This time of year, there are a number of activities that are pushing for our attention. There are notifications on our phones, making various appointments, checking that we're not missing studio time at yoga as well as getting our nails done. There are times where you forget to eat or even to breathe! Breathing is one of our most vital tasks and as much as we do it, many of us are not doing it right! We took a moment to chat with Poppy Jamie, Breathing Instructor and enthusiast, TV presenter, Co-Founder/Designer of Pop and Suki and Founder of Happy Not Perfect, a new app and lifestyle brand that recently launched to find out what a breathing workshop is, how we do it and what led her to this career!
ATHLEISURE MAG: Where did the year go? How is it almost Christmas.
POPPY JAMIE: I know right, I mean I was just telling myself, where did the year go and how can it be the end of the year already? At least we have the holidays to look forward to!
AM: You cover a number of areas so in looking at your background, how did you get into doing TV, have a successful line – Pop & Suki (accessory line created by best friends Poppy and actress and model Suki Waterhouse), your app/lifestyle brand, Happy Not Perfect as well as being a breath enthusiast?
PJ: Well really, I was inspired I suppose by my upbringing. My mum is a hypnotherapist and my dad is an entrepreneur. When we were growing up, we spoke about the mind at the age of 8 and it was so normal to talk about emotions, how you process them, how you manage your mind, meditation, breathing. These were all things that were just as normal as brushing your teeth, washing your face and going out for a walk. Mental health has been such a part of the way that I was brought up and in my DNA.
I always knew that I wanted to be a TV presenter. Ever since I knew I could talk, I wanted to be able to communicate with people because I just found it so incredible how you could share a conversation and storytelling and that really led me to my first career as a TV presenter and host. While I was a TV host, that was the thing that really gave me insight into this social setting and made me analyze what people were looking at and how they were reacting to things. When I launched my show on SnapChat, PillowTalk (the first show to air on SnapChat), I would see hundreds of thousands of messages of people just reacting about what they were thinking, feeling and going through. At that moment, it was my upbringing and where I was in my career that came together. I would start to call up my mum and I would ask her advice on how I should respond to these questions that included people that were struggling at work/school or feeling stressed about their relationship. In that moment I realized how little we know about the mind and how fortunate I was to have a mum that would teach me about the mind and these sort of things. I began to wonder how I could go about sharing my mum and putting her into an app and to give her to everyone. It wouldn’t matter where you were or what time of day it was – it’s about the thought process. It’s really what a great therapist does – they help you process your thoughts and find a new perspective by using different tools such as breathing and journaling. It’s funny that my career has gone in so many different directions, but it all happened to go into the creation of Happy Not Perfect.
At the time, I was living in LA with my best friend and that’s how the handbags started. My best friend and I are two of the most disorganized girls that you could ever meet as we’re always losing things and we thought that if we could design handbags, we’d be less disorganized. It’s been a really crazy 3 years and I couldn’t be happier working on these things that I now are really helping people. We have so many messages a day where people are like, “Oh my God this is really helping me.” People thanking us on teaching them how to breathe and those who were feeling low before Happy Not Perfect and n ow after using it they feel less anxious. I love how I am doing my part into what I should be doing.
AM: I love how connected it is and how the app also has an extension as a lifestyle brand with products that are attached to it as well – correct?
PJ: Exactly! We found that in our focus groups that people really struggled with dealing with things and that Millennials are some of the most stressed out people that ever lived. It showed through our qualitative research in America, Europe and Australia that we did. I wondered what we should do and how could we assist in managing their stress levels and people were silent about it. That’s when I learned that people weren’t so sure on what they could do to manage their mental well being. People wanted to know what they could use! This holds true for why there is product in Happy Not Perfect as well as why I was intrigued to work with Breathe Right Strips. Even a simple thing like putting the strip on your nose, you can sleep better because you are getting more air and it’s an upward spiral. Suddenly you have a clearer mind in the morning and it’s a simple thing that can help you feel better. We found that with the site and lifestyle components that everyone can benefit from these items.
AM: We were unable to attend the breath workshop which was unfortunate, but how did this partnership between yourself and Breathe Right Strips come about as we understand the natural synergy here.
PJ: I’ve been using Breathe Right for years and it has been a bit of my secret hack! When I trained as a breathing instructor and when I would do my classes in London, NY and LA afterwards I would say, if you guys are struggling with breathing at night when you’re trying to sleep, you should use these strips. Someone then said, “I know them – you should connect with them.” I was being their biggest advocate even before they knew me because I loved them. Then we were connected and I was so happy about that because I love the natural way that you can just be help yourself and be a little more relaxed and have a clearer mind. It’s about sometimes having the simplest thing like a breathing strip and learning how to breathe into your belly that will have a formative effect on your mental and your physical health.
