This episode is the second part of an interview with Jamie Clements, Breath work coach and facilitator.
We take 25,000 breaths a day without a second thought. And yet our breath is the key to regulating our nervous system, resulting in better decision-making, effective discernment, and improved communication.
Your breath is the greatest leadership hack you probably didn’t know about.
And that’s what my guest, Jamie Clements discussed with me on this week’s episode.
Jamie Clements is a breathwork coach and facilitator based in London, and the founder of The Breath Space. After discovering breathwork four years ago, Jamie experienced a profound transformation in his physical and mental wellbeing, even overcoming severe anxiety and panic attacks.
🌬️ Explore the profound impact of breath on well-being.
🧠 Understand how breath can optimize decision making, communication, and stress management.
💪 How breathwork tools and skills can support you in your personal growth.
⚡ The potential of breath work to induce deep insight and transformative experiences.
⚖️ Recognizing the importance of healthy rest and recovery in our overstimulated world.
Jamie shares with us his personal experience, and offers a fascinating insight into breathwork and its profound impact on our well-being.
Note this episode is in two parts: this is the first part, and the second part will be released next week.
Find more about Jamie on his website, and check out his 21 day breathwork course.
Big shout out to my podcast magician, Marc at iRonickMedia for making this real.
Thanks for listening!
While the conversation might start as as something around performance, it often leads to those topics stress, anxiety, overwhelm burnout. And really I try my best to educate through the lens of breathwork these people on the nervous system and their own nervous system and helping them get in touch with their own nervous system, this idea of interoception this ability to tune into the sensations of the body and understand your own inner state, rather than just living in this sort of top six inches, the gray matter up top.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
Hello, and welcome to unset at work, I'm your host, Catherine Stagg Macy. I'm an executive and team coach. And I'm interested in the conversations that we don't have at work. This episode is the second part of a conversation with Jamie Clemons, about the healing power of our breath. If you haven't listened to the first part, this isn't going to make a lot of sense. So stop this and then go listen to part one. And we'll be here when you're back. Part one is where Jamie explains what we mean by breathwork is a big umbrella term, he has a sort of framework of three different pillars, it's very useful and understanding that he paints a very inviting picture as to why we should be paying more attention to the 25,000 breaths we take every day. So as I say, this is part two, do go and listen to part one. If you haven't listened to part one yet, let's continue that conversation. In this episode, we get to talk more about the success that Jamie's had with working with corporate folk, how do they sustainably make changes, their language is very much around leadership optimization, think I can relate to that, how to focus on breath work and nervous system regulation to really combat stress and anxiety and burnout, something I see so much of in the clients that I work with. So I can see so much value in understanding this as a tool, we get into how breath also can send you into altered states of consciousness, a lot like what you might get with psychedelics, then also some of the psychedelic research, suggesting some of the similarities between the physiological responses and an altered breathwork. State to that of what happens in psychedelics, I found all that really interesting in really interesting stuff. And we finish off with some online resources that you can access if you're curious to take this a little further for yourself, including some of his own resources, which I've tried to end our tour. Great. So now let's drop into the second part of my conversation with Jamie Clements. I'm really comfortable, I think to hear that it took us six to nine months as well. Before you had that real big catharsis.Jamie Clements:
Yeah, it's funny, I often I will continue. Definitely, yeah, I always think it would be so much more compelling as a marketing narrative me to say, oh, it all happened in my first session. And it can happen for you too. But it's just it's, it would be a lie. And I think it also creates a slightly different narrative to say, okay, there was, there was enough in it for me, that kept me coming back. And, and eventually I got to that point, once I was able to let myself go there. And there's a lot of lessons to be found in that, that journey with it.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
Maybe people are similar to me, but I it was a very similar experience with five rhythms, I started able to sort of move in meditation practice, for those who don't know, and some people go along in their first session and have a real transformational experience in the surrendering into the music and the process and the movement meditation that it is. And like, five, six years, like, I was like, sometimes it was good. Sometimes it was bad. I project all my stuff onto done like the music then like the teacher didn't like the heating, couldn't move with what was there with me. But I kept going back 10 years later, I'm not training as a as a favorite teacher. But I think you've got to trust your instinct, even when brought my brain doesn't make sense of this. Does my body go there is something good in here for me? And that? That can be enough sometimes? Yeah, definitely. You have a story that you could share about some of the corporate people that you've been working with and their journey?Jamie Clements:
