What is the Buteyko Breathing Technique? How Does it Work? And Why Should I Take Notice?
The Buteyko Method was developed by Dr. John F. Buteyko (1926–2010) in the 1970s. He noticed that some patients who had asthma would improve after taking deep breaths through their nose. This led him to develop a simple breathing exercise called the Buteyko Method.
In his research, he found that using the Buteyko Method helped reduce symptoms of asthma and other respiratory diseases. His findings also showed that the practice improved overall well-being.
Buteyko’s Method is based on the idea that air travels from the lungs into the body via two pathways: the upper pathway goes directly into the bloodstream, while the lower pathway passes through the diaphragm first, before entering the bloodstream.
When you inhale, air enters the lungs through the upper pathway. As this happens, oxygen moves into your bloodstream and carbon dioxide moves out of it. When you exhale, the reverse occurs: carbon dioxide is expelled from the body while oxygen moves back into the blood.
Dr. Buteyko discovered that when people take slow, deep breaths, they can increase the amount of time that oxygen stays inside the body. By doing so, they can help prevent or relieve many conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Helps With Asthma and Anxiety
The Breathing Better Through Awareness Technique (BBT), developed by Dr. John F. Buteyko, is a simple technique used to teach people how to breathe better. It involves learning to control one’s breath through conscious awareness, rather than relying solely on automatic responses. This method has been shown to improve lung function and decrease stress and anxiety.
Buteyko Breathing is based on the premise that our body’s natural ability to regulate oxygen consumption is impaired by shallow breathing and hyperventilation. These are common problems among asthmatics, especially during acute attacks. By teaching patients to take slower, deeper breaths, it gives them greater control over their airways, allowing them to relax and calm down.
As discussed, Buteyko Breathing is a technique used to regulate breathing. This involves taking slow, steady breaths through the nose, holding each breath for 10 seconds, and exhaling slowly through the nose. Inhale through the nose, and hold the air inside the lungs for 5 seconds. Then exhale through the nose and repeat. You can slowly increase the number of seconds you hold your breath for as you practice each day.
The goal is to inhale deeply enough to fill the chest cavity completely, and to exhale fully, without forcing out the air. This helps to balance carbon dioxide levels in the blood and promotes deeper sleep.
How To Do It
Buteyko Breathing training teaches you how to breathe more quietly and slower than normal. This makes you calm and relaxed. If you feel stressed out, try it. You can even practice it before you have a meal.
The basic method consists of three steps:
1. Hold your breath for 10 seconds.
2. Breathe normally for 2 minutes.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
You can repeat the process several times throughout the day, every hour or whenever you feel like doing it.
Attend at least five one-hour sessions of in-person training from an accredited instructor. Practice breathing exercises for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day for at least six weeks.
The Control Pause
Breath in through your nose and hold your breath for as long as you can. Pinch your nose closed to ensure no air escapes. Then try to hold it for even a bit longer than that. Finally, release the air slowly from your nose into your lungs, while keeping your mouth closed.
Repeat this process several times. You want to make sure you are fully aware of how much oxygen you are consuming. If you are breathing too fast, you won’t notice the effects of the control pause. If you are breathing very slow, you’ll probably pass out. Your goal is to maintain a steady rhythm of breaths without overdoing it. When you’re ready, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and count backwards from ten to one.
The Maximum Pause
As you practice the Control Pause, you will get better at holding your breath. You might be able to hold your breath for up to one minute and breathe normally for two minutes. Then repeat. You should feel some relief from your symptoms immediately.
Tips for Beginners
As discussed, Buteyko Breathing is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve health. This technique involves breathing deeply into your diaphragm while holding your breath for several seconds. You could do this twice, taking a deep breath in and holding it for 10 or 15 seconds, followed by another deep breath out and holding it again for about 10 seconds. Then you can repeat this pattern three or more times.
The goal is to achieve a state of calm during each cycle where you are fully relaxed and feel no discomfort. While there are many variations of this exercise, the basic premise is simple: slow, deep breaths help oxygenate blood and ease tension.
If you experience anxiety, shortness of breath, or extreme dizziness or discomfort, stop immediately and take normal breaths. There is no harm in stopping early; just start again once you feel better.
With continued practice, you may eventually be able to hold your breath longer than before. For example, you might be capable of maintaining the Control Pause for approximately 30 seconds and the Maximum Pause for approximately 60 seconds.
Whilst Buteyko Breathing has been around since the 1970s, there are still some drawbacks to beware of. “The most important thing is that it’s not a replacement for medical care,” says Dr. Michael Lacey, director of integrative medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “If someone has asthma or high blood pressure, we don’t want them doing anything that could make those conditions worse.”
Other potential problems include headaches, dizziness, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, palpitations, nausea and diarrhea. And while studies show that Buteyko Breathing reduces stress and many symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily help people suffering from serious medical conditions.
As we’ve covered, Buteyko Breathing is one of several complementary therapies that are used to treat respiratory disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, sinus problems and allergies. This form of breathing involves inhaling slowly through the nose, holding your breath for as long as possible and then exhaling through the nose. It is thought to help improve lung function and reduce inflammation.
