Buteyko Breathing: Your In Depth Guide To This Revolutionary Breathing Technique

When it comes to improving your health or supressing the symptoms of different conditions, most people will usually turn to a supplement or medication, to try and see changes as quickly and easily as possible.

Unfortunately, these can also frequently lead to some unpleasant side effects.

What if there was a natural way to make those changes though? One that could guarantee improvements in your health and symptoms, without the risk of any side effects.

Well, the Buteyko Breathing Technique is one such alternative that claims to be able to do just that.

By helping you to literally train your body to breathe in a more effective manner, it aims to make you feel fitter, stronger, and healthier, without the need for any medications.

The question is, can simply adjusting the way you breathe really provide such a great number of benefits?

Well, let’s take a closer look at what the Buteyko Breathing Technique is and how it works, so we can decide for ourselves.

What Is Buteyko Breathing?

Buteyko Breathing is a breathing technique developed by, and named after, a physician called Dr Buteyko.

It was developed based on the belief that breathing has a direct correlation to health and quality of life, with Dr Buteyko suggesting it can reduce or remove symptoms of various illnesses.

While most people see breathing as an involuntary physical action that the body does automatically, it is possible to make it a voluntary process if you focus and put your mind to it.

By making that mind muscle connection, the belief is that Buteyko Breathing allows you to take full control of both your mental and physical wellbeing.

It is also seen as a great way to provide natural healing and therapy, with virtually no chance of causing any side effects or adverse reactions.

Who Is Dr Buteyko?

Born Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, Dr Buteyko was born on the outskirts of Kyiv, in the Ukraine, on the 27th of January 1923.

At the culmination of World War II, when he was in his early 20s, he moved to Russia to study at the First Medical Institute Of Moscow.

After suffering with high blood pressure for most of his life and having heart and kidney problems that were continually worsening, none of which doctors had any answers for, he dedicated his life and work to studying the human body and trying to find natural remedies for common ailments.

During a time when he was working with critically ill people, he noted that the more severe or advanced their condition was, the faster and deeper their breathing tended to be.

After conducting in depth research, he hypothesised that you could determine precisely how long it would be before someone died based on their rate of breathing, while even suggesting that you could extend their life if you were able to adjust their rate of breathing.

These hypotheses became the foundations of his work, which would go on to develop the Buteyko Breathing Technique.

He founded his own laboratory and proceeded to personally instruct and teach hundreds of students in and about his methods.

Despite his health issues, he lived an active life until eventually passing from natural causes, at the age of 80, on the 2nd of May 2003, at his home in Moscow.

He attributed his long life to the lengthy use of his own Buteyko Breathing technique.

The History Of Buteyko Breathing

After making his initial hypotheses, Dr Buteyko founded his own lab in October 1952, to study it in greater detail.

Using himself as a test subject, he attempted to alter the speed and depth of his breathing, to see how it affected his varying health conditions.

His results showed a clear pattern of improvements in his blood pressure and a reduction or even complete remission of the symptoms of his other ailments when he performed slow, calm, shallow breaths.

All of these conditions then worsened again when he began to breathe more deeply.

This allowed Dr Buteyko to conclude that the way a person breathes can be the cause of many of the health ailments human beings experience but can also be a natural remedy and offer healing and therapeutic benefits as well.

Over the next 16 years, Dr Buteyko formed a team of more than 200 medical specialists to conduct greater research into his methods.

They used both traditional methods and modern equipment to test how breathing depths and rates affected things like physical ailments, diseases, viruses, and your overall health.

They were then able to develop a method of breathing that would make the most of these findings and help people improve their wellbeing and recover from illnesses, some of which were considered terminal.

This method quickly became known as the Buteyko Breathing Technique.

However, despite evidence proving that the Buteyko Breathing Technique could offer numerous health benefits, it was completely ignored by major medical institutions, which led to limited funding and the eventual closure of the laboratory in 1968.

That didn’t dissuade Dr Buteyko and his team though, who continued to work tirelessly on their research in any way they could.

This hard work eventually paid off, as the Buteyko Breathing Technique was finally recognised by the Russian Ministry Of Health in 1983.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union in the early 90s, members of Dr Buteyko’s team began taking the Buteyko Breathing Technique around the world, introducing and establishing it in countries like Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the USA.

