damage, and breath is a key factor in prevention,” Dolan said in a Net-A-Porter article on the power of breathing. “When the breath is out of kilter, your body’s fight-or-flight mode is heightened. But get the breath right and cells are flooded with oxygen, so the body begins to recalibrate and release toxins…”
“…Conscious breathing in Lanzarote: BreathGuru’s retreat is located in a rural location in the most easterly part of the Canary Islands. This luxury sanctuary is a villa that only accommodates 4 guests at a time to ensure maximum relaxation (and learning). Daily 1-1 breath sessions with Alan Dolan – the owner and guru – takes place in the complete privacy of a therapy room and can be coupled with massage, personal training, or even volcano climbing. The rest of the day is spent sunbathing on the local beach – Famara – and enjoying freshly made vegetarian meals…”
“…I’m in a Zen-like refuge in the hills of Lanzarote, being lulled into a meditative trance by Alan Dolan, one of the world’s leading mind-body practitioners. I’ve just had the best craniosacral massage of my life…
On top of Alan’s reputation for being no-nonsense, breathwork can be life-changing. One of the strongest well-being trends of the past year, its devotees (including Kate Hudson and Naomie Harris) swear that it eradicates stress, improves digestion, boosts energy levels and helps with trauma and emotional upheaval.
What’s more, between twice-daily ‘conscious breathing’ sessions at his sellout Breathing Space workshop, there are volcanoes to hike, delicious veggie meals, and world-class massages and bodywork sessions from Martin Cairoli plus individual counselling sessions from Donna Lancaster. It’s the Rolls-Royce of wellness breaks and, I’d thought, the perfect one to pop Sean’s cherry…
Alan rouses us, and everyone apart from me gently moves, opening their eyes, starry-eyed and blown-of-mind. Including Sean. ‘I really don’t understand what just happened, but that was amazing,’ he says, softly, and takes my hand…”
“…Go to a breathing workshop at the Landmark London’s newly revamped spa. The Marylebone hotel’s red-brick exterior and fabulous glass-ceilinged atrium, complete with towering palm trees, are like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, but the spa is decidedly modern, as is its partnership with the Breathguru, Alan Dolan. “Conscious breathing” is tipped to be one of 2018’s hottest wellness trends, promising to banish anxiety, cure insomnia and alleviate stress and depression. Dolan’s approach is brilliant if you’re normally too fidgety for traditional meditation methods. His “connected breath” technique – mouth wide open, long inhale and shorter exhale, with no pause in between – not only fills the body with energising oxygen, but also requires considerable physical focus (which stops the mind meandering back to unsent emails).
Unlike many modern-day “gurus”, who create dependency on their services, Dolan promises he can teach you this life-changing technique in just one session (though when you meet him, you can see why people keep going back). You’ll walk out feeling not only relaxed but inexplicably lighter, as though your lungs are somehow larger…”
“…‘Breath is literally life,’ says BreathGuru app founder Alan Dolan. “When you breathe better, you live better.’ Which makes the fact that most of us only use 20% of our lung capacity a priority issue.
‘Degenerative diseases, cardiac problems and cancer are linked to oxidative stress and cellular free-radical damage, and breath is a key factor in prevention,’ says Dolan. When the breath is out of kilter, your body’s fight-or-flight mode is heightened. But get the breath right and cells are flooded with oxygen, so the body begins to recalibrate and release toxins. Research shows that breathwork also relieves stress and depression.
‘Breath is as unique as a fingerprint, but 80% of us are shallow, upper-chest breathers,’ warns Dolan. To test, place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, close your eyes and inhale deeply through the mouth. Whichever hand moves most shows whether your breath is upper (chest) or lower (belly) – good breath is a balance of both…”
“…Today Alan brings his Conscious Breathing techniques and breathing exercises to clients in private 1-1 sessions in London, Dublin and Brazil, as well as in groups or ‘retreats’ at his luxury and peaceful Breathing Space villa in Lanzarote.
The breathing exercises and techniques he teaches are safe and easy to do, whilst anyone can reap the stress relieving benefits just like he has.
‘Conscious Breathing brought the magic and mystery that I experienced as a child back into my adult life.’ Reveals the former PR manager.
‘Life had become very black and white for me and I was on a career trajectory which was mostly about perceived status and money.
‘I’d lived with depression since my early teens and had got by using tobacco and alcohol but once I discovered Breathwork my 20-30 cigarettes a day habit ceased.
‘My alcohol consumption reduced massively and I cleared the depression in 12 weeks.
‘That was fourteen years ago and since then I’ve continued to refine and no longer do caffeine and I’m mainly vegetarian.’
Over the last decade Alan’s successes in offering stress relief and transforming his clients lives through Breathwork have been many…”