Bali’s The Asa Maia has made a name for itself among the pro surfer clan for its breathwork workshops but every lad can benefit from this practice.
Just breathe. It’s about the most common suggestion we give others, especially when things are getting a little stressful. The power of breath has long been recognised in holistic practice but to really understand the benefits you might want to book yourself a restful jaunt to Bali, home to boutique wellness resort The Asa Maia, where breathwork and contrast therapy instructor Wayan Suddarta will guide you through the importance of slowing down and taking a breath.
Syddarta (below at centre), who is also an athletics coach, combines his knowledge of breath and athletics to optimise the physical and mental performance of participants. Thanks to its location in Uluwatu, which boasts six world-class reef breaks, the luxe retreat has attracted some of the biggest names on the pro surf circuit, such as 11-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater and freesurfer Koa Smith (check out this jaw-dropping footage of him at Skeleton Bay, Namibia, catching eight barrels on one wave over a distance of 1.5km).
Syddarta says breathwork can fast-track you into a deep meditational state, which can help override autonomous systems within the body, like our stress response. He also uses contrast therapy, incorporating the ice bath and sauna into sessions to increase resilience. While each practice can be done and taught separately, combining them helps enhance the overall experience.
During Syddarta’s session, there’s a big emphasis on how to use breath work every day, so you can calm your body and mind before that big meeting, or defuse an argument with your partner, friends and colleagues.
“The ability to respond constructively to stress permeates all facets of life. One of the powers of breathwork is the ability to achieve profound self-transformation physically and mentally by simply practising our most basic instinct to survive, he believes.
Your core practices at The Asa Maia are breathwork and contrast therapy. What exactly are they and can you further elaborate on the benefits?
Breathwork involves various ways of controlling your breathing to help you feel less stressed, think more clearly, and manage your emotions better. It can also make your body and heart healthier, give you more energy, and even help with pain.
Contrast therapy means switching between hot and cold treatments, like taking a hot bath followed by an ice plunge in our subterranean hot and cold pools. This can make your blood flow better, help your muscles recover after exercise, and may boost your immune system. It can also make you feel more relaxed and happier.
The differences between both are that breathwork is about using your breath to calm your mind and emotions, while contrast therapy is about changing temperatures to improve your body’s physical well-being. Breathwork is more about mental and emotional benefits, while contrast therapy focuses on physical health. Both combined can be helpful for different reasons, and you can use them together to feel better overall.
We also offer hypnotherapy for those who want to deep dive into their subconscious, and the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a self-help method that involves tapping on specific points on your body while talking about your feelings or issues. It’s a bit like acupuncture but without needles.
What are some of the most common complaints among your guests?
Stress is a huge negative factor in people’s lives and takes people away from taking care of themselves, be that eating healthily to doing exercise, which helps you blow off steam. Some guests may have tried talking therapies and antidepressants, or simply don’t want to go down that path.
We had a guest stay with us for 14 nights who wanted to ‘be normal again’ and recover from his incredibly demanding job. After six breathwork sessions, three hypnotherapy sessions, two EFT sessions and a few spa treatments – and some time to sit by the pool reading his book – he left a changed person.
You’ve been visited by pro surfers who want to perfect their breathwork. What’s their take on it?
Their feedback was that it was a truly unique experience. The stress of being under a wave for sometimes minutes at a time is difficult to manage. Dedicated breathwork in the sauna, a stressful environment, helps keep the mind at ease while breath-holding. Keeping calm under moments of duress helps not only when we’re doing sporting activities but also in daily life.
These surfers tend to visit our resort whenever they come to Bali for the season, and in addition to Kelly Slater and Koa Smith, we’ve been visited by three-time World Champion Gabriel Medina and one-time World Champion Italo Ferreira as well as Olympic silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi and Olympic bronze medallist Owen Wright.
How can readers have a go at breathwork if they can’t make it to your resort?
There are apps to download and videos you can watch. However, they are not the same as a guided breathwork session with an experienced instructor who will tailor the techniques based on your needs. Each person is different and each approach by our instructors is different. We focus on your goals. (Personally, we like the Calm app, which features visualisations with audio that can be adjusted for speed and breathing style).
Besides contrast therapy, which other therapies complement breathwork?
There are several other combinations we offer, like yoga, which combines physical postures, mindful breathing, and meditation. When practised alongside breathwork, it enhances flexibility, balance, and body awareness while promoting relaxation and stress reduction.
Meditation practices focus on calming the mind and increasing mindfulness. When combined with breathwork, they deepen relaxation, improve concentration, and foster emotional regulation.
Breathwork sessions can be deeply cathartic. How do you account for that?
Intentional breathing techniques can trigger emotional responses such as crying, screaming or experiencing intense feelings during the process; this is the release of deep-rooted emotions. It can help process the emotional and physical effects of trauma, so participants can let go of their emotional baggage, heal and move toward a balanced state of mind.
What is the best location to do breathwork and why?
Breathwork can be done anywhere in a safe and private environment where your mind is able to freely release itself. Ideally a private uncrowded area, perhaps on your own, in your bedroom or in a space that’s familiar and where you won’t be interrupted.
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