There is a way to breathe better and it has nothing to do with taking deep breaths like you may have learned in yoga practice. The Buteyko Breathing method promotes better breathing by breathing less.
The Buteyko Breathing method is a series of breathing exercises and principles that work by encouraging you to breathe as little as possible and exclusively through the nose. Buteyko breathing consists of the “control pause” exercise, which gauges our current oxygenation level, as well the core Buteyko breathing exercise, which helps to improve our oxygenation level. Both of these exercises involve doing breath holds and light, slow breathing to balance the levels of oxygen and carbon-dioxide in the blood. Over time, the aim of the Buteyko Breathing method is to reteach your body to breathe this way automatically.
Buteyko Breathing promotes the idea that many of us are chronic over-breathers (as in hyperventilation) and that this throws our oxygen and carbon dioxide levels our of balance. As a result of this, many of us suffer from chronic conditions like asthma, anxiety and high blood pressure Buteyko Breathing also teaches us that nose-breathing exclusively can aid greatly in the oxygenation of our bodies and organs and leads to better overall health.
Buteyko breathing is actually one of the core facets of my daily health regime. By practicing this breathing method everyday, I’m able to improve my breathing and my overall sense of well-being and health. Let’s go over what it is, why it works and how you can do it at home for yourself.
Buteyko Breathing Is Amazing Because It Helps You Breathe Better Naturally
Many people believe that breathing more is breathing better, but this simply isn’t true. The Buteyko Breathing method, on the other hand, emphasizes breathing less and more slowly. I know I’m performing the method correctly when there is a slight feeling of “air hunger”, or in other words a gentle but tolerable urge to breathe more. Within a couple of minutes of experiencing this air hunger, blood circulation and saliva production increases. These phenomena are also seen in traditional Yoga practice.
The Buteyko breathing method was developed by Dr. Konstantin Buteyko in the former USSR in the late 1950s. He noticed that people with breathing difficulties, and overall poor health, tended to breathe heavily even while at rest and did so primarily through their mouths. Dr. Buteyko therefore concluded that poor health and breathing difficulties are the result of incorrect breathing.
By contrast, people with good health and good breathing tend to breathe a low volume of air through the nose.
Over the course of just a few weeks of regular practice, the Buteyko Breathing Method can help normalize your breathing and bring you to a state of better overall health and well-being.
Buteyko Breathing Works By Regulating Your Blood’s Carbon Dioxide Levels
We’ve all be taught that deep breathing is the best way to breathe because it lets more oxygen into the lungs. But oxygen deficiency is not caused by a lack of oxygen but rather a lack of carbon dioxide. This means that breathing too much actually prevents oxygen from getting into the bloodstream.
Most people breathe too much for lots of different reasons including stress, asthma and inflammation caused by poor diets. What this does is put us in a constant state of hyper-ventilation that’s subtle enough that you might not even notice it.
This is important because, for the reasons stated above, breathing too much saturates the body with too much oxygen that it can’t properly use. This creates a feeling that of not being able to breathe fully that many of us with chronic breathing difficulties know all too well.
The solution to this problem comes in the exhalation process. When we exhale our bodies do not “get rid” of excess carbon dioxide but rather regulates it. Breathing too much or too quickly causes our body to expel all carbon dioxide and prevents proper regulation of oxygen in the bloodstream.
This is exactly why Buteyko breathing emphasizes a slow and steady exhale at the end of each breath. What this does is help to regulate the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. This kind of slow breathing actually makes you more alert and relaxed than the more popular deep breathing exercises.
In fact, Buteyko style breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which results in lowered blood pressure, reduced stress and a stronger immune system.
You Should Begin The Buteyko Method By Practicing The Control Pause
The core of the Buteyko Breathing Method is the Control Pause. What this simple exercise does is measure the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your body. This test can be done by anyone at any time.
