Just breathe - meditation with Maude Hirst

Actor turned meditation facilitator Maude Hirst, tell us how to handle the stresses of wedding planning

Maude Hirst doing a yoga pose in a busy high street Credit: © Justin Gardner

Once a successful actor best known for her role as Helga in the hit TV show Vikings, Maude Hirst is now a meditation facilitator, wellness expert and founder of bespoke meditation company EnergyRise. Discovering meditation, yoga and energy healing changed her life for the better and she believes it can do the same for everyone. With a wedding on the horizon for Maude too, CWM beauty and wellness editor Kelly Andrews, caught up with Maude recently to find out more.

Can you tell us about your journey from actor to wellness coach? It must have been a real life change for you. It has definitely been a wonderful but life-changing few years. The catalyst to discovering meditation and yoga was a horrible break up. I was approaching my 30s at the time, had recently finished filming Vikings and the break up left me questioning a lot of things in my life. I went on a cliché yoga and meditation retreat, and it was during this time that everything unexpectedly changed. I realised how disconnected I'd been from myself and my happiness. But the more I practised meditation and yoga, the more I discovered about myself. It sparked a feeling of joy and freedom in me that I really wanted to share with as many people as I possibly could.

From there I began my training, which took me from LA to London and deep into the rainforest in Peru. After hundreds of hours of meditation and falling in love with the practice, my company was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

Your character in Vikings, Helga, had to deal with some difficult issues throughout the course of the show, which must have affected you as a young actor. How do you feel what you now know would have helped you through the difficult task of bringing these matters to screen and leaving them there? I often think about how different my life back then would have been with the meditation tools I have today. Not just as an actor but as a young woman navigating the world. One of the many amazing benefits of the practice is the ability to process your emotions in healthier ways. I now know that when I'm dealing with something very emotional, the best thing I can do is to sit and feel into the emotion, which allows it to pass, rather than try and push it away.

As a young actor dealing with very emotional subject matters, I used to feel them intensely on set but then avoid feeling anything off set. So knowing that it's safe to feel emotions I believe could have helped me enormously.

How have the practices you've developed changed your own life between then and now? My life has changed in so many brilliant ways. Firstly, through hours of meditation I feel I understand myself far better than I used to and have learned to trust my own intuition above all else. I went from a cycle of toxic relationships to now being engaged to the most wonderful, caring man. And lastly, I feel much less anxious and more playful than I ever have before.

What are the various life challenges can you help people with?
The life challenges I help people navigate through are anxiety, stress and overwhelm. Rebuilding self-confidence and helping to find more purpose in their lives. I've supported people through grief, career changes, relationship breakups and starting new healthy relationships but most importantly through all of this, feeling a deep sense of self-worth so they can navigate through whatever life throws their way.

What is energy healing? Have you ever sensed someone looking at you before you've seen them? Or felt a good or bad vibe from someone before you've spoken to them? That is energy. Energy healing is working with that to clear the energy field of the body and bring a more harmonious flow. I'm trained in a modality called Theta Healing that works through meditation and the theta brainwave, tapping into your subconscious and energetically creating powerful internal shifts in order to live a more positive and healthy lifestyle.

How can this benefit those planning their wedding in particular? Wedding planning can be stressful, and I've found having meditation and energy healing as a toolkit through this process has brought calm, clarity and confidence whenever I've needed it most. It can do the same for you too. As little as five minutes of deep breathing can calm your nervous system, so you don't need to go and train for hours to reap the benefits of these practices just a few simple tools can be a game changer.

Maude Hirst sat down on a chair in beige trousers and white top
Credit: ©Grit Siwonia

What is meditation? There are many different types of meditation so there's not always one simple answer but in its simplest form, meditation is a practice of being with yourself. It's turning the focus away from all external distractions (of which there are many) and prioritising time to observe your inner world.

How do we start getting into meditation? Is it something that can be done alone, or is it recommended to join a class? You can absolutely start alone by setting a timer for five to 10 minutes and just observing your breathing. Whenever the mind wanders you just gently return your focus back to the breath. However, I personally found it easier at the beginning of my journey to join a class, so that I had guidance and learned different techniques. You can always join me at www.maudehirst.co.uk

What types of meditation would you recommend to a couple feeling overwhelmed by planning a wedding? There are many different types of meditation: breath awareness, visualisations, body scanning, movement meditation, mantra meditation, to name just a few. I'd recommend starting with breath awareness for any wedding stress. When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, your breath becomes short and shallow, so anytime you feel the wedding pressure getting too much, slow down your breathing – six seconds inhaling and six seconds exhaling (all through the nose). Repeat for 10 rounds and notice as your breath calms down, your whole body will begin to calm.

Huge congratulations on your upcoming wedding! What have you learned from your own planning journey that can help readers going through the same process? Thank you. I'm definitely learning as I go. I've found having honest conversations with my partner about what we want and not asking everyone's opinions has been very helpful. Secondly, to not get too attached to each detail. We found a wonderful venue but sadly just as we were booking, it went into administration. Although it has been super-upsetting, it made us realise what's most important to us, and that is marrying each other. So, whatever venue we decide on will end up being the perfect one. Lastly, remembering that you don't have to follow traditions, it can be fun to add little bits of you into the day. I think the biggest lesson is just to take the pressure off getting it right and try to enjoy the process along the way.

Can you give us any teasers about your dream day? We haven't finalised everything yet but we know we want it to be unique and intimate. 

We're desperate to know! How did you find the dress-shopping? I've had the best time dress shopping. It's been my favourite part. I don't want to reveal too much but I thought I wanted to go lace boho vibes but what I've decided on is totally different!

Finally, do you have any top tips for the wedding morning, when the nerves go into overdrive? Yes make sure you schedule some time before everything kicks off to sit quietly and breathe deeply for five minutes. The best breath to calm the nerves is four seconds in and six seconds out. Then, find a positive affirmation to repeat to yourself before you walk down the aisle. I will be using 'I feel calm and sexy – let's do this!'

Head over to www.maudehirst.co.uk, where you'll discover lots of different tools including a members club and a meditation app with pre-recorded sessions you can use at any time.

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