AM: I heard that you have a 24kt gold Breathe Right Strip – is this true?
PJ: I do and I’m very excited about my it and honestly, it’s one of my favorite beautiful mantle pieces! I mean I never ever thought that I would have a 24kt gold basically nose statue! Now I do! I was traveling back from NY to London because my parents were so excited to see this and it is the coolest thing. I carried it in my hand luggage and when I went through security, nobody could believe my gold karat nose and it has now traveled halfway across the country and it is now very close to my heart.
AM: What’s it like going through a breathing workshop and how do you guide people through their proper breathe?
PJ: A breathing workshop begins with teaching people how to breathe. When I first started out as a breathing instructor under Dr. Belisa Vranich, who is one of the leading experts in the world, she is the author of Breathe and she is one of the most crucial women that I have ever met. I couldn’t believe it when she said that 9 out of 10 people breathe incorrectly! It’s unbelievable. We all breathe, but when you realize that we pick up bad breathing habits from the age of 5 because we go to school and begin to hunch over tables and we start breathing too much air and we start to do shallow mouth breathing. This is a forced habit from the central nervous system it pumps up our stress level and makes us feel like we’re in danger and we have that fight or flight feeling. But when you start engaging in belly breathing and slowly inhale through your nose and slowly exhale with lower body breath, it emulates your vega nerve and takes you out of that fight or flight state.
This is a calming breath that allows you to have a pretty instantaneous moment of clarity. You make better decisions and it reduces your nerves. So the breathing teaching and the breathing workshop teaches you the power of learning how to relax your nervous system when you need to and the best way to do that is through nose/belly breathing, and then once you kind of learn that, we can practice by putting weight on our bellies to practice bringing that weight up and bringing it back down, as that is helpful. A great trick to do this is to do so when you’re in bed and you can’t get yourself to sleep, you can put a heavy book on your belly to breathe the book up and to breathe it back down (editor’s note: this is an exercise to calm you down to be able to sleep as the book is only for the breathing practice). It’s a great trick and if you have friends who are a bit anxious or stressed out, teach them to lie down, put a book on their belly to breathe it up and down as it is really calming and relaxing. I really like to teach people tools that they can share with their friends and family. And then, we go into a kind of breath work meditation which uses the breath to sink into a meditative state and during the breath workshop that we did a few weeks back at the event, we did a Love and Kindness Meditation, which is one of the scientifically backed meditations that really help to nurture kindness and compassion not only for ourselves, but for those around us and after experiencing that, we come out of meditation which lasts at about half an hour or 45 minutes in terms of the education, the practicing and the meditation. Hopefully everyone leaves feeling a little bit happier and calmer and a lot less stressed.
AM: That sounds fantastic. With a new year coming up, there is a lot of stress and anxiety that people will have in wanting to do resolutions and things that are different, but also coming down from a busy holiday season – how can breath work help with this so that they can calm down and do what they need to during the day?
PJ: This is why I love breathing! It doesn’t mean that you have to meditate for 20 minutes if you don’t have time. The holidays are so busy and you have loads of family around. So the belly breath which I actually do this while I am talking with someone or perhaps in a stressful meeting, I lightly put my hands on my belly and I start breathing slowly into my nose and out through my nose into my belly. I consciously have this hack knowing that I have it whenever I need it is powerful.
Even if you want to just take a couple of moments in the morning to just lie down on your back and to just focus on your breathing through your nose and down for a couple of minutes as it really just sets your nervous system. During the holiday season, it’s so hectic because people are buying their presents and you need these short effective tricks for your nervous system and belly breathing is definitely one of them and anyone can do it which is fantastic!
AM: You’re based in NYC where would we find you grabbing a drink/meal and working out?
PJ: Oh my gosh my new favorite place is abcV the new vegan place that I am newly obsessed with that! I have to say that no one can't beat The Bowery Hotel! It's really magical and fun and I always have a lot of friends there. I like to think that wellness is a little bit of everything. It’s not only about looking after your mind, but it doesn’t mean depriving yourself of other things. It’s a bit of everything. My favorite yoga studio is Yoga Vida and I love this yoga instructor named Will Schneider who is my favorite. I also love dancing as it’s incredible for your mental health and great for a mood boost that makes you feel good. If I am in a really dedicated mood, I love SLT which is incredible, but dancing and yoga are really my thing as I find yoga is really great for the mind and to stretch the body, you need to relax the mind. This exercise incorporated meditation and I’m a big yoga fan.
PHOTOS COURTESY | Poppy Jamie + Happy Not Perfect
Read more from the Dec Issue of Athleisure Mag and see It Begins and Ends with the Breath with Poppy Jamie in mag.