Rachel Flynn – Breathing Space


Posted 2 months ago in More

Rachel Flynn talks to us about Breathing Space, a refreshing new community wellness space on Cork Street in Dublin 8.

“We have ditched diet culture and are hoping to help others do the same.” – Rachel Flynn

 

What is Breathing Space?

Breathing Space is a refreshing new community wellness space on Cork Street in Dublin 8. Our mission and vision is to help people cultivate a peaceful relationship with their body through movement, self-compassion and self-care. We have ditched diet culture and are hoping to help others do the same.

 

You are extending beyond the traditional realm in your offerings. Can you tell us about this? 

We have all the usual classes you’d expect to see in a yoga and pilates studio, but we are also offering dedicated plus-size classes and classes for people who use wheelchairs or have other accessibility requirements that makes standard yoga classes inaccessible for them. We all know that movement has physical and mental benefits, but many movement spaces aren’t accommodating of diverse bodies. We are hoping that by having dedicated classes for groups that have traditionally been excluded from western yoga and pilates that we will send a loud message that our movement space is for EVERYbody. Our plus-size classes are all booking out so there is definitely that demand there.

We are a HAES-aligned (Health At Every Size) studio so there is no diet-talk or weight stigma at the studio. In most movement/exercise spaces people are bombarded with talk about shrinking their bodies, earning their food, getting summer or beach body ready. We encourage joyful movement for how it makes you feel, not as punishment for what you ate or how you look.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your scholarship programme?

We believe that businesses have a fundamental role to play in how our society evolves over time, and we take ours very seriously. A core component of this social justice work is diversifying the yoga and pilates industry through our annual Breathing Space scholarship. Every year we support (through finance, mentoring and paid teaching opportunities) an individual from a marginalised community to undertake their training in either pilates or yoga.

 

Representation matters and if people don’t see teachers who are like them, they’re less likely to feel welcome. Ireland has some catching up to do in this regard, but we are starting to see a lot more diversity among teachers in the USA and in other European countries. We hope that our scholarship programme will start to nudge the Irish wellness industry in that direction.

 

How did the pandemic affect your opening plans?

We hit lots of delays with Covid closures. First, our refurbishment was delayed because builders weren’t able to work, then we were finally ready to open in January 2020 and the numbers went through the roof and tougher restrictions came back in right after Christmas so our opening was delayed again. And again. And again! It’s a story we are all so familiar with and, look, we agreed that these restrictions needed to be in place to keep people safe, and we weren’t mad keen to be in teaching in studios ourselves when the numbers were so high, so it was fine. We’re just delighted to be open now and people are excited to get back into studios after 18 months of zoom yoga, the novelty of that definitely wore off very quickly!

 

Do you think we are more in tune with our need for wellness and self-preservation these days?

I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘these days’. Self-care is a hot topic at the moment and wasn’t something, say, my parents’ generation would have been thinking about. But then again work-life balance has taken a hit with us all being ‘on’ all the time with mobile devices so we are all now having to schedule downtime. I think that’s gotten even worse with the pandemic, given that a lot of people are working from home so there just isn’t that separation of work time and leisure time.

During the lockdowns, I had days where I didn’t leave the house, I’m sure others were the same, and working from home you need to make sure that you fit some time away from the desk into your day. So, in some ways I think we are more in tune with our need for wellness but in others I think we need ‘wellness’ activities more than ever now because we have less movement habitually in our day-to-day and less downtime than before.

 

Who is exciting you in the wellness space at the moment?

I’ve been inspired by so many people, mostly through social media. I am absolutely loving seeing a shift away from the homogenous idea of who can do pilates or yoga and who can teach them as well. I live for the fatyoga hashtag on twitter.

I highly recommend that everyone do a purge on their social media and stop following accounts that make you feel bad about yourself and unfollow anyone who tries to sell you a diet or any other wellness garbage. Try to diversify your feed with BBIPOC/fat/LGBTQI+ teachers, it is so refreshing to open instagram and not just see one type of body doing their movement practice. Some instagram accounts I recommend following are: Reyna Cohan (@reymisma), Lucy B Yoga, Dianne Bondy (@diannebondyyogaofficial); Allison Skewes, Rachel Reis, Jessamyn. There are so many more but even adding a couple of these to your feed will change your perspective on bodies and movement.

I also have to give a little shout out to the group of amazing teachers we are working with at Breathing Space, they have all been pursuing inclusivity and accessibility in their teaching in their own way for some time now. Some of them felt that a traditional studio wouldn’t want them as a teacher as they don’t fit the ‘mold’. I’m delighted to have such a radical (in the original meaning of the word) group of teachers and change-makers on board.

 

breathingspacedublin.com

Unit B, Southgate, Cork St., Dublin 8 (beside Weaver Park and opposite Energie Fitness)

Photos of space credit: Fishamble Architects

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