While many major medical institutions still refuse to recognise the Buteyko Breathing Technique, it is estimated to be used by more than 150,000 people around the world.

With more people continually providing case studies of how it has helped them, it continues to gain attention and support.

Patrick McKeown And The Oxygen Advantage

Patrick McKeown is an Irish author who has a Master’s degree from the Trinity College Dublin.

He is a Fellow at both the International Academy Of Breathing And Health, where he is also part of the management board and advisory faculty, as well as the Royal Society Of Biology.

Patrick is also a member of the Academy Of Applied Myofunctional Sciences and the UK Physiological Society.

Having suffered from a range of health conditions for more than 20 years, which included asthma, obstructive sleep disordered breathing (SDB), and rhinitis, he enrolled at the Buteyko Clinic in Moscow to seek alternate solutions.

After completing his clinical training in the Buteyko Breathing Technique in 2002, he became completely dedicated to the method, as he saw both how it helped his own ailments, while hearing countless case studies and theoretical examples of other benefits it is able to offer.

After learning all he could from the Buteyko Clinic, he set about trying to teach its methods to a wider audience. To do so, he founded both the Buteyko Clinic International and Buteyko Professionals International, where he also serves as the Director Of Training And Education.

In his career as an author, Patrick has produced 7 books and 4 video series, all dedicated to the Buteyko Method. The most famous of his works is a book known as “The Oxygen Advantage”.

The Oxygen Advantage aims to offer “simple, scientifically proven breathing techniques to help you become healthier, slimmer, faster, and fitter”. It’s a great option for anyone looking to use breathing techniques and the Buteyko Breathing Technique for the first time who need a beginner’s guide.

Suitable for everyone from beginners and those completely out of shape to elite triathletes, the book will start by taking you through a Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT), to help you find the correct starting point, before giving you direct instructions from Patrick McKeown himself.

It will then help you to achieve benefits including easy weight loss and maintenance, enhanced sleep and energy, better concentration, a reduction in breathlessness while working out, greater athletic performance, improved cardiovascular health, and a reduction in symptoms of illnesses.

Combine this with its ability to help you simply look and feel better, with a greater level of wellbeing, and The Oxygen Advantage is an ideal place to begin your Buteyko Breathing journey.

How To Do Buteyko Breathing

To begin Buteyko Breathing, sit in a comfortable position, with good posture and your spine elongated. Relax your respiratory muscles and proceed to quietly breathe in and out normally for a few minutes.

When you are ready, wait until the end of a normal exhalation and then hold your breath, placing your thumb and index finger into your nostrils, to ensure there is no way for any air to get in or out.

From here you have two options, the “Control Pause” and the “Maximum Pause”.

For the Control Pause, keep holding the breath for as long as you can, until your body gets an urgent need to breathe and causes involuntary movements of your diaphragm.

Now, inhale a regular breath and then proceed to breathe normally for 10 seconds, before repeating the cycle several times.

For the Maximum Pause, follow the same steps, except try to continue holding the breath past when you feel the urgent need to breathe.

Hold it for as long as possible and aim for at least twice as long as you would have done in the Control Pause. You can then inhale a regular breath, breathe normally for 10 seconds, and repeat the cycle a number of times.

Beginners may want to first try the technique without placing their fingers in their nostrils, to make it a little easier and more comfortable.

You should also stop the technique and return to normal breathing if you experience any anxiety, intense discomfort, or extreme shortness of breath.

Over time, you should gradually improve your performance while Buteyko Breathing.

Most people will be able to reach a peak of around 1 minute for the Control Pause and 2 minutes for the Maximum Pause, if they work hard enough.

What is Buteyko Breathing Used For?

Buteyko Breathing can be used for a number of different purposes, ranging from simply improving your overall health, wellbeing, or physical appearance, to offering assistance in more specific areas.

One of the most common times people turn to Buteyko Breathing is when they are suffering from symptoms of certain conditions and have exhausted all other options, without finding any suitable resolution.

