Briony Fisher is an adrenaline junkie, turned Yoga Teacher and the Founder of Breathe Bend Believe, the yoga practice is Albourne that is encouraging Sussex to let go, have fun and get on their yoga mats! Whether you are an experienced yogi or new to the practice, Breathe Bend Believe Yoga is for everyone, set to some sweet beats and wobbles are always welcome – never judged.
Briony’s yoga style is Vinyasa Flow, which is a dynamic, fluid style of yoga that keeps the body moving and focuses on synchronising movement of the body with the breath. After a hard day at the office, a gruelling commute or a manic day with the kids, a visit to the Breathe Bend Believe studio is just the tonic. But don’t just take our word for it; Briony has a whole tribe of dedicated pupils, including the squad down at Brighton and Hove Albion F.C!
Keen to find calm in the chaos, Absolute Sussex caught up with Briony to learn all about her path to Breathe Bend Believe, how we can jump on the bandwagon and what the future holds for this dynamic Sussex-ite.
How did you first get into Yoga?
My background for nearly 9 years was in PR, specifically crisis media management and response in the oil, gas and shipping industry. I flew around the world consulting for companies throughout Europe, Dubai, Singapore and Africa working for an organisation that treated their colleagues like family. We travelled together, ate meals together, drank (a lot) together, even climbed mountains together. However the 24/7 lifestyle and travel and an added 2 hour door to door commute after moving to Hove, meant pushing my mind and body to the max. I was constantly fuelled by caffeine and adrenaline, fitting in workouts in lunch hours or in hotel gyms after getting off a plane.
My husband and I wanted to start a family but we struggled after I was diagnosed with PCOS and we soon got referred to a fertility clinic. The stress of trying to keep up with the pace of work and trying to stay calm and relaxed for fertility treatment was excruciating. Despite my work being super understanding, my two objectives were completely incompatible. The tipping point was loosing my dad at the beginning of 2015. He died suddenly. His passing made me realise that the way I was living my life wasn’t working for me. I could keep juggling everything, badly, or start a whole new journey. So I quit and became a yoga teacher in 2016 and at the end of the year I was pregnant with our boy Dylan who is now nearly 1 and a half.
You specialise in Vinyasa Yoga. Tell us a little about it.
Vinyasa flow yoga synchronises the movement in and out of poses with the breath and this rhythmic style of moving meditation allowed my hectic mind to slow down. It became the perfect balance of exercise and mindfulness for this highly stressed, time poor, fitness obsessed individual.
How would you describe your teaching style?
As a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I naturally bring enthusiasm and energy to all my classes. My teaching style is encouraging and supportive and my intention in every class is to help students develop and enjoy their own personal practise.
Where do you hold your classes and how would you describe your audience?
I currently teach yoga classes and 1-2-1 private yoga classes from my home studio in Albourne, as well as at Wickwoods Country Club and Rox Life in Hove.
I have had the privilege of teaching people of all ages, sizes and professions; from NHS workers and city high fliers to models and athletes and truly love the inclusive ideology at the heart of yoga. It’s not about what you look like or how flexible you are; its about your own practice taking whatever shape it can on any given day. There is no expectation or competition, only individual exploration.
I am also yoga teacher to the First and U23 teams at Premiership football team Brighton and Hove Albion FC, where I work with the players to improve strength and mobility while using guided relaxation and breathing exercises to promote relaxation and recovery.
It must be amazing working with the BHAFC squad. Are you a footie fan yourself?
I love working with the Brighton and Hove Albion football team. In a strange way I feel like my Dad is still guiding my path somewhat. A Belfast lad with a love for Liverpool FC, he brought my brother and I up as die hard reds fans and we would regularly travel up to Anfield or gather together in the pub to watch games. Football was a huge part of our family life and from school to business meetings, I never failed to enjoy the look on people’s face as I comfortably navigated the chat around Premier League title challengers and match of the day analysis.
I think I fell out of love with football once he died. It seemed meaningless to follow if he wasn’t around to talk shop with or organise meeting up to watch the games. It just wasn’t the same anymore. Working at the club has started to change all that though. It has reminded me what I used to love about the game and how it can bring people together. I was really moved when Anthony Knockhart spoke out about his depression after his fathers death and how the other players rallied round and supported him through it. Players are regularly dehumanised in the media. They earn big money and people think that because of this they don’t have problems. There is a real spirit of community at the club from the receptionist to the manager.
What is your aim when working with the BHAFC squad?
I work with both the Under 23 team and the first team and while the ages and level of play are different, the pressures are not. I try for just a short period of time to help them let go of some of those pressures. Using mindfulness, visualisation, breathing and yoga moves, I aim to help their bodies and minds relax so that they can physically and mentally repair and recover after games.
What is your overall aim when running your classes?
I choose to cater my yoga to adrenaline junkies of all kinds; whether thats athletes, fitness fanatics, workaholics or stressed out parents. I don’t want to reach the calm, serene, enlightened yogi. I want to reach the person that has their running shoes glued to their feet, their phone glued to their hand or their kids glued to their sides. As a lover of running, HIIT training, mountaineering and wake boarding, my teaching style connects with the energetic personality looking to increase strength, flexibility and decrease aches and pains, but I also want to help people keep doing what they love for longer by bringing space into their lives. These days it’s so hard for people to give themselves permission to slow down. Lives are so jam packed with work, kids, hobbies and travel that it can be hard for people to know what slowing down even feels like. Space breeds awareness and when you have greater awareness of what your mind and body needs then you are in a better position to manage life’s challenges. Whether you play in the Premier League or work two jobs supporting a young family, everyone needs time out.
