‘What do you mean I’m not breathing. I’m a bloody yoga teacher.’

April 15, 2014 – Beverley Porrino

Several years ago, I came across the oddest spectacle in the James France Lecture Theatre at Loughborough University. Two grown men were locked in an embrace and one of them was singing a nursery rhyme.

The singing man was enticed onto a plinth where he was subjected to a concept called ‘Be Activated.’  The other fella was Douglas Heel.  He exuded charisma and devilment in equal measure. Unbeknown to me at the time this crazy concept would influence me greatly.

I watched with amusement as Douglas massaged and palpated the man who’d by now replaced his song with prayer and profanities. I felt for him as he writhed and cursed. Douglas playfully dismissed his protestations.

As he worked, he explained that the body will blow a fuse when it’s overloaded. He said something along the lines of… ‘I’m rebooting this body and putting the fuses back in.

‘I wanted to lean in, hear more.’

The man took a massive breath and suddenly went quiet. He slid off the plinth and strutted around. He looked genuinely surprised as he marveled at his newly balanced and powerful physique. I heard something about a 123 system of assessment, imploded bodies, cheat patterns and compensations.

My curiosity was piqued. I wanted to lean in, hear more but the radio in my pocket crackled and I was called away. The following year I was back and so was Douglas. As luck would have it I was working on lectures and I managed to attend his presentation, this year the conference was at London ExCel. He didn’t disappoint.  I asked if he would take a look at my painful shoulder. The ensuing five minutes went something like this…

DOUGLAS: (arms folded, grinning) ‘There is no point in looking at your shoulder, neck or anything else. He poked me in the ribs and delivered three words in a clipped South African accent. One word for each prod. ‘You’re – not – breathing!’

ME: ‘I’m a bloody yoga teacher.’ I teach people how to breathe.’

DOUGLAS: ( Smirking) “I hear this kind of stuff all of the time. The way you speak, the way you hold yourself, the way you move, clearly says that you are not using your diaphragm.”

While I stood absorbing that gem of wisdom, he offered to ‘activate’ me. I gratefully accepted.

I’m glad that I didn’t know what was coming because I might have talked myself out of a wonderful transformation. That said, It was the worst three minutes I’ve ever experienced in a public corridor. (Apart from that one time as a student nurse, but hey, I was younger)

Anyhow, ‘activate’ me he did, right there on the ground by the escalator, and all he did was rub his fingers along my rib cage and sternum. I believed he was using a razor and a mallet (I am prone to exaggeration but this was bloody intense) when I opened my eyes he was wasn’t exerting himself in the slightest.

I remember feeling, or hearing a ‘pop’ in my solar plexus as I took my first proper full breath. (Now referred to as my Lazarus moment.) I thought that I’d cracked a rib but as it turns out they were moving for the first time in who knows how long. The escalator became super-loud. My eyes hurt as brighter light seared them. Colours became ridiculously vivid. The changes were rapid, overwhelming. I choked back the lump in my throat because I didn’t want to cry.

‘I realised that something very important had happened.’

I dropped below the wooziness and discomfort and that’s when I connected with what was really going on. I was breathing – intoxicated by oxygen. I might have been off my head at this point but I saw hues of colour around people. When I spoke I noticed that my voice had changed. It was softer, sounded velvety. It was wonderful.

These sensations continued throughout the day. I didn’t know if I was happy, confused or alarmed!  And then it came without warning… THE RELEASE.  A bumble bee landing on a dandelion. Losing my (horrible) work T-shirt. A smile. Anything and nothing reduced me to a sobbing wreck. My colleagues quickly replaced empathy with eye-rolling; I was useless to them. After I regained my composure, although my friends said that I was pathetic. I saw Douglas across the sports hall. I ran and hugged him and tried to tell him what I was experiencing but nothing sensible came out. I just blathered like an incoherent eejit.

The most important change was yet to be realised.

My breath was easy. My ribs could move. That night I lay in bed not wanting to sleep because I was too afraid that this amazing feeling would disappear. I felt so well. The next noticeable change was that the spasm in my pelvic floor had also released. I didn’t acknowledge  this immediately, but over the next few days It was obvious.

Who knew! Everything is connected!

I’d been involved in a road traffic accident a few years previously. I’d injured my shoulder and my pelvis and as a result, the constant and boring pain was a miserable friend, and worse than the pain, I’d developed stress incontinence.

Coughing, sneezing, jumping were categorised as dangerous activities and tragically I hadn’t roared with laughter for a couple years because I was afraid to. My ‘condition’ was written off by my GP as a ‘woman of my age’ thing. I was 45 at the time. It was depressing and it was bullshit. I didn’t have a problem before I hit the deck and guess what! Normal service quickly resumed after my diaphragm was released.

Aside from all of the other wonderful stuff that Be Activated does, this was the best news ever. Imagine, I could run amok, be bold, continue with my plan to age disgracefully. I cannot begin to tell you the relief I felt in knowing that my pelvic floor was functioning properly. The finer details of which cannot be retold here.

To finish this piece… I’ve witnessed some amazing things at the hands of Douglas Heel and this incredible technique. I’ve had good results both with myself and with the people I’ve been practising on, but today I had a wow moment.

I worked on a beautiful young woman who had an incredibly powerful release. After she wiped away her tears and declared her undying love to me as her yoga teacher and new best friend, I could lean into her because I knew, I really knew what she’d experienced.

I’m loving this journey. It’s been personally painful and difficult at times but so far it has been worth it. The Be Activated Philosophy is immense. The technique is powerful and I’m not even close to figuring it all out

About the Author Bev Porrino

Bev uses Douglas Heel's Be Activated Method in her clinic and in her Yoga and movement practices as well as supporting specialist community groups. She is the UK and Ireland Be Activated Course Facilitator and runs introductory workshops in Dublin.