Absolutely, yeah, I think there's a client of mine who I'm working with at the moment, and a couple of others who probably fall into a similar a similar camp of very high powered very successful, very lovely people, all men actually which which I spent a lot of time working with, with women and I always love men coming through my door because I think everyone needs this stuff. But men also really need this stuff and perhaps typically a little bit more skeptical and reluctant to enter into these realms. And yeah, the the work that I will typically do with men and with these, these sort of more CO entrepreneur type clients tends to start off through what we've touched upon there. Have a lens of conversation around optimization around performance around work and around okay, how can I make sure that my success and my my growth is sustainable? I think that's Probably Probably the best way that I could boil down the work that I do with them is around sustainable success. And that touches on a number of different areas. So I always with virtually all of my private clients, we'll start off looking at pillar number one, functional breathing, respiratory physiology, what is your natural resting state of breath? And how can we look to, to optimize that because that is that's important. And that's a pillar, like a foundation of everything that is to come afterwards. And so starting there, and that continues as an underlying theme. And then I'll typically be focused as well on nervous system regulation and helping them build their their toolkit. And a lot of these people that I've worked with in the past and more people coming from the corporate sphere when I work with teams as well. Unsurprisingly, the conversation tends to hinge around stress, anxiety. And while performance can Yeah, but burnout, the list is, is long. And often while the conversation might start as as something around performance, it often leads to those topics stress, anxiety, overwhelm burnout. And really I try my best to educate through the lens of breathwork these people on the nervous system and their own nervous system and helping them get in touch with their own nervous system, this idea of interoception, this ability to tune into the sensations of the body and understand your own inner state, rather than just living in this sort of top six inches, the gray matter up top. And through that it's helping them almost map themselves day to day to go okay, what is my current state? Where am I at? am I way over activated? Am I in high stress without even realizing it? And how can I start to bring myself back down so that I don't head towards burnout so that I don't then start struggling with my sleep it's about and this actually is where it crosses over with the work that I do with athletes, the best metaphor that applies into a corporate space as well is that the state that serves you in the boxing ring, the state that serves you in the boardroom, the state that serves you on that presentation, or that public speaking gig that you had to do is not the same state that supports you in resting, recovering sleeping spending time with your family, what a lot of people fall into, especially these more high powered high functioning individuals is that they found their success in being on in being ready to go all the time. And that is where we get burnout. That's where we get fatigued because they lose the capacity to switch off. And on a very physiological level, neurobiological level that is where we get stuck in that activation response. And our our heart rate variability to come back to metrics goes through the floor, because our nervous system is no longer going into activation, out of activation is going activation at all hours. And that is knackering,Catherine Stagg-Macey:
if you speak to people and I think I might be in this category, sometimes they say they're not stressed. Because they are stuck in the on the button. Yeah, there was an unbuttoned as a stack on on and you don't realize there is an alternative. So like now I'm fine. So this is why the work is so important is understanding the small range that you've limited yourself to where you're operating in, and how far into activated permanently is so interesting.Jamie Clements:
Yeah, absolutely, you've hit on something that I talk a lot about when it's not a particularly sophisticated quote this time, but it's if you sit, if you sit in ship for long enough, it stops smelling. And basically, if you are sat, if you're sat in an over activated state all the time, it stops feeling like an over activated state. If you think of your nervous system as a nought to 10 scale of activation, let's say a healthy normal balances is sitting at a five and taking up when you need and down when you need. If you put your foot on the gas for a very long time, that five starts creeping up to a six to a seven to an eight. And if you're then sitting at seven and eight all the time, you're producing adrenaline, you're producing cortisol, stress hormones moving through the body, but you're still there when you're sat on the sofa watching TV and you're going, Oh, I'm resting your body and your mind and your nervous system are not resting at that point. And that is the problem that we get ourselves into is actually the inability to switch off and there's a good friend and colleague of mine called Ollie Patrick, who is a master of this work. And he says that actually our issue as a society isn't too much stress is the absence of rest. And that for me is the kicker because stress isn't the problem. We demonize stress stress is certainly not the problem. It's a lack of healthy right That's just a lack of healthy recovery. And that I think is, is what I always try and sort of reinforce with with everyone that I work with.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
And the beautiful thing of this conversation is breath is the way in to understanding where you're stuck. And how to get out of that. Yeah, I'm going to double click on this, the third pillar there of altered states, because I think for a lot of people, if they have any understanding of that they're thinking like, what drugs? What What do you mean by altered states that the fact that we can reach altered states in ways that don't involve drugs is probably new to people? Can we talk more about what's going on in an altered state?Jamie Clements:
