Breathing Coach and Physiotherapist
In 2010, Emma Ferris had what she describes as her ‘handbrake moment’, one that would make her question everything she believed she knew as a clinical physiotherapist and breathing coach. On a personal level, it nearly brought her to her knees.
The discovery and learning that Emma undertook carried her through some very tough times, leading her to fully understand what true wellness looks like and the critical link between effective breathing, health and happiness.
If we’re being honest, Emma thrived on stress. Good stress. But it was stress nonetheless and it took its toll.
A moment of calamity became a moment of clarity. And now she’s sharing that clarity -- and the knowledge that followed -- with everyone.
Today, Emma’s the trailblazer behind The Breath Effect, a wellness architect, a breath geek and someone who’s truly, madly, deeply committed to teaching the world to breathe effectively. She’s the creator of Stress Reduction and Better Breathing Course, a public speaker, an acupuncturist, a Pilates instructor and a registered physiotherapist with over 15 years’ clinical experience.
Emma’s straightforward, yet empathetic approach has seen her help people around the globe realise the power of effective breathing. Through her clinical consultation working with top athletes to burnt-out parents, trauma sufferers and teenagers, Emma uses her personal experiences, research, and extensive professional knowledge to empower people to take control over stress and the impact it has on the body and mind.
A childhood sporting injury first stirred Emma’s interest in physiotherapy, with her recovery lighting a spark that grew to a lifelong fascination with the study of pain and healing. After finishing as one of the top Bachelor of Physiotherapy graduates at Otago University, she returned to undertake a Masters of Physiotherapy. After opening her own physiotherapy clinic, Emma went on to complete a certificate in Western Acupuncture at the Auckland University of Technology and become a Pilates instructor.
Before The Breath Effect, Emma saw a steady stream of patients come through her clinic who were dealing with the stress and discomfort of pain. As a physio, she wanted to treat more than the physical, to understand the background, beliefs and lifestyle of her patients in order to help them. She began to see the recurring role that stress played in a patient’s physical pain and mental distress, but knew there was a bigger picture. She researched acupuncture, nutrition, dietary deficiency and exercise but still needed to pinpoint an effective and holistic treatment for healing both physical and emotional struggles.
In 2010, Emma made a breakthrough, but it almost came at the expense of her health, her marriage and her business.
A pregnancy heralded the next chapter in the story, but it wasn’t the beautiful experience Emma and her husband had hoped. Emma suffered hyperemesis gravidarum, a debilitating condition causing severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss and dehydration during pregnancy. While she struggled through, managing her business, her marriage and her own health to deliver a beautiful, healthy baby, she knew there were underlying issues that hadn’t been addressed like stress, exercise, eating and a healthy mindset.
As if to prove the cliché that life isn’t meant to be easy, Emma and her family were dealt another blow in the form of depression. The person she relied on for help during this difficult time, was instead relying on her.
A second pregnancy didn’t make things any easier. Another case of hyperemesis gravidarum saw Emma hospitalised repeatedly, and at her lowest she was unable to look after her toddler, her husband, her business and most importantly, herself.
A defining moment in your life when things get so hard you’re forced to look for another approach. Emma knew she had to make a dramatic change to save her physical and mental wellbeing, so began to look at her life, how she treated her body, nurtured her mind and cared for her heart.
Breathing. It all came down to the simplest, most natural of tasks. Something we do every day without thinking would provide Emma with the chance to stop, calm the body and mind, all while re-setting the nervous system. Breathing had been a barrier in Emma’s life before, when at the age of 12 she used breathing training to overcome a stutter and speech impediment. Learning to control her breath was the key to overcoming the stutter as a child and today as an adult enables her to speak confidently in front of audiences.
The importance of breathing came up again for Emma when she was 19 and studying physiotherapy. Despite the fact that her training didn’t teach the link between the respiratory system (lungs), the musculoskeletal system (muscles) and our stress response, Emma pursued Pilates alongside physiotherapy because of its focus on integrating breathing with movement. She looked at herself and realised she was pushing her body too hard to cope with a busy stressful world.
By learning techniques to return the body to calm, Emma was able to give her nervous system a rest so it could deal with the stress.
The first step was to work on calm, relaxed breathing, a crucial first step in rebalancing carbon dioxide levels and blood chemistry. By rebalancing her rhythm, rate and pace of breathing, Emma saw a dramatic change in her body’s stress response, brain fog and fatigue.
The next step was to strengthen the core breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Research led her to scientifically proven tools and techniques for strengthening the diaphragm and other breathing muscles. Adopting these, Emma realised that by using these muscles correctly, she could bring the body ‘back to calm’ to manage stress, trauma and pain.
Using these techniques to discover a level of vibrant health and energy that had been missing for many years, Emma knew that so many other men and women were playing a similar juggling game with their health. Determined to share what she’d learned, The Breath Effect was born.
Today, Emma has discovered fantastic health and raised two healthy, strong children. She continues to deal with the challenges and stress that busy families, relationships, business and illness can bring. But she knows she can handle it and that by using The Breath Effect's Breathe Right & Reduce Your Stress course, you can too.