If you have asthma or anxiety and want to try it out, there are many places online where you can find instructions on how to do it. The American Lung Association recommends doing it for five minutes twice per day. You can use it during the day or just before bedtime.
The Breathe Easy Foundation says that people who don’t like this type of breathing should consider another option. “There are lots of alternative methods of breathing,” says Dr. Chris Boulton, director of research at the foundation. “One example is called ‘4-7-8’ breathing.” In this case, you take four deep breaths in and seven shallow breaths out. Then, you repeat the process again.
Another popular choice is diaphragmatic breathing. If you’re familiar with yoga, you’ve probably heard about this. Simply put, you breathe deeply through your belly, rather than your chest. Try out different methods to find the one that works for you the best.
Practicing Breathing Exercises Regularly for Good Health
We are breathing 24/7. We don’t even notice it most days, but we do it constantly. Every second, of every minute and of every hour, our lungs take in air and expel carbon dioxide. This process happens whether you are awake or asleep, walking around, sitting still or lying down. Your body is always doing it.
The reason why we breathe is because we need oxygen to live. But there is another reason why we need to keep up with what we inhale and exhale. If we didn’t breathe properly, our bodies wouldn’t work correctly. Our hearts wouldn’t beat fast enough, and our muscles wouldn’t contract and relax properly. Without proper respiration, life as we know it would cease to exist.
Breathe Deeply for Health, Happiness and Longevity
Whether you’re sitting around watching TV or working out, there are times when you take a deep breath without thinking about it.
But did you know that taking regular deep breaths can actually improve your health, happiness and longevity?
In fact, conscious breathing can make you smarter, stronger, healthier, happier and live longer.
You might be surprised to learn just how much science backs up the benefits of breathing deeply.
Deep breathing isn’t just about getting oxygen into our lungs; it’s about improving overall health and wellness. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found that people who practice deep breathing are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity.
In addition to helping us breathe easier, deeper breaths improve circulation, boost immunity and even make us smarter.
Here are five ways deep breathing improves our lives.
1. Deep breathing helps prevent asthma attacks
Asthma sufferers often experience shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. All of these symptoms are caused by inflammation in the airways of the lungs. When we inhale, oxygen enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body, where it feeds every cell. Oxygen deprivation leads to the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, causing swelling and narrowing of the airways. This causes further problems, including constriction of the bronchial tubes leading to the lungs, making it hard to breathe.
When we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide, a gas produced by cells during metabolism. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood because there aren’t enough receptors in the respiratory tract to absorb it. Exhaling is how we rid ourselves of excess carbon dioxide, keeping us feeling calm and relaxed.
2. Deep breathing reduces anxiety
Anxiety can be triggered by many things, but when we’re anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. In fact, studies show that people who have panic attacks tend to breathe faster than normal. Anxiety also makes us tense and nervous, which affects our ability to relax.
3. Deep breathing calms the mind
Studies suggest that meditation has numerous benefits, including reducing stress levels, boosting brain activity and increasing focus. One way to meditate is through deep breathing, or pranayama. Pranayama involves controlling the rate and depth of your inhalations and exhalations. By slowing down your breathing, you slow down your thoughts and emotions. You’ll feel calmer and more focused.
4. Deep breathing boosts energy
We all know that exercise is good for us, but did you know that deep breathing can help with this? Research shows that deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the muscles, which gives them an extra burst of energy.
5. Deep breathing strengthens the immune system
We’ve already talked about how deep breathing helps reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. But it turns out that deep breathing actually helps strengthen the immune system. The re-circulated blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. These organs work together to fight off infections and other illnesses.
Eases Eustachian Tube Issues
The Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) is a medical term referring to problems with the middle ear and inner ear caused by fluid build-up inside the tubes connecting the middle ear to the throat. If left untreated, ETD can lead to hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, vertigo and nausea.
A recent study published in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery found that a combination of nasal steroid spray and breathing exercises improved symptoms among patients suffering from ETD. In the randomized controlled trial, researchers recruited 30 adults with ETD and randomly assigned them into one of three groups: those taking oral medication, those undergoing nasal steroid treatment alone, and those combining both treatments. The participants underwent a baseline evaluation followed by eight weeks of therapy. The primary outcome measure was change in self-reported symptom severity.
Results revealed that the combined treatment led to significant improvements in symptoms compared to either method alone. Additionally, the improvement was better in those who had been diagnosed with ETD longer. Overall, the authors concluded that the combination of nasal steroid sprays and breathing exercises could improve the quality of life for people with ETD.
The Bottom Line
The Buteyko Breathing Technique is a powerful tool that helps you manage stress better. This method teaches you how to control your breathing rhythmically, allowing you to regulate your emotions and improve your overall health and wellness. By learning to slow down your breath, you’ll be able to calm yourself during stressful times. And because you’re taking deep breaths, you won’t feel like you’re fighting against your body. Instead, you’ll be working with it.