Yeah, absolutely. I think, again, it's one of one of my favorite things about breathwork is, is its capacity to, to enable altered states without the use of, of drugs or medicine, or whatever it might be. The reason that I'm quite a lot of my colleagues in this space, share this, we're mindful of not using the term psychedelic states, or labeling the state as anything. In particular, there are certainly crossover between some experiences you can have with breath and experiences that you can have with psychedelics, but altered states of consciousness simply, for me, at least boils down to any experience of consciousness that is non ordinary. So anything that is departing from your ordinary waking state consciousness, and the way that that can show up in breathwork is is varied, it can be deep insight and clarity. It can be enormous catharsis and emotional release, it can be the subconscious becoming more present and memories and old visions coming through. It can be deep, deep meditative states. And it can be more traditionally psychedelic in nature with colors and patterns and visuals. And so that, for me is why it's important that we talk about altered states rather than anything in particular, around the nature of the state. But that for me, again, is that is the beauty of this work, because it can just be so varied, and it varies from person to person, and from session to session. And through the breath. And modalities, like you mentioned, with Holotropic breathing, I work with something called Conscious connected breathing, there's lots of schools within this realm, but they all work have a similar intention, which is using the breath to create this experience, this journey of an altered state of consciousness.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
And in that altered state of consciousness is the same sort of biological response happening that it does. If you are in psychedelics. My understanding of psychedelics is that that takes off your, the ego offline, or what we now call the domain, default mode or word for it, I've gone blank, Default Mode Network, thank you takes it offline, is that the same physiological thing going on with altered states of breathwork?Jamie Clements:
The honest answer would be we believe so TVC is sort of what we're working with at the moment. But interestingly, in the conversation, there's conversations that I know the guys at Imperial are having in the psychedelic research lab there about what is going on with breathwork, because it seems to be playing out in quite a similar, similar way. It would make sense in terms of speaking from personal experience, and obviously professional experiences Well, of what we see, in those experiences, in terms of comparison, in terms of feeling in terms of Cymatics in terms of brainwave activity, there's certainly something similar going on. I'm personally not at a point myself where I'm, and I know others are where I'm willing to say this is definitely what's happening, because the research is still really in its infancy with with this style of breathwork. But it's exciting because I think as more and more people are coming to it, there's a desire to dig deeper and to understand. So I think it'll only be a matter of time before we have a clearer picture of what's going on. But yeah, my personal sort of belief and hypothesis is that we're looking at sort of ego dissolution, or certainly ego downregulation Default Mode Network reduction in activity, we do know that we are reducing blood flow to the brain in specific areas, whether that then links up with ego and default mode network is still sort of, again, TBC. But it's an it's an exciting conversation to have, because I know that there are lots of lots of people bridging the gaps between the two and obviously Holotropic breathwork itself was born out of Stan Grace work with LSD. And so naturally, the two have been bound together for from best part of 60 years.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
So it more I think people wouldn't know be up to date on the left graph. And yeah,Jamie Clements:
so Stan Grof origins in the LSD. Yeah, one of the original in the US original LSD researchers and proponents of that work in terms of The healing potential of LSD and psychedelics and when I say this is a shortening of the, the full story, but when all of his LSD got taken away, he sort of scoured the world looking for ways to create similarly healing, altered states of consciousness and, and discovered breathwork and establish the school of Holotropic breathing. And that's been one of the, the core schools within this deep end of the breathwork spectrum for for a very, very long time now, and I love Holotropic as a term because it comes from the Greek moving towards wholeness. And that, to me sums up what is going on. And the process that it's uncovering, so, yeah, I really love the notion of, of breathwork as Holotropic as a modality.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
And just to be clear, when people aren't after when, when when Davis is the that he lost his LSD get caught up in the war on drugs and LSD research, of which there was a lot going on at the time got shut down. And very exciting, potentially positive work was coming out of the use of LSD in the application of in a therapeutic sense. Yeah, I find it so interesting that this was a sort of a I mean, what a gift right that that that came out of that. What I think is a disaster. That's a prospective. setback. So interesting. If people are curious, hopefully we've piqued people's curiosity, where would they start doing any of this work? Or exploring how to do this work? What would you suggest?Jamie Clements:
Yeah, there's there's a huge, huge wealth of resources online now, both through myself. And just more broadly, YouTube is always a good starting point with this stuff, I think both in terms of breath education, breath awareness, the first couple of pillars of simple breathing techniques and exercises, most of the main mainstream meditation apps have brought in in the last couple of years, their box breathing practices, their breath work practices into that, they're unlikely to go very deep into that third pillar. And I would say, while it is possible to experience that third pillar, online, as a self practice, through YouTube, through practitioners who are providing those services, and through certain apps as well, for me, when it comes to that depth of experience, the most effective way to experience that is in person, it is either one to one or in group, they provide different things, obviously, given the dynamic there. But I would really, if people are curious about that, I don't think anything can quite match the real in person experience. Because there's there are things as well around safety, both physical safety, psychological safety, that have to be thought about once we get into that deeper end of the spectrum. And I think that is something that needs to be taken, taken with great care. And as well on a more, I guess, pragmatic level with a self practice, have that kind of breath work is if you're on your own at home, doing it via Youtube, there's only a certain level of depth that you might be able to go to because part of your brain is going to be making sure that you're still safe, and that you're still okay, whereas when there's facilitation, you can sort of hand over some of that responsibility to the facilitator to say, okay, this person knows what they're doing, I can relax and surrender into this experience, because that's where the good stuff lies, if the mind is still ticking over going, Oh, this feels weird, or am I doing this right? Or am I going to be okay, then the depth is mitigated, because we we are wired to keep ourselves safe. And so I'd really encourage people if they do want to dive deep into that work to find a space to do that in person, as hopefully you can you can attest to as well.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
