Open app for breath work makes it much less intimidating

EITHERn a Friday night several months ago, I took a breathing exercise class at the pop-up location of the digital fitness and mindfulness platform Open in Venice, California. And as I lay on the hardwood floor, trying to keep up with the rapid, rhythmic, controlled breathing exercises that made me feel uncomfortable and out of control, my suspicions were confirmed: As a healing modality, breathing is intense and intense. it can even be intimidating.

“Breathing is one of the few bodily functions that occurs automatically and voluntarily. We define breathwork as any practice that manipulates breathing,” says Raed Khawaja, CEO and co-founder of Open, a digital wellness platform that has as a goal to provide accessible services, inclusive wellness practices, such as breathing. “By manipulating the breath through specific breathing techniques, we can access a multitude of physiological and psychological benefits. Some have been studied in clinical settings, others are more anecdotal and occur on an emotional level.” Some of these benefits include decreasing anxiety and promoting better sleep.

The first part of the class, marked by a feeling of shortness of breath, made me question all the life decisions that led me to that exact moment in time, which I was regretting at the time. But I kept going, and then I felt it: the stillness and silence that people describe finding during meditation that I never seemed to be able to find. You know how when you turn on your computer, the machine hums to warm up, but then stops and there’s a heartbeat before the screen comes back on? That’s how I felt during class, after overcoming the shortness of breath from the warm-up exercises. And after class, I felt ready to break free, like I wanted to hide in my room and cry, but in a good way.

“I believe that mindfulness is the gateway to wellness,” says Khawaja.I was raised in a wonderful Muslim home and learned to pray at a very young age. I wouldn’t have called it a ‘meditation practice’ at the time, but that’s exactly what it was for me. Every Friday, I would join hundreds of people at my local mosque as we prayed in unison with a billion other Muslims around the world.” While he has since moved away from his religious practice, he says group prayer was his first contact how the community feels, and that has been a guiding inspiration to cultivate the Open community.

“We set out to create the feeling you get when you practice with your friends and the community at your local studio, a feeling many of us missed last year.” —Raed Khawaja, CEO and co-founder of Open

Although Open was originally conceived to be a physical studio (it hosted more than 100 pop-ups in San Francisco in 2019 and was scheduled to open a permanent studio in 2020 before the pandemic hit), those plans changed. At the start of the pandemic, “we quickly beefed up our team and directed all of our resources and focus to translate the magic of the in-person experience into something that could be accessed from anywhere,” says Khawaja. “We invest a lot of resources to make sure we offer the most immersive audiovisual experience for live broadcasts.” From there, the team considered which features would best allow users to engage with their community, which includes people from more than 130 cities and 40 countries.

“People love that they can turn on their camera to get live feedback from teachers, chat with others in the class, and even connect at times from birthdays to world events,” says Khawaja. “We set out to create the feeling you get when you practice with your friends and the community at your local studio, a feeling many of us missed last year.”

The application offers classes in three modalities: Breathe, Move and Meditate. (If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a guided survey that can point you in direction based on your specific goals.) That said, each of the experiences in the app is “designed to meet you wherever you are,” says Khawaja. “Someone who has never meditated before can enter the same class as someone who has been practicing for 10 years, and both will benefit from trusted access to presence and a sense of community.”

You can also filter the classes by modality, class duration (there are classes from one minute to 60 minutes) and instructor. Both on-demand classes and live classes are included with membership, which, after a two-week free trial, costs $20 per month or $10 per month with an annual membership, and each class comes with notes on what to expect. what you can expect to experience. Instructors also set contraindications, such as if you’re pregnant, have asthma, or are prone to seizures, both on the app and in in-person classes to make sure everyone is safe. Basically, if you’re looking for a Peloton-style community for mindfulness, breathing, and meditation (along with Pilates and yoga), Open is your answer.

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