With her self-help technique Dawnie Browne is on a mission to enhance health, improve self-esteem and bring peace of mind. She talks to Andi Nader

A TRAUMATIC riding accident at the age of 12 marked a turning point in the life of Dawnie Browne, from Sacriston, on the outskirts of Durham. “I was galloping through the woods on my new pony, Frosty, when I realised I had lost control. We were heading towards a busy road and I thought I was going to die,” Dawnie recalls.

The next Dawnie knew she woke up in hospital after being rescued by a man from a local garage. “I felt massive relief to be alive, but I was in agony as my pony had fallen on my leg and my ankle was broken in seven or eight places,” she says. “But facing my own mortality at such a young age caused me to revaluate my life. I was convinced that from then on, I wanted to do some good for others.”

Sadly, what followed was years of struggle with her own mental and physical health. After 16 weeks the plaster cast was removed from her leg, but her problems continued. “I suffered memory loss, so my studies were affected, plus I had low mood, chronic pain and high anxiety levels,” says Dawnie. After undergoing six operations, her ankle fused and she walked with a limp, using a walking stick to get around.

As she completed her degree in Human Communications Dawnie reached the lowest point of her life. “Basically, I was traumatised, I was suffering so much anxiety at this stage my eardrums were bursting with the pressure,” she says.

She began to despair of finding a cure for her myriad health issues in this country, so she decided to turn to Eastern practices, which are well-known for supporting well-being.

Boarding a plane to Thailand, she began a two and a half year study of yoga, reiki and meditation, a journey that led her back to good health.“Intuitively, I began to realise that you can draw on your own breath as a resource, that the answers to our well-being lie inside of us. Our body is our first home.”

Dawnie furthered her understanding of the body with studies in Infant Attachment theory, biology and counselling. While researching her Masters degree she developed a self-help method named Breath Perception and, in 2012, her consultancy Breath4well-being was born. The technique teaches people to use the conscious slowing down of breath to bring deep relaxation and an ability to cope with difficult life challenges.

In 2013, Dawnie was invited by the HIV/AIDS charity Body Positive to work at Freeman Hospital Newcastle and discovered her method gave hope to those living with this life-threatening condition. One HIV positive man in his forties told her it had given him a better quality of life. “The breathing has given me some control back,” he said.

Her consultancy has since worked with hundreds of clients across the UK, including cancer patients, the dying and those with long-term health conditions. Even psychotherapists and psychiatrists have sought her help. The method has also helped sportsmen and people in business seeking to step up to the next level of success.

Last year, the national children’s mental health charity, Place2Be invited Dawnie to work in schools across County Durham. School counsellors train in Breath Perception which is then taught to children. The workshops have proved a great success. Pupils –often from troubled family backgrounds – have used them to help overcome their emotional issues, learning to control their anger and self-destructive behaviour.

Recently adult carers from Darlington attended a day workshop to focus on their lives, away from the strains of caring for others. The attendees included a young woman who is a full-time carer for her mother and an elderly man who cares for his wife with dementia. Says Leigh, a parent carer of her teenage daughter: “This gave me the tools to cope. I now try to practise the breathing techniques for half an hour a day and I don’t feel desperate any more. I have never felt more relaxed in my life”.

Says Dawnie: “Most of us live our lives in a stressed state, unaware of the amazing power available to us from the breath”.

  • Dawnie Browne MBCAP can be contacted via: breath4wellbeing.com dawnie@breathe4wellbeing.com