Are we all breathing wrong?


We breathe on average 20,000 times a day without even thinking about it but statistics show 1 in 10 of us aren’t doing it quite right. We ask breathwork coach Stuart Sandeman where we’re going wrong and how we can reverse our bad habits…

Is there a right and wrong way to breathe?

On a day-to-day level when your body is not under threat, we should be practicing ‘diaphragmatic’ or ‘deep belly’ breathing. “This is a fuller and slower breath and it allows the organs to move down,” explains Stuart Sandeman, who is the founder of Breathpod. The other type of breath is intercostal chest breathing which we tend to do when we’re in a state of stress. “The short shallow breath is a hyperventilating breath and if you are breathing into your chest at rest or as default you will be creating stress,” says Stuart.

How do people get into bad breathing habits?

Illness, injury and posture can play a part but Stuart believes there are two main reasons: habitual stress when your brain thinks you’re under threat – what he calls the “modern-day tiger” – and trauma. “We breathe 20,000 times a day so if you breathe in this way (into your chest) for a year or however long you are in the stressful situation you form a habit and the muscles find it easier to breathe in this way. The other reason is that when we go through an experience you can hold your breath and create tension in the body. My journey into this was through grief and I learned I was holding my emotion in my chest.”

He also adds that people get into bad habits if they suck in their stomach for aesthetic reasons. “Guys wanting a six-pack and girls wearing high-waisted jeans only allows them to breathe into the chest because they are holding their muscles in. It sounds silly but it’s true.”

How can we learn how to breathe properly?

“Firstly just sit down and take a minute to notice where you are breathing and if you are breathing into your chest to try and reverse it,” advises Stuart. “Lie down on your back and try to start breathing from the stomach and in and out through the nose. If this doesn’t work, try to visualise breathing into the hips to encourage your diagram to move downwards.” Of course, if you’re still having problems then get yourself to one of Stuart’s breathwork classes where he can guide you through the experience.

What are the benefits of breathing properly?

Plentiful and accessible in less than one minute, Stuart tells us. “The breath is the most accessible and powerful thing we have to make an instant change. One of the physical benefits is that it provides a better delivery of oxygen to the cells and the heart rate goes down so you are improving your blood pressure. You’re also likely to experience improved sleep, focus and concentration: you will breathe a lot slower and you will feel calmer and more energised. It will also help with allergies because you are filtering more air through the nose.”

How did you get into breathwork?

Stuart’s journey into breathwork started when he took his mum, who is a yoga teacher, to a breathing workshop for Mother’s Day. At the time he was grieving the loss of his girlfriend to terminal cancer and he had such a profound experience in that first session he continued going back for more. “There was something that happened in the room that day,” he explains. “I also started to feel the difference in the gym and feel stronger and fitter. I started Breathpod because I thought everybody should experience this. Breathwork was a little bit ‘woo woo’ at the time and I wanted to show it doesn’t need to be unicorns and fairies and crystal circles. Yes, you can have this profound spiritual shift but it is grounded in science. It ultimately came from a passion and desire to get the world breathing better.”

Stuart is holding workshops at The Ministry on Tuesday October 1st and Tuesday November 5th from 7pm – 9pm. For £5 off tickets book here using DOSE code ‘BREATHPODDOSE’.

By Sam

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