The following is a very simpliﬁed version of one of the main exercises involved in breath correction. Certain steps have been omitted as it is essential they are practiced under the direct supervision of an instructor to take into account individual nuances of the patient.
This exercise lasts about half-an-hour and it is recommended that you practice two to three times each day. If you can, you should practice before breakfast, during the day if possible, and again in the evening. Exercises should be carried out in a quiet place with no distractions. The temperature should be cool and the room airy because a hot and stuffy environment can promote big breathing, the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Food affects your breathing, so it is not recommended that you practice immediately after eating a meal. Exercises are best practised before meals or at least two hours after them. At half hourly intervals there should be pulse and control pause meas- urement, as well as a number of sets of breathing exercises.
If you want to get the best out of these exercises, it is recommended that you adhere to the following general guidelines. Go to a quiet place where you are unlikely to be disturbed and where you will have no distractions. Place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, if you need to, and take the telephone off the hook or switch off your mobile. You will need to concentrate to complete this exercise correctly, particularly in the early days.
Adopt a correct but comfortable posture. Correct posture involves sitting up straight with both feet underneath your chair. If you have difﬁculty with this, then imagine a thread suspended from the ceiling, attached to the top of your head, holding you in an upright position. Correct posture is very important in helping to reduce your breathing. When you sit slouched, your breathing will increase and will be more from the upper chest than the tummy, where it should be coming from. When you adopt the correct posture, your tummy will move more than your upper chest and your breathing will require less effort. Your tummy will move out with each inhalation (breathing in) and will move in with each exhalation (breathing out) because of the action of the diaphragm, which is the main breathing muscle. Make sure that your tummy moves in the right sequence. If not, you are performing what is known as reverse breathing.
Now that you are in the right place and the right posture for you, focus on your breathing. Feel the move- ment of air in and out of your body, particularly through your nostrils. Concentrate on the slight movement your body makes with each inhalation and exhalation. It is vital to be aware of your breathing so that you can correct it. If you are unaware of your breathing, you will not be able to improve it.
As you breathe, let your shoulders fall to their natural position. Raised or tense shoulders increase the volume of the chest cavity and so increase the volume of air inhaled. Tension increases breathing, but relaxation decreases it. Relax the muscles involved in respiration, such as the muscles above your tummy and in your chest.
The next step is to monitor the amount of air ﬂowing through your nostrils by placing your ﬁnger under your nose in a horizontal position. Your ﬁnger should lie just above your top lip, and close enough to your nostrils so that you can feel the airﬂow, but not so close that the airﬂow is blocked.
Now, breathe air slightly into the tip of your nostrils. Little breaths or short breaths mean the amount of air reach- ing your lungs reduces. By reducing the depth of your breathing or the length of each breath, in other words, the number of breaths you take every minute may increase, but don’t worry because this is normal. Remember that the aim is to reduce the volume. When you breathe out, the more warm air you feel, the bigger your breathing. Concentrate on reducing the amount of warm air you feel on your ﬁnger.
Don’t worry if this exercise does not work for you the ﬁrst time you try it. It will take time for your body to become accustomed to the lower volume of breathing. Over time it will become easier. A gradual and relaxed approach is best, because if you try to decrease the amount of air too quickly or too much, it may cause involuntary gasps of air or cause you to take bigger breaths. It is important that you get to the stage where you can sustain reduced breathing over the course of three to ﬁve minutes.
Take a few minutes’ break before you start the next ﬁve minutes of reduced breathing. Two sets of twenty minutes per day is the minimum time that should be spent on this exercise, combined with relaxation and observation of your breathing for the remainder of the day and night (more about this later). In order to make progress it is necessary to spend this amount of time practising. After a number of months, and depending on your progress, breathing exer- cises can be performed while doing any activity such as reading a book or watching television.
People with severe asthma should practice breathing exer- cises three times per day, preferably before breakfast, before lunch and in the evening. For those with mild and moderate asthma, breathing exercises should be practised twice daily, before breakfast and before going to bed. For correct exercise practice, each block should take about half-an-hour to do correctly.
A block of exercises consists of:
1. Take your pulse, and note it.
2. Control pause.
3. Reduced breathing for ﬁve minutes.
4. Control pause.
5. Reduced breathing for ﬁve minutes.
6. Control pause.
7. Reduced breathing for ﬁve minutes.
8. Control pause.
9. Reduced breathing for ﬁve minutes.
10. Control pause.
11. Check your pulse again and compare with your pulse rate when you started the exercise.
In order to reset the respiratory centre you must spend at least ﬁfteen minutes doing breathing exercises. The control pauses in between each set of breathing exercises may decrease due to accumulation of carbon dioxide. It is vital that the pulse at the end of exercise (11) has decreased and the control pause (10) has increased due to a readjustment of the respiratory centre to a higher level of carbon dioxide. If your results are different, it means that you are overbreath- ing during the exercises, but this can be corrected by apply- ing greater relaxation and reducing the intensity of the air shortage created.
I am very familiar with what happens when the exercises are not done correctly. When I ﬁrst started using the Buteyko method myself, I tried to reduce the depth of my breathing by tensing my stomach to inﬂuence the amount of air I inhaled. However, this led to an increase in my breathing because of the additional tension I created. When I learned how to do the exercise correctly, I then had to begin revers- ing my previous breathing pattern.
Your lower respiratory muscles can become tense in response to a decreased volume of breathing, so the best advice is to try to relax throughout the exercises. Some will ﬁnd this more difﬁcult than others – some people are, by nature, more relaxed than others – but relaxation is a priority.
Summary of Exercise One
✦ Set aside time when you will have no distractions.
✦ Sit down and adopt the correct posture.
✦ Relax your respiratory muscles.
✦ Place your ﬁnger under your nose without blocking the air-ﬂow.
✦ Concentrate on reducing the amount of air that is blown onto your ﬁnger by monitoring the temperature of the air you are breathing out through your nose.
✦ Reduce volume by taking very small breaths.
✦ Your control pause should increase when the exercises have been completed.
✦ Your pulse should decrease when the exercises have been completed.