More on how Buteyko can help
It is widely recognized that breathing through the mouth during sleep reduces quality of sleep as the sleeper wakes up tired, with a dry mouth and often a stuffy nose.
Numerous studies report that individuals who breathe through their mouth during sleep experience lighter sleep and have an increased risk of insomnia, snoring and sleep apnea.
There are nineteen published clinical studies investigating the Buteyko Method as an adjunct treatment for asthma in the Western world. All studies report positive results including significantly reduced symptoms of coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness, along with improvements to asthma control and reductions in the need for asthma medication. One study reports that the Buteyko breathing technique can effectively reduce total serum IgE which is an inflammatory marker of inflammation.
It is evident that children and adults with asthma experience symptoms of air hunger, or the feeling that they cannot take a satisfying breath. A natural response to alleviate this feeling is to breathe more air into the lungs, which is often taken through the mouth. It is also common for children and adults with asthma to experience nasal congestion as inflammation from the lungs can travel to the nose.
With increased nasal stuffiness (rhinitis) nose breathing is replaced by mouth breathing. Herein lies part of the problem, as the inhalation of unconditioned cold dry air into the lungs causes inflammation of the lungs. A vicious circle ensues as asthma causes one to breathe harder which in turn contributes to asthma. To improve asthma control, it is necessary to improve breathing patterns by learning to breathe through the nose and normalize breathing volume.
Breathing more air into your lungs, whether it is through the nose or mouth will cause the airways to become irritated and depending on genetic predisposition may result in coughing. Clients attending Patrick McKeown’s clinics should expect a 50% reduction to their coughing within two weeks. If you cough, it would be helpful for you to measure your control pause. You will continue to cough until your morning control pause is at least twenty-five seconds.
Researchers in Sweden have noted that chronic stress is one of the most common diagnoses and that it often presents as exhaustion. Using the Nijmegen Symptom Questionnaire, it was discovered that the majority of patients studied with exhaustion syndrome also had disturbed breathing patterns in the form of chronic hyperventilation. Furthermore, teaching patients with exhaustion syndrome to address their hyperventilation led to significant reductions in exhaustion, as well as scores of depression and anxiety. (Scand J Caring Sci; 2014; 28; 657–664)
During hay fever season, the child or adult inhales pollen into their body. The immune system mistakenly identifies harmless pollen as a threat, and so launches an attack to fight. This results in symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and throat. Breathing a normal volume of air through the nose helps to ensure that the body has adequate levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Carbon dioxide has been studied for the treatment of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) to good effect (Journal Allergy Clinical Immunology Practice 2017). It is important that children and adults who suffer from hay fever learn how to decongest their nose, switch to nose breathing and normalize their breathing volume.
The Buteyko Method, (pronounced Boo-tay-ko) was developed by Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko. While studying medicine at the First Moscow Institute of Medicine. Dr. Buteyko observed a relationship between breathing and a person’s state of health. As a person’s health deteriorated, their breathing became faster, more upper chest and was often through the mouth. Buteyko wondered whether it was the increased sickness that changed breathing patterns or whether it was the change to breathing patterns that contributed to sickness. With the theory available at the time, he studied the role of carbon dioxide in the human body.
The Bohr Effect which was discovered in 1904. Stated that the pressure of carbon dioxide in the blood influenced the release of oxygen from the blood to the cells. Based on this, Dr. Buteyko began teaching his patients. To breathe through their nose and to deliberately slow down their breathing to create a feeling of air hunger. With many of his patients experiencing improvements to their health. The ‘voluntary elimination of deep breathing method’ was born. When his work arrived to the West, the name was changed to the Buteyko Method. In the early 1980s, Buteyko breathing received approval of its widespread use in Russia from the State Medical System. Konstantin Buteyko passed away on the 2nd May, 2003 aged 80 years.
While commonly known as the Buteyko Method, it is also referred to as the Buteyko breathing technique. With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the Buteyko Method first arrived from Russia to Australia in the early 1990s. There it received attention as a treatment for asthma and despite initial skepticism, the first clinical trial in the Western world investigating the Buteyko technique as a treatment for asthma took place at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane in 1995.
Results were published in the Australian Medical Journal (Med J Aust 1998; 169 (11): 575-578). Subjects applying the Buteyko breathing exercises experienced significantly improved quality of life, 90% less need for bronchodilator medication and 49% less need for preventer steroid asthma medication at twelve weeks follow up. The control group which was taught the in-house hospital program at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane experienced no change.
How to learn the Buteyko Method
There are a number of ways to learn the Buteyko Method. Patrick McKeown has written popular self-help Buteyko books and DVDs for a number of complaints including stress, anxiety, panic attacks, asthma, snoring, sleep apnea and childhood mouth breathing. Patrick also provides live online clinics which can be accessed from anywhere in the world where you can learn firsthand from one of the world’s leading Buteyko practitioners.
What are the Buteyko exercises?
