"THE PERFECT MAN BREATHES AS IF HE DOES NOT BREATHE"
SIXTH CENTURY B.C. PHILOSOPHER LAO TZU
My objective with explaining the Buteyko Method is to strip away unnecessary text and provide just what you need to make progress. All breathing exercises will be accompanied by a line diagram. To interpret each diagram, it is essential to understand the following:
All Buteyko breathing exercises and the Control Pause – which involves breath holding – are performed after an exhalation. Holding the breath after an exhalation provides greater consistency and comparability as a measurement, involves less stress on the lungs and enables a higher concentration of CO2 which will relax the airways.
Measure Breathing Volume â€“ Buteyko Breathing control Pause
To measure the extent of your breathing volume, a very simple breath hold test called the Control Pause (BUTEYKO CP) is used. The Control Pause will provide feedback on your symptoms and, more importantly, your progress. Your BUTEYKO CP measures the length of time that you can comfortably hold your breath.
Measuring the Control Pause (a)
For this you will need a watch or clock with a second hand.
- Take a small silent breath in and a small silent breath out.
- Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air entering into your lungs.
- Count how many seconds until you feel the first signs of an air hunger. You may also feel your diaphragm involuntarily â€œjerkingâ€ or pushing downwards at about the same time.
- Release your nose and breathe in through it.
Your inhalation after the breath hold should be no larger than your breath prior to taking the measurement. It should be calm and quiet. If your breath in is disrupted, then you have held for too long and so have an inaccurate BUTEYKO CP.
Measuring the Control Pause (b)
Diagram of measuring the BUTEYKO CP woman and child
Important things to be aware of before we start:
- The breath is taken after gently exhaling.
- The breath is held until the first urges only. It is not a measurement of the maximum length of time that you can hold your breath.
- The BUTEYKO CP is a measurement of your breath hold time only. It is not an exercise to correct your breathing.
Remember that the BUTEYKO CP is holding your breath only until the first urges. If you had to take a big breath at the end of the breath hold, then you held it for too long. The most accurate BUTEYKO CP is taken first thing in the morning after waking up.
What does the BUTEYKO CP (comfortable breath hold time) mean?
If your BUTEYKO CP is less than 10 seconds then:
- Asthma symptoms are severe. Breathlessness, wheezing and/or coughing will be frequently present throughout the day and at night. Relative breathing volume as determined by such a low breath hold is very big.
If your BUTEYKO CP is less than 20 seconds then:
- Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, breathlessness, exercise-induced asthma, colds, chest infections and fatigue are present. The lower your breath hold, the greater your symptoms.
If your BUTEYKO CP is between 20 and 40 seconds then:
- Main symptoms will have gone, but you may develop symptoms if exposed to a trigger. The affect of a trigger is proportionate to your BUTEYKO CP. As an asthmatic you will feel quite well and your breathing will be a lot calmer. In addition, you should not have any nighttime episodes or exercise-induced asthma and your colds and chest infections will have decreased significantly.
If your BUTEYKO CP is greater than 40 seconds then
- No asthma symptoms are present. You will feel very well with good energy, clarity and breathing. To ensure a permanent physiological change, it is necessary to attain a morning BUTEYKO CP of 40 seconds for 6 months.
The lower your breath hold, the greater your breathing volume and the greater your asthma symptoms. For example, a very severe asthmatic will have a Control Pause of less than 10 seconds. Their breathing will be very noticeable both at rest and while participating in physical exercise. An asthmatic with a morning BUTEYKO CP of 40 seconds will have no symptoms. Their breathing will be unnoticeable during rest. Physical exercise will produce a lot less ventilation and they should not experience exercise-induced asthma at all.
Essential rules to make progress:
- You will feel better each time your BUTEYKO CP increases by 5 seconds.
- If your BUTEYKO CP does not change, you will not feel better.
- Your BUTEYKO CP should increase by 3 – 4 seconds each week.
- The most accurate BUTEYKO CP is taken first thing after waking. You cannot influence your breathing during sleep. As a result, this BUTEYKO CP is the most accurate as it is based on your breathing volume as set by the respiratory centre.
- Your BUTEYKO CP as taken throughout the day will provide feedback of your asthma at that time.
- Your goal is to have morning BUTEYKO CP of 40 seconds for 6 months.
Three steps to increasing your BUTEYKO CP:
- STEP 1
Stop Big Breathing
- Close Your Mouth
- Stop Sighing â€“ swallow
- Apply gentle calm breathing
- Never hear your breathing during rest
- STEP 2
Practice reduced breathing
- Use the 6 simple exercises in Chapter 3 – each with its own purpose.
- STEP 3
Take physical exercise with correct breathing.
(Physical exercise is necessary to increase the BUTEYKO CP from 20 to 40 seconds. More details further on)
STEP 1 is the foundation. Make the change to nasal breathing on a permanent basis, suppress your sighs, be aware of your breathing and ensure that it is quiet during the day. A regular sigh is enough to maintain chronic hyperventilation; therefore it is very important to stop sighing by swallowing or holding your breath. Unless your foundation is strong, your progress will not be good.
You will make progress by keeping your mouth closed but this will not be enough by itself. It is also necessary to reverse the overbreathing habit that has developed over the years.
To increase your BUTEYKO CP from 10 – 20 seconds, STEPS 1 and 2 are necessary.
To increase your BUTEYKO CP from 20 â€“ 40 seconds, STEP 3 is necessary.
