Southsea tennis pavilion falls quiet as Breathfast helps residents unload their stress

A TENNIS pavilion fell quiet at the weekend to become a space of reflection for people looking to unload their worries.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 9:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 2:18 pm
The Breathfast session intended to benefit the mental health of participants, at the Pavilion, St Helens Parade, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (151219-07)

It came as a cluster of Southsea residents united to share Breathfast – a programme of breathing activities followed by tasty snacks and drinks.

Maxine Bailey-Green, a representative for the city-based mental health charity, Tonic, has organised a handful of the sessions over 18 months.

Each is set out like a yoga class, with participants guided through a catalogue of techniques to help slow their bodies down and relax.

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Maxine Bailey-Green, right, leading her Breathfast session at the Pavilion, St Helens Parade, Southsea. It is intended to benefit the mental health of participants. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (151219-06)

Maxine, 46, said: ‘For me this is all about mental health, because unless you tackle stress and anxiety it can lead to problems.

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‘Having suffered with depression myself, I used breath work and meditation to bring myself out. It is like my medicine.

‘On Sunday we tried a technique called belly breathing, where we learned how to tune in and listen to the breath and take it into the belly.

The Breathfast session intended to benefit the mental health of participants, pictured at the Pavilion, St Helens Parade, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (151219-08)

‘Because we quite often tend to breathe into the chest, we cause ourselves stress and anxiety.’

The session encouraged participants to take control of their parasympathetic nervous system.

Unlike the sympathetic nervous system which prepares the body for physical activity, it relaxes the body and slows down high-energy functions.

The Breathfast session intended to benefit the mental health of participants, pictured at the Pavilion, St Helens Parade, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (151219-04)

Maxine added: ‘Most people hadn’t done this before. They loved it – and lots of them said how stressed they were with work.

‘I think it was nice to come and be a human being, instead of being a human doing – we’re all running around all the time.’

The session at the Canoe Lake Leisure Pavilion raised more than £100 for Tonic, which uses music to boost confidence and reduce isolation to sooth residents’ mental health.

So far Breathfast has contributed about £1,000 to the project, which is based in Highland Road, Southsea and was founded in 2012.