Sui Mindfulness is using breathing techniques and nature to decrease stress in schools around Ireland

Derval Dunford Director of Sui Mindfulness is a pioneer in mindfulness and breathwork. She has helped thousands of people since 2006, has trained over 9000 Irish primary school teachers, and changed the lives of tens of thousands of children through mindfulness, and well-being. Her partner Mick Hogan also presents a variety of  nature-based workshops, walks and talks for schools, and other groups both onsite and on zoom. Since November 2020 Derval has used her experience in breathwork to create a school program that shows student how their breathing can reduce stress and anxiety and help their sleep improve.

  1. Explain Suí Mindfulness to somebody who may not have heard of it before?

Training the mind is like training a puppy. It’s the nature of the puppy to wander, it’s also the nature of the mind. Both can be trained. Sui, pronounced see, is the Irish word for sit.

Mindfulness is a sort of gentle awareness, it is the foundation. Breathwork is the action. We can train the mind from the top down or the bottom up.

The practices Derval uses hack into the nervous system and literally change physiology. Bottom up is the most efficient and effective way!

Derval has spent years finding the ‘stuff that works’ and making it fun and accessible.  As a result the content of her workshops and her practices are simple, practical and effective. They are research and/or evidence-based and most importantly nature-based. She works with internal ecosystems, sustainability on the inside.

Derval’s partner Mick Hogan looks after the external ecosystems, an expert on birdlife Mick offers guided nature walks and talks.

  1. What’s the backgrounds of the founders? Why did you decide to set out on this journey?

Inspired by her life challenges PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in early adulthood, chronic fatigue and MCS (multiple Chemical Sensitivity) in her thirties, Derval is on a mission to find the quickest, easiest, most effective and fun way to help others to find what works for them.

Derval is a qualified MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and Yoga Nidra teacher, HeartMath Coach, BreathMastery teacher, Stress Management Coach and Breath-Body-Mind teacher. She has also studied Hypnotherapy, Aromatherapy, Counselling Skills. A pioneer in Mindfulness and Breathwork

Derval created a ‘world’s first’, and a few ‘Irish firsts’ on the Mindfulness and Breathwork scene. As one of the first registered Global Breathwork Leaders, the first qualified BreathMaster in Ireland trained by Dan Brule, the first qualified BBM (Breath- Body-Mind) teacher in Ireland trained by U.S. Psychiatrists Derval continues to lead the way.

She has worked with a variety of organisations including regular workshops and courses with the HSE, INTO, IPPN, Education Centres nationally, she has presented at numerous educational conferences, and the inaugural Breathing Festival in Mexico Feb 2020.

Mick Hogan’s irrepressible enthusiasm for the wonder of nature is infectious. He is passionate about connecting, or re-connecting people with nature, drawing them out of the virtual world and into the present. Mick loves the quirky aspects of nature, his aim is always to reacquaint people with their sense of awe.

​While he specializes in bird survey work, Mick also presents a variety of  nature-based workshops, walks and talks for schools, and other groups both onsite and on zoom.  Mick is a GMIT qualified Marine and Countryside Guide, and Climate Control Ambassador in Mayo. Mick works with schools, Education Centres, private groups, and the National Museum of Ireland.

  1. How effective has the program been so far? What are some of the highlights?

Why don’t we find out from some of the children themselves

  1. How do you go about marketing the company? What do you find most effective?

Word of mouth is the slowest but the best form of marketing. When a person gets a night’s sleep they tell their friends, when a child no longer loses his temper on a daily basis parents tell their friends, people trust their friends.

  1. As a social enterprise how do you make money from the program? How are you funded other than that?

It is a constant creative juggle to actually make that social impact and earn a living. We have chipped away basically without funding and we still managed to make an enormous impact.

In terms of funding Sui received is the Trading Online Voucher of €2500 from LEO, and €400 from Gno Mhuigheo for a project in ‘As Gaeilge’.

  1. What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about breathing and Yogic Sleep? How do you dispel this?

Some people have a preconceived idea that this work is all a bit airy fairy, some of it certainly can be so I don’t blame them! Almost all of my work is research-based and/or evidence-based, it is a unique blend of ancient wisdom and cutting edge science.

I feel I can explain things in a way that people really understand, I can back it up with research too. Once people experience the peace, the silence, the deep rest, there is no need to convince them of anything. If it works it works, they don’t care after that!

  1. Do you have any little tips or exercises you do for people sitting at their desks in work or home office, to improve their breathing and reduce stress?

Yes!!! Shallow breathing is basically known as emergency breathing, if this is your pattern for extended periods of time, it impacts your sleep, learning, memory and also exacerbates anxiety.

The bottom line

  • Bring awareness to your breath
  • Close your mouth if it’s open
  • Learn to breathe Light Slow Deep

What effect has the pandemic had on your services?

Pre-pandemic I was usually onsite in centres, schools, and businesses, so we had to reinvent ourselves online. It took a lot of research and planning to find a way to make it fun and effective but we’re very happy with it now.

  1. What are your plans for the rest of 2021 and beyond? We will teach whole school communities i.e. staff and pupils how to hack their nervous systems, to reduce anxiety, boost creativity, create a feeling of safety, and as a result to thrive. I’d love to collaborate on creative social projects with a variety of artists, authors, funders and IT people. We intend to impact the widest possible audience. 
  2. Are there any other people, programs or companies that inspire you in Ireland currently?

Anyone working from the heart inspires me, anyone who can say ‘I helped someone today’. The people I’ve worked with on Social Impact Ireland and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland programmes have certainly been an inspiration

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