'Breathwork helped me grieve my girlfriend's death – now I help others'

Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.

This week we’re chatting with Stuart Sandeman, 40, from London, who is an expert in all things breathwork, which involves using your breath in intentional patterns to boost mental and physical wellbeing.

Stuart is a globally recognised breathing expert and performance coach, the host of BBC Radio 1’s Decompression Session, the bestselling author of Breathe In Breathe Out, and the founder of Breathpod.

To add to that impressive CV, he is also Nike’s first breathwork coach.

Before this, he was a judo champion and music producer, but Stuart came to breathwork after tragically losing his girlfriend to cancer at the age of just 31.

From there, he trained as a respiratory coach, studying eastern methodologies and western science.

Now he helps a whole manner of people, and includes A-listers amongst his many clients.

Hey Stuart. How did you first come across breathwork?

I came to breathwork through grief.

When my girlfriend passed away, I happened to attend a breathwork session with my mum for Mother’s Day.

Little did I know that it would have such a profound impact on me.

Breathwork helped me navigate through my grief and find a renewed sense of self. It truly changed my life.

What’s a beginner technique readers can try now?

There are various breathwork techniques that can shift your mental and emotional state.

Some techniques focus on transitioning from stress to calm, distraction to focus, or even fatigue to energy. Others can enhance breathing performance in sports, and there are powerful therapeutic techniques to process emotions and trauma.

A quick and effective technique for beginners is my favourite stress-to-calm method, which I call the ‘if in doubt, breathe it out’ technique.

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, a long drawn-out breath helps slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and move your body into its calm, rest, digest, repair mode.

It’s super simple:

  • Breathe in through your body for a count of four, using your diaphragm so that you can feel your belly expand before your chest. 
  • Pause for a count of four – keep calm and still.
  • Breathe out through you mouth for a count of eight. Relax your shoulders, face and jaw.
  • Repeat as needed.

When you first tried breathwork, you said it changed your life – can you tell us more about how?

I felt like the weight of grief was pulled off me, my sleep deepened, my energy increased.

My inner voice became kinder and more compassionate.

I had other huge changes too, like overcoming a crippling fear of public speaking.

When and why did you decide to get into it as a career?

I never set out to make it a career. I simply found a tool that profoundly helped me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I couldn’t help but shout from the rooftops and share that with the world.

I set out on a mission to make others happier and healthier through the power of breathwork.

By working on an individual level, we can create a ripple effect and bring about a shift in consciousness on a larger scale, which is much needed in our world today.

What advice would you give for others wanting to get into breathwork? Is the industry monitored?

There is a real buzz around breathwork at the moment which is amazing, as more and more people can access its transformative potential.

However, it’s important to note that the industry lacks consistent training standards and monitoring of teachers and training schools.

There are different types of breathwork too, from functional to therapeutic approaches.

There are a lot of ‘fast-track’ courses popping up everywhere, which I would avoid.

As breathwork can unlock deep rooted trauma for some, it’s important to do research when considering when choosing training programs and teachers. It’s also important that you do your own inner work before you start guiding others.

An average day in the working life of Stuart Sandeman

‘My schedule doesn’t follow a set pattern, which keeps things dynamic and exciting for me. Some days involve consulting with businesses and brands, other days I work with clients one-on-one in my private clinic.

‘To maintain balance, I prioritise a solid morning routine.’

6am–7am: Hydrate, 30 mins of movement, 20 min of Breathwork, 10 minutes of visualisation and gratitude. 

Stuart works with clients in person and online (Picture: Stuart Sandeman)

7am–7:30am: Cold shower, then prep music and content for my morning class on Instagram.

7.30am–8am: Deliver Breathpod Morning Live on Instagram to help people start their day feeling good. 

8am: Get ready and travel.

9am: Begin the day’s activities.

What’s the best outcome you’ve had from breathwork, either for yourself or a client?

A recent experience really stands out. Last month I was delivering breathwork sessions at a conference in Ibiza.

After the conference I attended a music event and a Spanish guy covered in tattoos approached me: ‘Oh my god it, it’s you’ he said. I was as shocked as he was.

‘You don’t know me, you’ve never met me, but your sessions completely changed my life,’ he went on to tell me, explaining that he was depressed and suicidal, but someone put him onto my online sessions.

They helped him rediscover a joy he never knew existed.

He then went on to say he turned his whole life around, reconnected with his love of nature and now helps others who are struggling, by taking them on nature walks. The conversation had me in tears. 

What do you love most about your job?

Helping people realign their breath, body and mind to become the best version of themselves.

It’s an honour to play a role in people journey of transformation and growth.

What do you dislike the most?

Like all jobs and businesses there is a level of admin that can feel like a chore.

There is also the stress of social media, it’s such a wonderful and powerful tool to impact people, but somedays it can feel like hard, demanding work.

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