Yeah, I was gonna say completely the same. There's no, there's no chance in hell that I would have done the depths. I think there's more for me to come. But it without being facilitated. I wouldn't have done it wouldn't have gone there. And I think the the entry level is interesting. Run. Pillar one and pillar pillar two, I think that's probably why it was even curious. Like, I've done box breathing, and it has worked for me and like, okay, there's something in this in this stuff and pointed to some of your own resources, which I've just started your 21 day breathwork course. I'm doing the live version. I think that'll be available beyond that as a self paced course. Is that right?Jamie Clements:
Yeah, that's right. So that is for me, that was something I always wanted to create from quite an early point in in me starting this this business and it obviously took me some time to learn and grow in myself to to bring that to life. But it's it's really plotting out the that full spectrum approach to breathwork in quite a, hopefully quite an accessible, digestible way. So okay, we're going to start at the foundational level with functional breathing, we're going to move through into the nervous system. And then we're going to dip our toe in that deeper end of the spectrum so that someone listening to this conversation can go, oh, I quite like the sound of all of that. It all sounds like it could be of use to me. And so giving enough to so that people can get started on that breathwork journey or if they already have a certain amount of experience can can deepen it a little bit further. And with that, I always try and marry up the the knowledge and the understanding and the education with the applied art and science of it and the practical side of it. Yeah, I'mCatherine Stagg-Macey:
loving it, it feels very, right from the first lesson, you're learning about yourself. It's up there. It's like you're learning my own numbers, my heart rate variability number and listened to I think it was like, Oh, wow, okay, I need my aura ring. So it was you, I can blame you for having me actually going and buying. And eventually, I will put a link to that in the show notes. I think it's a great resource to have. And then you also work with the corporate people going well, I wonder if I could bring Jamie in for a retreat or an off site or to work with one of my senior leaders who needs help? That's the kind of work you do as well, right?Jamie Clements:
Absolutely. Yeah, it's probably some of my favorite work that I do, to be honest, is going into businesses. And I'm being invited to share this stuff with people. Because, again, there's always a vast array of levels of openness in a in a setting like that. And I take great pride and pleasure in breaking, breaking the skeptics, or at least winning them over a little bit more and planting a seed. Yeah, no, I really, I love off sites, just one off workshops, little bits and pieces like that I yeah, I thoroughly enjoy.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
Oh, beautiful. You even got a retreat in Portugal. And in August, which I won't make, but I'm going to be in the next one you do? Because it just looks completely amazing. Yeah, I'm very excited. You're gonna get one of those.Jamie Clements:
Yeah, absolutely. I love I love my extended retreats because I actually went to a breathwork retreat in Sri Lanka, before I started teaching. And that was a real catalyst for me getting into this space as well. And so I like to create similar spaces where people have, because people can have such amazing experiences with a one off, Deep Dive. But we do that over five, six days. And the amount that people can get in that container is, is mind blowing, I'm still in touch with people who came on my first retreat, whose lives have changed dramatically, because of what they found inside themselves, ultimately,Catherine Stagg-Macey:
wow. Love that. grateful for the work you've put out in the world to me and being a beacon of taking control of ourselves and living better lives. So thank you for your work. And thank you for being on the podcast.Jamie Clements:
All right, thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me. And likewise, I really, yeah, appreciate your work. And yeah, it's such a pleasure to have this conversation.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I could really resonate with David's comment about the issue isn't too much stress that it's absence of rest. I think that's a great reframing of stress. The theme of stress comes up a lot in coaching. And I know how hard it is look at how we risk this idea that if we're sitting down that we that we must be resting, there is so much simplicity and tracking our breath as a signal for what's really going on in our body in our nervous system and telling us how arrested we really are. This is what our mind thinks we might be. In this if you want to go geeky like me getting an aura or with ring is really going to help with that. Then if you do that we know how you get on. I hope this episode has got you curious to explore how your breath can improve your well being and perhaps you just start with some noticing. Or perhaps you want to do a dive into a facilitated session setting the in person experiences are very powerful. If you're London based check out Jamie's website. He does quite a few in person group sessions in London. He also has a 21 day breathwork course that I'm currently working my way through it's so self directed horse and I found a very helpful introduction to this topic. But whatever you do, my friend, keep breathing. And until next week, this is your wing woman signing off