Lucy is one of my clients who suffers from persistent asthma. I saw her couple of weeks ago for a follow up. She was complaining about worsening of her condition due to changing weather (cold and dump air and strong winds). Lucy confessed that she has been having more asthma attacks despite the fact that she has been following her nutritional protocol. I had a close look at Lucy’s diet diary, stress levels and exercise regime and they all seemed to be pretty well-balanced. I started to wonder about introducing new supplements when suddenly remembered about one of the yoga retreats I went to last year.
Our teacher was talking about the breathing protocol she came across, which revolutionized her thinking and noticeably improved her sinus problems: the Buteyko Breathing.
The technique originates from Russia and was named after Dr. Konstantin Buteyko who founded the practice in 1950.
Buteyko teachers and practitioners claim that it takes only 5 days to learn how to breathe properly. This can massively help with all kind of conditions including asthma, allergic rhinitis, sleep problems and fatigue.
According to Dr Buteyko, a lot of health problems are associated with inappropriate breathing–most commonly either over-breathing or mouth-breathing. This means that we are inhaling two to three times more air than if we were breathing through the nose. Air that goes directly to our airways doesn’t get a chance to get cleaned, warmed, and moisturized. Most of all, it also carries a lot of external irritants! Rapid exchange of air depletes our carbon dioxide stores and relaxes the airways. This is when you feel breathless and start gasping for more air. That will only aggravate the problem as body thickens the airways to prevent further loss of carbon dioxide Learning the Buteyko breathing would help as it normalizes breathing patterns and improves oxygen levels.
I have advised Lucy to start with the basic Buteyko self-test.
This test estimates the basic carbon dioxide levels which correlates with the ability to hold breath after normal exhalation.
You can test yourself! Follow these steps using a stopwatch or simply count the number of seconds to yourself.
How To Self-Test If You Have Difficulty Breathing
1. Sit straight without crossing your legs and breathe comfortably and steadily.
2. Take a small, silent breath in and out through your nose. After exhaling, pinch your nose to keep air from entering.
3. Start stopwatch and hold your breath until you feel the first definite desire to breathe.
4. When you feel the first urge to breathe, resume breathing and note the time. The urge to breathe may come in the form of involuntary movement of your breathing muscles, or your tummy may jerk or your throat may contract.
5. Your inhalation should be calm and controlled, through your nose. If you feel like you must take a big breath, then you held your breath too long.
Remember to keep your mouth close through the test! The time you measured is called the “control pause” and it reflects the tolerance of your body to carbon dioxide. Less than 10 seconds means that you have serious breathing problems, between 10 – 25 seconds points that your health needs closer attention, 30-40 is satisfactory and 60+ shows excellent health.
The good news is that you can increase your outcomes with daily training 😉
The first step that I recommend is to learn how to unblock your nose with the following breath hold exercise.
Just one word of caution: if you suffer from high blood pressure, cardiac problems, have type one diabetes, panic attacks or you are expecting a baby – don’t hold your breath beyond the first urges to breathe!
This exercise will help you to clean your nose just in few minutes! 🙂
Buteyko Breathing Exercise
1. Sit up straight.
2. Take a small breath in through your nose, if possible, and a small breath out. If your nose is quite blocked, take a tiny breath in through the corner of your mouth.
3. Pinch your nose with your fingers and hold your breath. Keep your mouth closed.
4. Gently nod your head or sway your body until you feel that you cannot hold your breath any longer.
5. When you need to breathe in, let go of your nose and breathe gently through it, in and out, with your mouth closed.
6. Calm your breathing as soon as possible.
Repeat the exercise several times, waiting about 30-60 seconds in between rounds. Ideally, keep practicing on daily basis.
Be mindful about your breathing thought the course of the day, especially in stressful situations. And remember to keep you mouth shut and breathe in and out through the nose.
Just to let you know–Lucy has rung me few days later to report that her asthma attacks become less frequent ;D
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Photo: Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash