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How Do I Perform Buteyko Breathing?

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Updated May 07, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: How Do I Perform Buteyko Breathing?
Answer:

The main goal of regularly preforming Buteyko breathing is to get you from over-breathing to breathing that is more calm. The following will outline one of the breathing exercises from Peter McKeown’s Close Your Mouth: Buteyko Clinic Handbook For Perfect Health.

To perform exercises correctly, you need a comfortable chair, a comfortable room that is neither too hot or too cold, and a place where you will be free of distractions as long as you are preforming Buteyko breathing. Because digestion affects your breathing, it is best to preform the Buteyko breathing exercises before eating or waiting at least two hours after eating.

Preforming Buteyko Breathing Exercises

  1. Control pause and pulse check: You will begin all Buteyko breathing exercises by first checking and recording your pulse and control pause time.

  2. Posture: As with the other parts of Buteyko breathing, good posture is essential to preforming the exercises correctly and successfully reducing your breathing. A tall, straight-backed chair that allows you to comfortably rest your feet on the ground and allows you to sit tall with your back against the chair will get you into the correct position. If you don’t have a straight back chair imagine being vertically suspend so that your head, shoulders, and hips are perfectly aligned.

  3. Concentrate: Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Feel the air moving in and out of your nostrils and the different movements of your body when both inhaling and exhaling. While concentrating on your breathing may seem silly, you cannot change your breathing if you are not aware of how you breathe.

  4. Relax the shoulders: The shoulders are key to improving your breathing. Because tension causes you to raise your shoulders, which affects the amount of air you can take into your lungs. Try to stay as relaxed as possible and allow your shoulders to fall into their natural position with each breath. Relaxation will also help you decrease your breathing.

  5. Monitor air flow: Check the amount of air flowing through your nostrils by placing your finger under your nose so it is parallel to the floor. You need to be able to feel the air exiting your nose, but it should not be so close that your finger is obstructing the nose.

  6. Take shallow breaths: As you begin to feel air hit your finger on exhalation, begin to breathe in again. This will cause you to reduce the amount of air with each breath. You will notice that by doing this you will be increasing the number of breaths you take per minute, but this is OK as you are trying to reduce air volume with this exercise. The less warm air you feel on your finger, the more successful you are at reducing the volume of each breathe. Your goal is to continue breathing in this manner for 3-5 minutes.

    You may not be able to complete a full 5 minutes the first time you try this exercise. As with other exercises it will get easier with practice. If you take gasps of air, you are trying to reduce your air volume too quickly and you need to slow down. The goal is to get to the point that you can reduce your breathing for 3-5 minutes at a time.


  7. Control Pause and Pulse check: At the completion of your 5 minutes, or however long you are able to go in the beginning, you will again check your pulse and control pause.

  8. Take a break: Before beginning the next 5 minutes of reduced breathing, take a few minutes to recover. In order to get the most benefit from Buteyko breathing, you will need to spend at least 20 minutes per day on this exercise. After practice, you may get to the point that you can preform this exercise during other activities at home or at work.

  9. Exercise blocks: Each session will consist of 4 blocks of reduced breathing with you checking you pulse and control pause before and after each block of reduced breathing. Compared to the beginning of the session, your control pause should be longer and your pulse lower.

Sources:

McKeown, P. Close Your Mouth: Buteyko Clinic Handbook For Perfect Health. Buteyko Books: Unit Six, Calbro House, Tuam Road, Galway, Ireland, 2004.

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