The  level of  carbon  dioxide  in  the  body  determines the length  of  time  the  breath  can  be  held:  a higher  level of carbon  dioxide  corresponds  to  a longer  breath  hold.  The table above was developed by Professor Buteyko after he had measured  the breath-holding ability of literally thousands  of patients  and matched  it to their  carbon  dioxide levels. The figures  are consistent  and show the level of carbon dioxide based on the length of the control pause.

If the control pause is eight seconds, then there is a little less  than  four  per  cent  carbon  dioxide  in  the  alveoli.  If the  control  pause  is fifteen  seconds,  the  carbon  dioxide is between  four  and  four-and-a-half per  cent.  transThe  aim  is to increase the level of carbon dioxide to at least five-and-a-half per cent giving a control pause of forty seconds. With  continuous  practice  of  exercises, the  respiratory centre will become accustomed  to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide. Remember,  it is the level of carbon dioxide that determines the need to breathe.



CO2 in alveoli [%]


Control pause [sec]

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Low control pause

A low control pause means the body’s respiratory centre has become fixed at a low level of carbon dioxide and therefore will send  instructions to breathe  a large  volume  of air in order to maintain  this level. By commencing breathing  exercises, an attempt is made to break this pattern by deliberately reducing the volume of air inhaled.

Regular practice of exercises and increased observation of breathing  will help the respiratory centre to become fixed at a higher  level of carbon dioxide. Just as it took time  for the respiratory centre to become accustomed  to a low level of carbon  dioxide, it will also take time  for it to  become accustomed to a new higher, and healthier, level.

The increase in CP is dependent on a variety of factors: the  severity of the  asthma,  age, how much  the  breathing exercises have been practised  and how much  attention has been  given  to  the  breathing.  The  more  attention to, and observation of, breathing  the better.

The control pause is an accurate measure  of the level of carbon dioxide in the alveoli. It therefore  gives a very good indication  of the  state of a person’s asthma  and  in fact, of health  generally. If the control pause is increasing  then  the asthma  is improving.  If the control pause is decreasing  the individual’s asthma is getting worse.

A  decreasing  control  pause  is advance  warning  of an imminent attack.  If the  trend  is for  the  control  pause  to decrease over a number  of days, then it is important to take control  of the condition  by reducing  the breathing  to raise carbon dioxide levels. If it is not proving possible to increase the  CP by breathing  exercises, then  it may be necessary to increase  the level of preventative  medication  that has been prescribed.

A change in CP will often be noticed simply from observing reactions to various daily activities. It is possible to determine from the CP whether something is or is not good for asthma. For example, if the CP has decreased following exercise, that person has been deep breathing during  the exercise, so it would be important to change  the way exercise is carried out. If the CP decreased  following a large steak then  eating large quantities  of meat  may not  suit that  individual  or it may be that  too much  was eaten  at one  sitting.  If the  CP consistently  drops  at work then  stress  may be a factor  or a reversal to mouth breathing  may have occurred while concentrating on work. The CP gives excellent feedback and enables  everyone to turn  detective  and determine whether something is a help or a hindrance  to their asthma.

To  determine whether  breathing   exercises  are  being practised correctly, it is necessary to measure  the CP at the start of each exercise and several times  during  it to ensure that  overbreathing is not  occurring.  The  aim  of breathing exercises is to reduce breathing  volume, which will reset the carbon dioxide threshold  and therefore  the CP. The breath- ing exercises are being performed correctly when the CP increases  a little  between  each  set  of exercises. Breathing exercises are  being  performed  incorrectly  when  the  CP is decreasing  between each set. The pages towards the back of this book contain detailed exercise programs.

If it is proving impossible to influence  the CP, then  the exercises are not being done correctly and it would probably be better  to stop doing the  exercises and  learn  how to do them properly from an experienced instructor. From week to week, there should be a noticeable improvement in  the  control  pause. The  body will become conditioned to a higher level of carbon dioxide when breath- ing  exercises are  practised  correctly. This  will be reflected in  a higher  control  pause.  As far as Buteyko breathing  is concerned, the control pause is the most important measure- ment of an individual’s asthma.

Measuring the CP in the morning before breakfast gives the most important measurement of the state of a person’s asthma.  In the depths  of sleep, breathing  is a subconscious activity that  cannot  be interfered  with. For this reason, the morning CP will give a true  measurement of the  level of carbon dioxide. During the day, the CP will change depending on factors like eating,  stress  and  talking,  and  on  how  the  breathing changes. If the control pause is thirty seconds during the day and only ten seconds  in the morning then  the true control pause is ten seconds.


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