Take a look at Indri Tulusan’s Instagram account, and you would never know she spent over 15 years in the stress-filled corporate world. With snapshots of her living amidst lush greenery and meditating on various mountaintops, she exudes joy and a radiant nature that can almost be felt through the screen.
Her secret? Learning to harness the power of the breath.
Today, Indri runs breathwork workshops around the world to empower individuals to connect with their true selves. At Nuguru, she’s developed “How you breathe is how you live: an introduction to breathing”, a program that details breathwork practices and practical applications of finding peace and joy in a stressful life.
Indri is all smiles as she speaks to us from Barcelona, where she is now based. Always ready to share how transformational breathing can be, Indri even begins our conversation by leading us through a simple breathing exercise.
Breathwork works through controlling or changing our normal breath patterns, and being aware of how we’re breathing. For example, nervousness brings forth shorter, shallower breaths, and calmness is achieved through slower deeper breathing. Indri explains, “How your breathing changes is the best indicator to see what your emotional state is. When you have a period of more stress, it’s harder for you to focus, but when you put breathwork into practice, you instantly become calmer, thoughts become calmer and you are connected to your center and the present moment. It becomes easier to focus on one thing at a time. There are different kinds of breathwork — the one I mostly practice is called Conscious Connected Breath, where you connect your inhale and exhale.”
But Indri was not always connected to her center. Although she describes herself as a “naturally happy person”, her corporate career in product and service innovation was not without its stresses. Believing that putting in long hours was the only way she could be successful , she placed immense pressure on herself to excel at her job while also struggling with mounting pressure from constant travel. Ironically, in her endeavor to be a “successful” working mother, Indri was spending less and less quality time with her children.
It was at this juncture that Indri discovered breathwork and developed a practice to help her tap into insights hidden within herself. Engaging in breathwork unpacked the preconceived notions of success that were ingrained in her from when she was a child, allowing her to not only realize the disconnect between her core values and who she was, but also give her a clear direction forward.
“When I do breathwork, I enter a mindset where it makes my limiting beliefs clear. It's like peeling back different layers of yourself. The first step is to become aware of what your dominant status is: how do you feel most of the time? What are your loudest thoughts? I realized I felt I had to struggle to be successful, partly because of my parents, who are Indonesian and moved to Germany to study medicine. I grew up thinking you had to struggle hard to maintain your success. But it doesn't need to be like that! In the end, it is up to me to be clear with my boundaries.”
To intentionally spend more time with her children, Indri and her husband decided to move to Bali for a few years. This slower, calmer pace of life wasn’t just a fresh start for Indri, but also taught her children important values about defining success for themselves. “My kids were taught an open mindset. Instead of saying ‘I'm not good at coloring,’ they said, ‘I enjoy coloring. I'm doing my own kind of coloring.’ You can say you’re not good at something yet, but you don’t say you’ll never be good at it. That leaves so much room for development.”
Besides practicing mindfulness exercises with her kids and ending the day with gratitude exercises, what Indri loves doing with them is a simple breathwork to usher in a peaceful night’s sleep. “If I breathe with them, their bodies relax, and they calm down. If your kids don't want to sleep, try doing a long inhale and a longer exhale from the belly, and a sigh to the exhale,” Indri readily shares.
Thanks to her breathwork practice, Indri now has a deeper understanding of how emotions are processed during childhood, and uses this knowledge to better care for her children while keeping space for herself.
“When you see kids experiencing joy, their bodies bounce up and down. The same happens when they’re angry — their bodies go rigid; they stomp their feet. As children, we are taught to be conscious of our bodies and not express ourselves in certain ways. People tell us to stop our behavior or be quiet. But if you don’t let these emotions go, it creates trauma in the body. Emotions have to come out for us to feel better after.”
“When my kids are overwhelmed and crying, I’ll hold them for a little while. They will cry until the emotion runs out. When my kids are loud and active, I’ll tell them I love seeing them so happy, instead of shushing them, and tell them gently if there are times where Mama needs some quiet time to rest.”
As we ask Indri to reflect on her breathwork journey, she decides to look to the future. “Breathwork is something that can make you feel so rejuvenated. My breathwork teacher is around 70 and he’s full of energy. My other friend, who has been a breathwork practitioner for more than 30 years, is 75 but looks 60. I want to be enjoying life like them. I want to be the 75-year-old lady full of radiance, helping hundreds of people to breathe better, to feel better, to be empowered to take their own wellbeing and life into their hands, and perhaps also drive a motorbike down the street.”
"The breath is the gateway out of your critical worried mind into your intuition and trusting heart. The breath is a shortcut to deep meditation, it brings you out of busy mind into your heart and the present moment. The breath is our remote control. Breath slows, heart rate slows, mind slows, we feel more calm."
Image Credits: Indri Tulusan