Sona Goes to Sweden! (Or a potted history of Breathworks' online courses)

Sonas blog

Sona Fricker, along with Ratnaguna and Vidyamala, is one of the three Founding Directors of Breathworks; he has been practising meditation for over 40 years and teaching mindfulness for over 10 years.

Sona has just got back from a trip to Sweden to meet our partners in the production of our online courses – The Mindfulness Centre (MFC) in Lulea, Sweden.

Sona is Breathworks' 'big ideas' person, and during his trip to Sweden he not only spent his time in meetings absorbing huge amounts of technical information (hopefully retained!), he was also able to practice his Swedish (he lived for 8 years in Stockholm in the 1980s) and re-awaken his love for Sweden and its wonderful hospitality.

Sona was originally responsible for getting Breathworks' four online courses up and running, and these are now a huge success. Both Vidyamala and Sona are very enthusiastic about online courses and see online health care as becoming increasingly important as it has the big advantage of allowing people who live in situations where they cannot attend a local course to benefit from mindfulness.

Our four online courses:

  • Introduction to Mindfulness Course Online
  • Mindfulness for Health Course Online
  • Mindfulness for Health Online in a Worldwide Web-based Group
  • Mindfulness Taster Course


mindfulness center team The Lulea MFC team (left to right) Jennifer, Marie and Susanne

Sona, says: “The MFC are our online course partners not only because they provide a very high standard of mindfulness instruction, their meditations led by extremely experienced practitioners, but they have also invested huge sums of money to create the online course platforms that we use. So, we are confident that our online partners are one of the best mindfulness organisations in the world.

MFC's Director's Ola Schenström and Susanne Nygren and their small effective team have also created an organisation with an income twice the size of Breathworks in a country with a population around the size of London. They use their online course as the core material for mindfulness training in many different areas and have provided Sweden’s largest business companies with mindfulness courses.

MFC are very experienced and have taught over 1000 people to be mindfulness teachers, or as they call them ‘instructors;’ they provide an ever increasing variety of courses that include Mindfulness for Stress, Mindfulness for Parents, Mindfulness for Children, Mindfulness in the Workplace as well as Mindfulness for Health.”

How the online courses developed

We have been working with the MFC for over five years. In the first instance, Vidyamala and I recorded translations of the MFC online stress course in English. This course is available as our 'Introduction to Mindfulness', it is an 8 week course, and is suitable for anyone looking for a mindfulness for stress course, as this is what it was originally developed as in Sweden.

Moving on from this first straight translation for Swedish to English, the Directors of MFC asked Sona and Vidyamala to produce and record mindful meditation tracks and talks for an online Mindfulness for Health course. This took several months and the tracks were recorded in 2010, and were so successful they were then translated into Swedish.

One of the developments of this Mindfulness for Health course is the shorter meditations, prior to this meditations were 20 to 40 minutes long. Now, they are shorter mindfulness practices and range around the 10 to 12 minute mark as these seem more effective for people learning on their own.”

Virtual mindfulness classrooms

It was Sona who brought the idea of developing the online platforms as a group based activity by using virtual classrooms. These are closed environments where course participants can leave messages, either by text, audio or video so they are able to share, with other course participants their experiences and insights. This community classroom tool, along with the facilitation of a Breathworks' teacher creates a highly effective, quality environment.

In the Autumn of 2012 Breathworks' went onto to hold a pilot online course with just 12 participants – this proved to be so effective that it became the template for the Mindfulness for Health Online Group. Participants were living with disability and Long Term Conditions and some who were bed-bound were able to access our Mindfulness for Health course for the first time. Whatever their situation, those who participated in the first Mindfulness for Health courses developed lasting friendships that have endured until now, and one even went onto to train as a Breathworks teacher!

Unexpected Developments

Our courses created such a huge amount of high quality mindfulness training material, that Vidyamala was able to use this as the basis of her book (co-written with Dr Danny Penman) – “Mindfulness for Health, A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing.“

This book has now been translated into 12 different languages, won first prize at the 2014 British Medical Awards, Popular Medicine category and has actually become the course material for our Mindfulness for Health eight week course (the one done in an actual class, with a teacher) that is being delivered in 25 countries around the world.

So, what took you to Sweden, Sona?

Two main reasons: to discuss how we could make the look of the platform more attractive and more user friendly and to work out how to combine the online Mindfulness for Health course with the virtual classroom.

As most people are now online via a range of platforms - mobile phones, iPads and tablets etc. the MFC is now using a virtual classrooms with coaching via an app that will allow the user to follow the course on mobile devices. The designs look so promising! They will definitely make the whole experience really interactive and absorbing and should definitely increase motivation to practise. We are hoping that this app with be available in English in the not too distant future.”

If you are interested in our online courses please visit here

And for bookings and further questions please email or phone 0161 674 9256.

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Friday, 14 December 2018