Hellé Weston & Lukis Mac

We sit down with Lukis Mac & Hellé Weston — the Kiwi wellness experts teaching Hollywood’s most notable names how to benefit from breathing

In the last decade, breathing has become a discipline that leaders in the wellness space are harnessing with increasing precision and incredible results. From Wim Hof’s groundbreaking explorations into breath control to journalist James Nestor’s scientific immersion in breathwork (and his bestselling book about it), breathing has become an art, and mastering it has become the key to unlocking mental and physical health on an unprecedented scale. Lukis Mac and Hellè Weston are two figures who have been working in this space for years. The Co-Founders of Owaken Breathwork (and real-life partners), New Zealanders Mac and Weston are now based in Los Angeles after taking their transformative coaching around the world, where they consult regularly with some of Hollywood’s most prominent names, from Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian to Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, as well as politicians, entrepreneurs, industry leaders and more. Strong proponents of breathwork for the ways it changed and opened up their own lives, Mac and Weston now help others achieve similarly profound results, and their growing popularity is a testament to the many benefits their techniques deliver. Here, we sit down with the duo to discuss how the key to unlocking our potential and enhancing our health is right under our noses.

Left: Hellé with Megan Fox. Right: Lukis with Machine Gun Kelly

Every morning for the last few months I have spent five minutes breathing. Quietly, eyes closed, I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth in a sequence of 10, then 20, then 30, holding my breath for the same amount of seconds between each set. The first time I did it, the sudden disruption to my natural breathing pattern made me panic. The second time, I felt more comfortable in the discomfort. The third time, I felt almost euphoric and now, it brings me a calmness and clarity that feels real and grounded. 


denizen_weekly
Feel like you're missing out? Be the first to know about what's new & noteworthy.
Sign up to our free EDM subscription today.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

The simplicity of it is almost laughable. After all, breathing — the intake of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide — is a natural and instinctive process. We do it every day, usually without thinking. So how can something so straightforward be used in such a transformative way, and why didn’t I know about it sooner? 

Breathwork has only really emerged as a recognisable wellness modality in the last few decades, although it has been around for millennia. And while its roots lie in ancient Eastern practices like Yoga, Buddhism and Tai Chi, its benefits have also been harnessed in various industries where managing stress is a requirement. (Like in the military, for instance, where techniques like box breathing are often taught to soldiers as an antidote to the environmental stressors that come with their work.) 

That said, the concept of stress management, particularly in our modern world, has become increasingly commodified, where whole industries have sprung from the pursuit of a stress-free life. More recently (and in tandem with the boom of social media) people have started to realise the profound impacts that something like a purposeful breathing practice can have on their longterm health, and this recognition has created space for breathwork to flourish, and for a number of experts to come to the fore. 

Two such experts who have built their careers on the power of breath are Lukis Mac and Hellè Weston. Partners in both business and life, Mac and Weston started their company Owaken Breathwork after years of researching, studying and experiencing various modalities in pursuit of something that would heal trauma, deliver optimised health and transform their mindsets. Breathing ticked all the boxes. 

“It’s mind blowing to see the way this practice has helped people… We get people writing to us all the time explaining how they’ve been able to release stress, find answers and just function better in their daily lives .” 

For Mac and Weston, the interest in holistic wellness sprung from upbringings in which mental health was an issue; first, in the adults who raised them, and then, in themselves too. Both grew up in West Auckland, and while Mac describes his mother as very loving, encouraging and supportive, it was his father’s episodes of depression, anxiety and addiction issues (leading to him tragically taking his life when Mac was only seven years old) that left a lasting legacy. “Growing up, I didn’t really know how to process my emotions,” Mac tells me, “so I ended up struggling with depression and anxiety myself for years.” Weston tells a similar story. “My family had a lot of mental health challenges too,” she says, “and there was this stigma around seeking help, where going to any kind of therapy was frowned upon.” 

When the pair first came together in 2007 (at the time, Mac a tattoo artist and Weston a fashion stylist) it was the shared desire for deeper understanding that connected them, and the ensuing journey of self discovery that strengthened their, now 17-year relationship. “We were reading books, trying different therapies, travelling and studying holistic modalities for over 10 years,” Mac tells me, before Weston jumps in, “and when we first started, it was pretty weird.” They laugh. Indeed, the idea of ‘natural health’ was, until fairly recently, thought of as too fringe for most, with Weston explaining that even the couple’s close friends and families didn’t initially understand what they were doing, or why. “Finding each other was so important, because it gave us permission to finally make these kinds of practices part of our everyday lives, and to be more open about them with other people.” 

Left: Lukis training Jake Paul. Right: Hellè during an Owaken Breathwork session

While travelling in Bali, the seeds for what would eventually become Owaken were planted when Mac and Weston had their first experience with breathwork. It was transformative. As Mac tells me, “For so many years I had lived in a state of survival, stress and struggle that was dictating my life, and breathwork allowed me to open up to my emotions, to connect the dots of what I was feeling and to deal with past experiences that I hadn’t been able to process. It was the start of when everything changed for me… the anxiety and depression I had been dealing with for as long as I could remember were suddenly no longer a part of my life.” 

According to Mac and Weston, the effectiveness of breathwork can be attributed to its “bottom-up” approach. “With more traditional therapy,” Weston explains, “we’re processing things consciously and intellectually and then dealing with the emotions after, whereas in breathwork, we start with the body which allows things that have been stored, that you might not even realise are there, to come to the surface and be addressed.” In this way, breathwork (particularly the kind practised by Mac and Weston) is a somatic therapy, which is the classification for treatments that focus on the body, built on the idea that our bodies’ tendencies to trap emotions and experiences can lead to debilitating conditions when left unaddressed. To the uninitiated this might sound a bit abstract and confusing, but underlying it all is a simple call for us to connect with ourselves on a deeper level, and the results are astounding.