At Buteyko Clinic International we teach breathing exercises through the following format:
- Control pause measurement- (provides feedback of relative breathing volume)
- Nose unblocking exercise by holding the breath until strong air hunger is experienced
- Three approaches to Buteyko breathing exercises- a deliberate reduction of the volume of breathing by relaxation of the breathing muscles until a light feeling of air hunger is experienced.
- Applying Buteyko during your walk and physical exercise
- Walking with breath holds to create air hunger from easy to strong
- Steps exercise
- Light steps for persons with panic attacks, anxiety, and asthma symptoms
- Medium intensity steps tailored to the child, teenager or adult
- Strong intensity steps tailored to the child, teenager or adult
- Many small breath hold exercise to help stop asthma or panic attack symptoms
- Advice on breathing during sleep, physical exercise, diet and more
The Buteyko Method is a lifestyle choice. It involves re-educating your breathing pattern to improve blood circulation, oxygen delivery, and airway functioning.
Why Learn with Buteyko Clinic International?
Founded by Patrick McKeown in 2002, the mission of BCI is to disseminate the work of Dr. Buteyko in a thorough, understandable and accessible fashion throughout the Western world. Through our books, DVD sets and online courses, adult and children’s courses, live online clinics and trained practitioners worldwide, we have reached out to hundreds of thousands of children and adults teaching them to breathe better for optimal health. BCI certified practitioners now practice in over 40 countries worldwide, making us one of the largest Buteyko training organizations in the world.
How does Buteyko differ from other breathing techniques?
Breathing techniques as taught by some yoga and Pilates teachers as well as stress counselors encourage the student to take more air into their lungs. The instruction is to ‘take a deep breath’, and this is demonstrated by inhaling a large volume of air into the body. If one were to take ten of these big breaths, a feeling of light-headedness or dizziness may be experienced. This is not due to an increase of oxygen delivery to the brain. In fact, it is because of the opposite.
When one breathes more air than what is required, blood vessels constrict and less oxygen is delivered. Ironically, to open up your blood vessels which amount to approximately 100,000 miles in the human body, it is necessary to soften your breath, to slow it down so that you take less air into your lungs for a period of time. In short, this is the complete opposite to the common instruction of taking a deep breath.
With Buteyko breathing, the aim is to restore nasal breathing and normal functional breathing patterns. While practicing the Buteyko breathing exercises, the aim is to take less air into the body so that a feeling of air hunger is created. As the gas carbon dioxide is the primary stimulus to breathe, the feeling of air hunger signifies that carbon dioxide has increased in the blood. With the increase to carbon dioxide in the blood, circulation improves and the red blood cells release oxygen more readily to the tissues and organs.
Fundamentally, Buteyko breathing is about:
- Relieving stuffiness of the nose so that you can breathe through it easier
- Opening the airways in the lungs so that you stop coughing and wheezing
- Improving blood circulation for better oxygen transportation throughout the body
- Improving delivery of oxygen to the tissues
- Achieving better sleep and an increased state of calm
Why breathe through your nose?
The normal mode of breathing for human beings is in and out through the nose. A gas called nitric oxide is produced both inside the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses. As each breath is drawn through the nose, nitric oxide is carried into the lungs. There it performs a number of very important roles including the sterilization of incoming air; the opening of the airways; and improved gas exchange from the lungs to the blood known as ‘ventilation-perfusion’.
Also, in order to activate the diaphragm, it is necessary to breathe only through the nose. Mouth breathing causes greater activation of the accessory muscles including the scalene and sternocleidomastoid. Mouth breathing is an inefficient way to breathe and reduces oxygen uptake in the blood, activates the stress response due to faster breathing, disturbs sleep and reduces oxygen delivery to the cells.
How mouth breathing affects children
Approximately 50% of studied children persistently breathe through their mouth. A myriad of evidence exists which shows that children who habitually mouth breathe experience reduced quality of life, reduced quality of sleep, increased risk of learning and speech difficulties, as well as the poor growth of jaws and face. A growing child should have their lips together with their tongue resting in the roof of the mouth. With the tongue in the correct resting posture, the jaws develop into a wide u shape helping to ensure a wider facial structure, straight teeth, and good airways. If the child is breathing through his or her mouth, the tongue rests midway or on the floor of the mouth resulting in reduced development of the face, airways and sometimes results in crooked teeth.
Chronic hyperventilation is often a contributory factor with panic attacks, agoraphobia, and anxiety. Irregular breathing, breathing through the mouth and breathing too much air contributes to the agitation of the mind as well as reduced oxygen delivery to the brain. Traditionally, persons having a panic attack were instructed to breathe in and out of a brown paper bag. The purpose of this, while not entirely safe was to help normalize carbon dioxide levels in the blood. It is efficacious for persons prone to panic attack and anxiety to learn how to reverse hyperventilation.
The exercises from the Buteyko breathing technique are specifically developed to reverse chronic hyperventilation syndrome. Furthermore, the exercises can be tailored to help persons who have difficulty focusing on their breathing or have a strong fear of a feeling of suffocation – symptoms that are readily observed in panic disorders.
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