Chief sub-editor Rosie Morton meets Edinburgh’s Stuart Sandeman, breath coach and Radio 1 presenter, as he celebrates his best-selling debut book on the power of breathwork.
‘BAD breathing is like wearing your winter clothes on a hot summer’s day… (and not knowing that your shorts are in your bag).’
‘Bad breathing?’ What constitutes good or bad breathing? Surely it’s simple enough?
Breathe in, check your inbox.
Breathe out, ferry the kids to school.
Breathe in, sit in rush hour traffic.
Breathe out, run to your morning meeting.
Right beneath our noses, some 20,000 times a day, our heart and lungs work in perfect harmony to bring energy to our bodies and life to our cells, and they have done since the day we were born. But have we really harnessed the potential of our breath? Edinburgh-born Stuart Sandeman – breath coach, Radio 1 presenter and now Sunday Times best-selling author – wagers that most of us would benefit from fine tuning our breathing habits. Indeed, Stuart has found simple breathwork techniques invaluable when coping with his own grief after he tragically lost his girlfriend to cancer.
‘Our breath is the bridge between our physical, mental and emotional state,’ he says.
As we sat in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens listening to Stuart talk about his debut book, Breathe In, Breathe Out – which just yesterday was announced as a Sunday Times best-seller – I felt quietly (and naively) confident that my own respiratory system was ticking away just fine. However Stuart, a former Scottish judo champion, financier and DJ, spoke so passionately about the transformative power of breathing techniques, that I was eager to learn more. Besides, if Stuart’s positively beatific aura was anything to go by, I was ready to be signed up and converted.
Asking us all to place one hand on our chest, one hand on our belly, he talked us through a simple exercise. In record time, he proved not only that my breathing was shallow and sharp, but also that it was causing tension in my upper back, shoulders and neck. In short, it was long overdue an MOT.
Thankfully, I’m not alone. Stuart has instigated such quiet revelations around the UK and beyond since he launched his London-based Breathpod company in 2017. His early-morning livestream practices on Instagram earned him a 45,000-strong army of devoted followers during lockdown, and he has since helped a long list of clients to breathe to reduce stress, improve mood and mindset, and accelerate performance and productivity. Some of his clients include Nike, Google, Olympic athletes, actors and musicians. He now hosts a popular Radio 1 wellbeing series called the Decompression Session, in which he combines relaxing music with breathing exercises. Essentially, Stuart is helping people better cope with the slings and arrows of everyday life.
So, how does it work? Stuart teaches clients to relearn movements that have long since been forgotten: breathing from the diaphragm, not the chest; breathing through the nose, not the mouth; or even simply adjusting posture. His book, Breathe In, Breathe Out, is packed full of easy-to-follow tools that help rebalance the extraordinary orchestra of bodily functions that we call our respiratory system.
‘It’s wonderful to empower people with breathing tools that can improve and transform lives,’ says Stuart. ‘After I lost my girlfriend to cancer, I was on the brink of despair until I discovered that just by tweaking something we all do all day, every day you can rewire your brain and change the way you think and feel. I want to help as many people as I can to learn these simple yet profound techniques – they’re so easy to incorporate into your daily routine and will bring so many benefits in terms of your health and happiness.’
This morning, I followed my first Breathpod Instagram live session, and I can already sense that Stuart is onto something. With the real possibility that I’m walking an inch taller today, I vow to make this a part of my everyday. You heard it here first.
Breathe In, Breathe Out is a Sunday Times bestseller and is published by Harper Collins, HQ. RRP £16.99. Also available in eBook and audio.
Stuart Sandeman’s Radio 1 Decompression Sessions are also available on BBC Sounds. You can follow him on Instagram @Breathpod.