While the true magnitude of the number of illnesses that Buteyko Breathing may be able to help with is still unknown, we will now take a look at a few of the conditions it has already been proven to dramatically help manage the symptoms of, or even get rid of completely.

Asthma

Asthma is a disease that is characterised by an inflammation of the airways to the lungs.

It causes irritation and obstruction of the airways, while more severe attacks are due to bronchospasms, where the muscles in the walls of the airways suddenly contract and won’t release.

Asthma is a disease that can be caused by both genetics and environmental factors, such as allergens, pollen, or medications, like aspirin or beta blockers.

The most common symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness of the chest.

Corticosteroids and beta agonists are the most common forms of treatment, as they help to relax the muscles in the airways.

The Buteyko Breathing Technique can be used to help in exactly the same way, as it also calms the respiratory muscles and helps to relive tension in the airways.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a long term, progressive lung disease, which can develop into different secondary conditions.

The most common conditions that develop as a result of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi in the lungs, while emphysema is the breakdown of the alveoli in the lower respiratory tract, which causes pockets of air known as pneumatoses to form in the lungs, damaging the tissue.

COPD in all forms usually displays as symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing even the most basic physical tasks, such as walking or talking.

COPD is most commonly caused by smoking, but can also be triggered by environmental factors, like pollution.

A chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is progressive, it cannot be cured. However, the symptoms of the disease can be lessened and the progression slowed.

This is usually done by using medications that reduce the inflammation in the airways and allow you to get more air into your lungs.

Buteyko Breathing helps manage the symptoms in a similar manner, by giving you better control of your breathing, preventing irritation, and ensuring your oxygen intake remains as high as possible.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Hypertension is the medical name for high blood pressure, a condition which is characterised by a significant elevation in the pressure of the blood in the arteries.

Hypertension is almost always caused by poor lifestyle choices, such as consuming too much alcohol or salt, smoking, or being significantly stressed or overweight.

High blood pressure usually won’t produce any symptoms, with the only exception potentially being chest pain.

However, high blood pressure can lead to a number of serious complications, such as stroke, chronic kidney disease, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, dementia, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss, and potentially death.

While extreme or chronic cases may require treatment with medication, most cases of high blood pressure can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as consuming less salt or alcohol, improving your diet, doing more exercise or meditation, losing weight, or stopping smoking.

The Buteyko Method is another effective lifestyle change that can be implemented, as, much like meditation, it helps the entire body to relax, lowering tension and blood pressure.

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) / Sleep Apnoea

Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) can refer to any condition where a person’s breathing becomes erratic or obstructed while they sleep.

The most common such condition is known as sleep apnoea, which is characterised by loud snoring, gasping, and choking noises while you sleep.

Sleep disordered breathing can be caused either by a person’s airways becoming obstructed or constricted when they lay down to sleep, the mental impulses for breathing not sending properly while you are asleep, or a combination of both factors.

Heavy alcohol consumption can also cause sleep disordered breathing conditions or make those that already exist even worse.

While many people will experience no symptoms other than a poor quality of sleep from sleep disordered breathing conditions, there are other symptoms that can arise.

These include anxiety, daytime tiredness, reduced cognitive function, increased weight gain, lowered libido, irritability, depression, forgetfulness, raised heart rate or blood pressure, heartburn and acid reflux, heightened urinary frequency, particularly at night, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The most common type of treatment for sleep disordered breathing is positive airway pressure.

This involves using a device to create internal pressure and train the muscles of the respiratory system to allow increased oxygen intake, even while asleep.

This makes the Buteyko Breathing Technique an ideal treatment for sleep disordered breathing conditions, as it serves almost an identical purpose to positive airway pressure machines, without the need for any external equipment.

Rhinitis

Rhinitis is an irritation of the mucus membrane inside the nose, which causes it to become inflamed.

Sometimes known as coryza, it can be caused by allergens, bacteria, irritants, or viruses, and will lead to a degranulation of cells and the production of a large amount of mucus.

Common symptoms of rhinitis include post-nasal drip syndrome (PND), a runny or stuffy nose, and excessive sneezing.

Cognitive impairment, coughing, fatigue, headaches, itching, malaise, and red, watery, or puffy eyes are all possible, yet less common symptoms of rhinitis.