COMPARE OUR LIFESTYLES
Fifty years ago:
- Greater physical activity
- More natural foods
- Less overeating
- Cooler temperatures within the home
- Less public talking
- Less stress- less competitive pressures, a more green environment and nature
Result: Correct volume breathing – Higher BUTEYKO CP – asthma uncommon
- Little physical activity
- More processed foods
- Habitual overeating
- Higher temperatures of homes and warmer clothes
- Talking forms a large part of our working life
- More stress – artificial and noisy concrete environment with information overload
Result: Big volume breathing – Lower BUTEYKO CP â€“ asthma very common
A lower BUTEYKO CP reflecting larger volume breathing will result in many of the symptoms below. How many do you experience?
- Sleep apnoea (common amongst asthmatics, person cease breathing for a number of seconds many times throughout the night)
- Disrupted sleep
- Asthma symptoms (3am-5am)
- Needing to use the bathroom at about 5am or 6am
- Children wetting the bed during the night
- Fatigue first thing in morning
- Dry mouth
- Symptoms upon waking- blocked nose, wheezing, coughing or
Sleeping on the back with mouth open
- No food 2 hours before bed as food increases breathing.
- A cool bedroom is best (but not cold). It is better to have no central heating in a bedroom and to ensure that your duvet or bedclothes are not excessively warm. High temperatures increase breathing. In addition, an airy bedroom is best.
- Donâ€™t sleep on your back. Instead sleep on your left hand side or tummy. Sleeping on the back is by far the worst position as there is no restriction to breathing. The left hand side is most preferred position as you breathe less.
- Ensure that your mouth is closed at night.
Sleeping on left side with closed mouth
For good health; NEVER breathe through your mouth at night.
Taping your mouth at night:
We recommend that adults and older children wear paper tape to gently keep their lips together. Paper tape can be bought at most chemists. A good brand is 3M and a suitable size is one inch. Apply it horizontally to cover your mouth. If you are unable to place it in a horizontal position, then place it vertically. Before applying, fold over a tab at either end of the tape to make removal easier in the morning. Wearing the tape at night is imperative to a good nightâ€™s sleep and will significantly improve your energy levels upon waking. In fact, all the symptoms listed above will be helped by keeping your mouth closed at night. Taping the mouth is not suitable for children under 5.
If you have drunk copious amounts of alcohol or are feeling nauseas, it is not recommended to wear the tape.
It is possible that some people may, very reasonably, experience a feeling of panic at the very thought of having their mouth taped. To help overcome this, it may be helpful to put the tape on half an hour before going to bed. This should be enough time to become used to the tape and to overcome any nervousness. For the first few nights wearing the tape will feel a little strange. It may come off during the night, but at least you will have spent some hours breathing through your nose.
Continue to wear the tape until you have managed to change to breathing through your nose at night. How long this takes will vary with the individual.
What to do when your nose is blocked:
Mild nasal symptoms:
If your nose is mildly blocked before going to bed, then first clear your nose by completing the nose unblocking exercise and rinse your nose with saline solution as outlined earlier. While wearing the tape, your nose will never completely block. If you are breathing deeply during the night while wearing the tape, your nose will partially block. This is the bodyâ€™s defense mechanism to prevent over breathing. However, when your nose becomes partially blocked, the level of Carbon Dioxide in your body will increase and this will help to decongest your nose. If you continue to overbreathe, your nose will become partially blocked again which will increase the level of Carbon Dioxide thus causing the nose to unblock and so on. Remember, your nose will only block completely if you switch to mouth breathing.
Severe nasal symptoms
If you have severe nasal obstruction, you will need to implement all of the following; Practice half an hour of reduced breathing before bed. (If the Steps exercise is suitable for you, 10 repetitions will suffice.) You will also need to rinse your nose with sea salt and water as described earlier and wear the tape over your mouth. Another necessary application is to wear Breathe Right strips or a similar brand on your nose at night. You might not be a pretty sight with your mouth taped and a strip across your nose, but you will feel a whole lot better!
Breathe Right strips can be purchased at most pharmacies and are very helpful with nasal obstruction. They are plastic strips which, when placed on the outer part of the nose, dilate the nasal passages. These strips are a temporary measure. In time, as your nasal congestion improves you will no longer require them as you will be able to keep the mouth closed by just wearing the tape.
You will have a far better sleep with good energy levels in the morning as opposed to the groggy feeling that most mouth breathersâ€™ experience.
Recap of nasal obstruction
- Reduce your breathing for half an hour before sleep. Steps are very good if you are suited to doing them. Otherwise practice whatever exercise suits you best.
- Nasal rinse with sea salt and water
- Wear Breathe Right strips or similar if nasal obstruction is severe
- Wear paper tape on your mouth at night.
Two aspects about food.
- All food increases breathing. Be aware of the quantity that you consume.
Just eat when hungry and stop when satisfied.
If your BUTEYKO CP is less than 15 seconds, pay particular attention to when you eat, how much you eat and what you eat as food can greatly disrupt your breathing. When you commence breath retraining, you may find that your appetite is greatly reduced as your metabolism changes. With reduced appetite, you will lose weight easily and effortless. (provided that you have a few pounds to shed)
To increase BUTEYKO CP quickly- Reduce meal consumption
- The foods that increase breathing the most are processed and â€œheavyâ€ foods such as animal protein. These foods should be limited and include sugar, tea, coffee, white bread, beef, pork, and dairy products.