What does the future hold for Breathe Bend Believe?
Ive recently started branching out into day retreats that focus on exploring both strength and stillness in mind and body. We sweat it out on the mat with strong vinyasa flow and core strength classes, hike through the Albourne vineyards, eat and relax together and chill into the evening with a restorative yoga and meditation class.
Many find it hard to take time out of their busy lifestyles and destress. What is your best advice to our readers who want to introduce a bit of calm and reflection into their daily routine?
Stress is not always a bad thing, it is a natural response that the body produces to prepare ourselves for action, fight or flight. The idea should be that the body produces a stress response and then once it is no longer needed, the stress response goes away. The problem for many people these days is that the stress response never stops. Our minds are constantly on, constantly racing, day and night, and the body’s fight or flight response is unable to distinguish the difference between the threat of missing your train or your deadline and the threat of actual physical harm. This is where the stress response becomes a problem and can lead to both mental and physical health problems.
In order to introduce a bit of calm into your life, you have to first get comfortable with the feeling of calm, the feeling of being still. This in itself can produce a massive psychological reaction in some people. We are not encouraged to stop in todays 24/7 world. There are forever jobs to be done, kids to be looked after, hobbies to pursue and dreams to chase. But when you stop, that is when you can start to listen to what your body is telling you. How often do you say “I’m tired” and then rush off to another meeting or the gym? We need to get comfortable with carving out time in our day to start saying no to things, do less or take a few minutes of time out.
Try gentle meditation
Take yourself to a quiet place in your house or work. Sit or lie down. Close your eyes and take a deep breath into the belly and a deep breath out through the mouth. When you breathe out feel your whole body relax with the exhale. Feel your shoulders dropping away from the ears and let go of any tension in the body.
What emotions or physical sensations come up when you sit or lie down in a quiet room with no distractions? Are you thinking about what else you should be doing? Does your mind race? Is your breathing short and shallow? Do your muscles feel tense?
Notice how that breath felt. Did you find it hard to breath into your belly? Can you start to make the breath in longer? Can you make the breath out longer?
If your mind starts to race or wander thats ok. Just keep bringing your focus back to the breath.
If you find it hard to switch off your thoughts you could open your eyes and maybe focus on one object in the room. If the voices still feel loud then don’t worry about turning them of, just practice turning down the volume. Try and keep your focus on the rise and fall of the belly, the gentle rhythm of your breath.
This slow steady breathing practise will help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of your bodys stress response, the part of your body’s physiology associated with rest and digest. Start with an minute and see how it feels to build up by a minute each day. No-one is too busy for a minute a day… the hardest bit is getting started.
With all this talk of slowing down, this is not to say there is no place for energetic activities. People often think that to embrace stillness you have to give up running, spin or HIIT. Definitely not so. In these cases yoga is even more beneficial as it will help athletes recover better if they can properly calm their nervous system after a stress inducing activity. I love getting the adrenaline pumping. I teach dynamic yoga generally, which will get you breaking a sweat, working on increasing both flexibility and strength but I always intersperse breath work and guided meditation into classes. The footballers I work with are so physically active that it can be hard for their bodies to understand when it can carry out its repair work. If we are always in fight or flight mode then the rest and digest mode is not able to kick in. Thats why athletes do yoga and they do it because it works.
Try A Yoga Class
Yoga is unbelievable at helping to manage and reduce stress. The problem can sometimes be where to get started, as there are so many styles and teachers to choose from these days. Use the below breakdown to help you choose a style to meet your objectives and if the first class doesn’t work out, try another. It took me a while to find the right style and teacher so don’t be put off if the first class you go to isn’t for you.
If you are an athlete, into your fitness and want a side of sweat with your yoga then try vinyasa flow yoga. It is a continuous style of yoga that keeps you moving the whole time and links the poses with the breath. It will help you build strength, focus your breathing and increase your flexibility and sense of balance.
If you are working with injury or are a little older and looking for something more gentle then a Hatha class is a good place to start. Its slower and less energetic but still has lots of focus on mobility, breath work and relaxation.
If you have less interest in building strength or balance and more focused on breath work, relaxation and decreasing muscular tension then Yin yoga is your class. The whole class is floor based and poses are held for a longer period of time so as to target not only the muscles but also the fascia around the muscles that can be causing stiffness, aches and pains.
Try A Yoga day retreat
Sometimes a more immersive approach can be good if you find yourself stressed and run down. Trying a day retreat is less of a time and financial commitment than a week long retreat but can start the process of reconnecting in mind and body.
Spend a whole day in beautiful Sussex exploring both your energetic and restorative energies. You will experience energetic vinyasa flow yoga, hiking, a core class and a beautifully restful yin class to end your day calm and rested. A heathy vegetarian lunch is included and relaxation time is built in too. Start to find balance in your energy levels and get to know your body better with Breathe Bend Believe Yoga.