Depending on the exact cause of your rhinitis, it is possible for the condition to be contagious, but it usually is not.

However, cases of the contagious kind are normally caused by viruses and bacteria and are the kind that can be completely cured. The non-contagious kind is very similar to asthma.

Depending on the cause of the rhinitis, treatments such as antihistamines and corticosteroids have proven incredibly effective.

The Buteyko Breathing Technique can also be incredibly effective, as it helps to reduce inflammation in the airways.

This will help to reverse much of the damage caused by the irritation, no matter what source it stems from, allowing it to be effective for all types of rhinitis.

Organ Diseases (Heart, Kidney, Liver, Lung)

Organ diseases aren’t diseases in a traditional sense, instead usually just referring to an organ failing or operating in a less than optimal state.

Any organ can experience failure, but the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys are the most common, as well as the most notable, due to how important they are.

The symptoms organ diseases are capable of causing are wide ranging, and can include things like strokes, chest pains, shortness of breath, trouble urinating, high blood pressure, headaches, fainting, jaundice, internal bleeding, trouble healing, and poor cognitive function.

Organ diseases also put you at greater risk of a number of other different mental and physical conditions, while the exact symptoms will vary depending on which organs are affected.

The majority of organ diseases are caused by lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol or salt consumption, poor diet, overworking, and a lack of exercise, as well as environmental factors, such as pollution. That said, some will also occur due to your genetics as well.

While the treatment for organ diseases will vary on a case to case basis, lifestyle improvements are usually the first step. These will see people improve their diet and exercise regime, limit their alcohol and salt intake, stop smoking, and ensure they try to limit any causes of stress.

The Buteyko Breathing Technique is a great option to help with these symptoms, as it combats a number of the different diseases in question, making it a viable solution for a wide range of people.

It is also particularly effective as the improved oxygen intake boosts your relaxation, while making the organs and systems throughout your body generally healthier and more efficient.

How Does Buteyko Breathing Compare To A Lung Exerciser?

The Buteyko Breathing Technique and lung exercisers both work to improve the flow of air through a person’s airways, helping to strengthen the muscles and passages in the process.  

The difference between the two is that Buteyko Breathing alters how you breath autonomously, while a lung exerciser is a piece of external apparatus.

While they do virtually the same job, they do it to differing degrees, and each is better suited for a different situation.

The Buteyko Breathing Technique requires you to train your respiratory system to operate in a different way.

While this will take a reasonable amount of knowledge, effort, and dedication, it will allow you to improve your bodily functions and quality of life moving forward.

A lung exerciser, on the other hand, does the work for you, and requires very little know how to use. While it won’t train your respiratory system to work in a different way, it still improves its function.

This makes lung exercisers a great way to boost the function of your airways and relieve symptoms in the short term. It is also a great option for people who deal with regular, sudden attacks.

For those who would rather try using a lung exerciser, as opposed to the Buteyko Breathing Technique, options like the Airofit and Airphysio are among the best on the market.

Does Buteyko Breathing Really Work?

While many of the world’s major health establishments still don’t recognise the Buteyko Breathing Technique as a viable option, there is undeniable evidence that it is effective.

With countless case studies from all over the Earth, spanning more than 70 years, Buteyko Breathing really does work and helps hundreds of thousands or people every day.

With more and more positive case studies coming out all the time, health authorities around the globe are gradually being forced to accept its potential.

So, while it isn’t currently officially recommended on a wide scale, it won’t be long before it is.

Final Thoughts

The Buteyko Breathing Technique is a fabulous way to improve your overall health and wellbeing, while also having the ability to help you recover from, or relive the symptoms of, a wide range of different health conditions.

Admittedly, Buteyko Breathing won’t be for everyone, as it does take a reasonable amount of dedication and perseverance to master.

For anyone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to commit to learning the technique, a lung exerciser may be a more suitable, yet still effective, option.

However, for anyone who truly wants to optimise their mental and physical health, as well as the functions of their body, and is willing to go all out, then learning the Buteyko Breathing Technique is an incredibly beneficial endeavour that I would highly recommend giving a try.

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