Is Breathwork The Secret To The England Football Team’s Success?

By Rebecca Cox

2 weeks ago

(And could it take the stress out of watching them?)

Have you ever watched an England game and found yourself holding your breath? Well, you might not be the only one. According to reports, the England squad have been tapping into one of this year’s biggest wellness trends and undertaking breathwork classes at their training camp. Breathwork professional Stuart Sandeman was pictured at Blankenhain post-match with the England squad last week, guiding them through a session. But what exactly is breathwork, and can it really be the key to sporting success? 

What Is Breathwork?

Breathwork is a practice that goes back thousands of years, with its roots in yoga practice, that involves intentionally controlling and focusing on your breathing patterns to achieve physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Breathwork practises aim to release stress and toxins when exhaling while nourishing the mind and body when inhaling. Sessions include a range of breathing exercises, generally consisting of periods of deep abdominal breathing, 4-7-8 breathing (four in, hold for seven, out for eight), alternative nostril breathing and periods of breath holding, amongst other techniques. 

What Are The Benefits?

Coach and Breathworker Sarah Hyde told us: ‘Breathwork is amazing for overall well-being. It enhances oxygen delivery to your body, which is crucial for boosting energy levels and improving overall health. By optimising your breathing patterns with techniques like diaphragmatic breathing and controlled inhale-exhale ratios, you can reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and feel more centred and focused. Breathwork promotes relaxation and a greater sense of well-being, making it a powerful tool for anyone looking to improve their physical and mental health.’

Why Breathwork For Football?

Is there anything that makes breathwork particularly helpful to the England squad? Sarah told us: ‘By optimising breathing techniques, athletes can significantly improve their stamina and overall performance. Techniques like nasal breathing and rhythmic breathing help increase lung capacity and oxygen efficiency, which reduces fatigue and enhances endurance. 

‘Controlled breathwork also helps regulate the nervous system. For instance, using methods like box breathing—where you breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold again for four counts (and repeat) – can keep the mind sharp and focused. This is especially beneficial during high-stress situations like competitions, as it helps maintain composure and clarity under pressure. Additionally, these techniques can aid in faster recovery post-exercise by promoting better oxygenation and relaxation of the muscles.’ We’re guessing a bit of box breathing was in use during that penalty shoot-out on Saturday. 

Is It Good For High-Pressure Situations?

Breathwork can also be a great tool for keeping calm under pressure, a key factor for tournament football. ‘Breathwork is a powerful tool for managing anxiety,’ says Sarah. ‘It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a state of relaxation. Techniques like slow, deep breathing and alternate nostril breathing slow down the breath, lower the heart rate, and reduce stress hormones. This not only calms the mind but also promotes a sense of well-being, making it beneficial for both athletes and anyone dealing with anxiety.’

Stuart claims that his breathwork techniques, when teamed with visualisation and music have the power to: ‘amplify, evoke, emote and help people transcend their ordinary state to improve mood, performance, and wellbeing.’ Aside from the squad and the obvious benefits it should have for them, we think a pre-match breathwork session might be essential for a calmer viewing experience nationwide, no? Deep breath, everyone.