Follow these steps to do a Buteyko Breathing method control pause:
Total Time: 2 minutes
- Breathe Normally for 30 seconds
- Inhale normally through the nose
- Exhale normally through the nose
- Pinch your nose closed with your fingers and close your mouth.
- Begin to count the seconds
- When you feel the need to take a breath stop counting and take note of the amount of seconds passed.
Refer to the chart below to track your progress. Each time your control pause increases by 5 seconds, you will feel noticeably healthier and breathing will be easier.
The Core Buteyko Breathing Exercise Can Be Done In 6 Steps
This Buteyko breathing technique is really the bread and butter of this breathing methodology. This is the technique you will need to practice in order to increase your control pause score.
This technique is simple and you can learn to do it in just a few minutes. So get comfortable and take a few relaxed breaths before we get started.
- Inhale normally through your nose.
- Exhale normally through your nose.
- Inhale for 2 seconds through your nose.
- Exhale slowly through your nose for 5 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 5 seconds.
- Take another normal breath through your nose and repeat steps 1-5 at least 10 more times.
And that’s really all there is to it. For more information, visit the official Buteyko website here.
How Long Does The Buteyko Breathing Method Take?
While the techniques and exercises take only a few minutes to learn, it will take some time before you start seeing major changes in your health.
The practice itself, once you’ve learned it, should only take around 20-40 minutes per day to complete. To start really getting the full benefits and seeing a decrease in your control pause time will most likely take several weeks depending on your level of dedication.
But don’t let that discourage you from getting started. You should start to feel better almost immediately after your first practice, and you will see even more benefits from the nose breathing.
How To Sleep Better With Buteyko Breathing
The Buteyko Breathing method can help you sleep better by decreasing the amount of air you breathe as you sleep.
Studies have shown that people with sleeping disorders, like sleep apnea, breathe heavier and faster than people without.
The Buteyko Breathing method empahsizes breathing esclusively through the nose to help minimize the volume of air we’re breathing. This can be tricky to maintain while you’re sleeping so Buteyko recommends the use of mouth tape or chin straps to retrain your mouth to stay closed while you’re asleep.
Retraining yourself to breathe less and with the diaphram as well as through the nose is the core part of how the Buteyko Breathing method helps you sleep better permanently. So the best way to get better sleep is simply to practice the control pause and the main Buteyko breathing exercise.
Can Buteyko Breathing Help COPD?
COPD refers to several chronic breathing disorders such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. All of these conditions involve inflammation and narrowing of the airways to some extent.
The Buteyko Breathing method argues that much of the inflammation and narrowing of the airways is reversible for many COPD patients.
Buteyko clinics such as this one have been helping to treat COPD patients using the Buteyko method for over 15 years with a good degree of success. The primary strategy in treating COPD is the very same one used to treat other conditions like asthma using the control pause and Buteyko breathing exercises.
But not all COPD sufferers will experience as much relief from Buteyko as others. A general rule of thumb shows that if you experience a good amount of relief after using a rescue puffer like Ventolin then you should see some improvements using Buteyko, otherwise Buteyko probably won’t be as much help to you. This is because Buteyko works primarily by helping to reduce inflammation in the long term just as a rescue puffer reduces inflammation in the short term.
Can Buteyko Help Sleep Apnea?
Yes, the Buteyko Breathing method has been shown to help sufferers of sleep apnea. This is because studies have shown that sleep apnea is closely related to mouth breathing, snoring and nasal obstruction.
Some of the other symptoms of sleep apnea and mouth breathing all night include nighttime asthma, fatigue, dry mouth and wheezing.
The Buteyko Breathing method helps sleep apnea by encouraging nose breathing and reducing the volume of air we breathe automatically while sleeping. By strengthening the upper airways and and practicing the control pause and breathing techniques, sleep apnea symptoms can be greatly reduced.
- What Is The Buteyko Method? – Buteyko Breathing Exercises + Techniques (buteykoclinic.com)
- Buteyko Breathing Exercises in 3 minutes by Patrick McKeown – YouTube
- Buteyko Clinic – COPD