“It’s mind blowing to see the way this practice has helped people,” Mac says, “We get people writing to us all the time explaining how they’ve been able to release stress, find answers and just function better in their daily lives.” Here, Weston adds, “I mean, we’ve all got something from our childhoods that we need to process, right? And I think you can spend years in therapy and never get to the root of that.” She continues, “I often get people saying that they haven’t been able to cry in years or even decades,” she says, “and then, through our breathwork, they can finally access grief or pain and release it… it’s really beautiful to be able to facilitate that process.”

Lukis with Travis Barker

In 2017, the duo founded Owaken Breathwork, pulling from their vast knowledge and experience to help people around the world. And what started as a few events in Australia quickly blossomed into an international movement. Now, the pair (and their business) is based in Los Angeles where they have become widely sought-after by big names in Hollywood for their breathwork events and private coaching. Mac’s one-on-one work with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, for instance, has been credited as a key reason why the famous musician was able to fly again, having sworn off planes for 13 years after surviving a horrific crash in 2008. The night before Barker’s first flight in over a decade, Mac was on hand to run him through a breathwork session that made the experience “the easiest ever,” according to the artist, who also told Nylon magazine and Rick Rubin on his podcast Tetragrammaton, that his sessions with Mac have not only allowed him to go deeper into his subconscious but that mindful inhalation and exhalation makes him “laugh, cry and feel high.” As Mac explains, “Travis was really able to heal his relationship to what he had been through, to not only start flying again but to start playing music again and touring, which was massive for him.” 

“People are watching those that they admire or idolise prioritising their own health and wellbeing…it’s changing the paradigm around what is considered ‘normal’ and encouraging people to try something new.” 

It was massive for Mac and Weston too, whose associations with figures like Barker and his wife (Kourtney Kardashian) gave the duo a profile that suddenly saw them inundated with requests. It put their work on the world stage, and crucially, gave other people permission to embrace breathwork as something that might be able to help them, too. “The biggest area where we’re seeing the needle move is around social media and popular culture,” Weston says. “People are watching those that they admire or idolise prioritising their own health and wellbeing, from actors and musicians to athletes and entrepreneurs, and it’s changing the paradigm around what is considered ‘normal’ and encouraging people to try something new.” Mac and Weston’s work has also been buoyed by a collective, post-Covid realisation of the importance of self-care and of eschewing burnout-inducing routines and the kind of corporate culture that once, was so celebrated.

In fact, a lot of the work that Mac and Weston do is as much about a collective experience as it is an individual one. It functions on a number of levels. In Owaken’s events, the duo holds space for a vast number of people in a single room, guiding them through a series of intensive breathwork techniques for four hours, and watching incredible breakthroughs on a mass scale. While in one-on-one sessions, Mac and Weston work with their clients for around two-and-a-half hours, and it’s a more personalised experience. “With Owaken, there’s the therapeutic work, which is more focused on emotional detox in intensive sessions,” Weston explains, “and then there’s the daily maintenance work, which can be anywhere from five to 30 minutes a day which can be mindful breathing, meditation, journaling… and both are as important as each other.” 

Lukis & Hellé

Alongside their events and in-person sessions, the pair have launched an Owaken app that has been designed to encourage and support daily practice, and also give those who are curious about the work a good place to start. For Mac and Weston, a typical day might begin with their Owaken Daily five minute breathing (the same one that I have been doing every morning), before going into a 30-minute meditation, a journaling practice, a cold-plunge and sauna session, a workout and then a walk. And that’s before the working day begins. “It sounds intense,” says Mac, laughing, “but it’s become a non-negotiable for us, and I really notice a change when I’m travelling or out of routine.” 

Beyond the routines and techniques and practices, what Mac and Weston are really doing with Owaken is to remind us all of our vast capacity for change. “Watching over and over again how the lives of the people can transform through something as simple as breathwork, really solidifies how powerful we are as human beings, and how we can create positive change in our lives,” Mac tells me. Weston adds, “Working with the breath, you quickly realise that we have this incredible tool right under our noses… it’s natural, you can do it for free and it can lead to rapid and profound healing, and I just want more people to know about it.” 

Given Owaken’s evolution, it would seem that people do want to know about it. In fact many people, including myself, are more open than ever before to exploring alternative avenues of health, thanks to the work of practitioners like Mac and Weston and their growing visibility in popular culture. And if my personal experience with an easy, five-minute daily practice is anything to go by, it truly is the simplest way to affect real, lasting change. “Think about how we tell ourselves or the people we care about to ‘take a breath’ in moments of distress or crisis,” Weston says, “we all intuitively know how good breathing is for us… it’s just deepening our relationship with that instinct, and harnessing it properly.”   

So whether you’re someone who is searching for answers, craving change or is simply curious, Mac and Weston’s breathwork is certainly one path to achieving calm in the face of the relentlessness of modern life. Sit back, take a breath and see for yourself. 

owaken.com

Wellbeing

Go waste-free in the kitchen with this genius innovation from Ecostore
Achieve pouty perfection with this edit of the bold lipstick trends you should be trying
Nutritionist Dr. Sarah Mitchell Weston on the best supplement powders to add to your morning routine