THE BUTEYKO METHOD
The Buteyko Method first arrived to Australia and the UK from Russia in the early 1990s. Early on the method was popular with adults and children suffering from asthma. Over the past number of years, the Buteyko Method has shown to be efficacious in helping improve a number of breathing related problems including:
- Respiratory: asthma, rhinitis, hayfever
- Neurological: Anxiety, stress and panic attacks
- Childhood development: dental health,craniofacial development and ADHD
- Sleep disordered breathing: insomnia, snoring, central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea
Developed in 1952 by Ukrainian Dr Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, (Bhew-tae-ko) the Buteyko Method is a breathing technique designed to improve functional breathing patterns. While breathing is an involuntary activity, it is subject to change by stresses of everyday life, processed foods, excessive sitting and talking, lifestyle choices and environmental factors.
Functional breathing involves breathing in and out through the nose. The breath is light, regular, effortless with the primary movement from the diaphragm.
On the other hand poor breathing is generally upper chest breathing, often through the mouth. The symptoms most commonly reported by people with poor breathing patterns include the inability to take a satisfying breath, disproportionate breathlessness during rest or physical exercise, frequent yawning or sighing, or the feeling of not getting enough air. Irregular breathing is often a feature of poor breathing patterns. However, breathing patterns in these individuals can also be regular from time to time which makes detection difficult.
The Buteyko Method involves exercises to decongest the nose, switch to nasal breathing along with exercises to restore functional breathing patterns. Progress is determined by a special breath hold test called the Control Pause (see below for more details)
The application of the Buteyko Method is very direct and students should experience notable improvements to their breathing and health within a few days. Expected benefits include easier breathing, deeper sleep, more energy, reduced asthma and nasal congestion along with increased feeling of calm. Exercises are simple and taught to all adults regardless of age or health and all children over five years of age.
Breathing patterns have a profound impact on health. Poor breathing patterns literally cause the airways to narrow, and blood circulation and oxygen delivery to be reduced.
To experience the powerful effects of Buteyko breathing, view Patrick McKeown’s Tedx talk.
HOW POOR BREATHING HABITS AFFECT THE BODY
Researchers have listed up to 30 common symptoms and conditions contributed to by poor breathing patterns. These include asthma, wheezing, coughing, blocked nose, chest tightness, snoring, sleep apnea, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, panic attacks, anxiety, stress and general exhaustion.
Measure your Relative Breathing Volume with the Control Pause
- Take a normal breath in and out through the nose;
- Pinch nose with fingers to hold the breath;
- Time it in seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe;
- Resume breathing through your nose;
- Your breathing at the end of the control pause should be normal.
While the role of breathing is biochemical, biomechanical and psycho physiological in nature, there is a simple test to provide feedback of how well you breathe. Called the Control Pause, the test involves having a normal exhalation through the nose, pinching the nose to hold the breath and timing how long in seconds it takes to reach the first definite desire to breathe. The goal is to reach a control pause of 40 seconds. Less than 25 seconds is strongly suggestive of breathing pattern disorders. Students of the Buteyko method will continue to experience asthma, nasal congestion, fatigue, anxiety and panic attacks until their control pause as taken first thing in the morning is at least 25 seconds. One achieves a higher control pause by breathing only through the nose and practising the various breathing exercises. With good attention to the breathing exercises, symptoms should reduce by 50% within two weeks.
If you were to observe and monitor the breathing of a random group of people as they sit together in a room, noticeable differences would be evident. Some people might breathe through their noses, while others might breathe through their mouth. Some will have gentle, slow and quiet breathing, while others will be taking much louder, larger breaths. Some people sigh habitually every few minutes, while others display a regular breathing pattern. Some may use their diaphragm to breathe into the tummy, while others breathe from the upper chest.
Since breathing is a natural process and so vital to life, it begs the question: why do we all breathe so differently? The answer to this is that our breathing habits are greatly influenced by lifestyle, environment and genetic predisposition. The best way to understand how breathing patterns can be altered over time is to think of a person who has developed a habit of eating too much. In times of stress, this person may turn to emotional eating, using food as a crutch to help them relax. But if they continue eating in this way over a period of weeks or months, their body soon adapts to habitual over-eating and begins to demand more food than they need. Similarly, sitting at a desk, watching TV and playing video games, eating processed foods, excessive talking along with stress and anxiety are all factors influencing breathing. When the body is exposed to these perpetuating factors for extended periods of time, the body becomes accustomed to a larger volume of breathing, along with all its negative manifestations.
BUTEYKO BREATHING EXERCISES
By practicing breathing exercises from the Buteyko Method you can experience more open airways and improved blood circulation in a matter of minutes. This alone is enough to demonstrate the relationship between your everyday breathing and state of health. The following paragraphs explore the exercises from the Buteyko Method and the reasoning behind them.
There is a common belief that the more air we breathe, the healthier we are. Few people realize that in order to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the tissues, breathing should be slowed down so that less air enters the body. You know that you are taking less air into the lungs than normal when you experience a tolerable feeling of air hunger. Within a few minutes of continued slowing of the breath to experience air hunger, body temperature increases to indicate an improvement to blood circulation. At the same time, there is an increase to watery saliva in the mouth – traditionally observed in Yoga as activation of the body’s relaxation response.
In 1957 Ukrainian Dr. Konstantin Buteyko observed that unhealthy people have noticeable breathing during rest. Their breathing is often through the mouth, using the upper chest with a respiratory rate and volume greater than normal.
On the other hand, healthy people have regular, effortless and quiet breathing during rest. Their breathing is through the nose, driven by the diaphragm and with a normal respiratory rate and volume.
Over the span of four decades, Dr. Buteyko developed a program designed to normalize breathing volume. Using slow breathing and breath holds following an exhalation, the objective is to take less air into the lungs. With regular practice over a few weeks, breathing is brought towards normal with resultant improvements to a number of common complaints such as asthma, rhinitis, anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep disorders.
Buteyko breathing exercises are not dissimilar to exercises practiced by Yogis. During his research, Dr. Buteyko turned to Eastern breathing techniques and combined these with the science of Western Medicine. Buteyko exercises are more direct and specifically tailored to each child and adult, regardless of condition. From the individual experiencing severe asthma and panic attacks to the healthy adult, a program is available depending on the age and health.
Central to the method is a measurement called the Control Pause. This involves timing how long you can comfortably hold your breath following an exhalation. Having a control pause of less than 25 seconds is poor and 25 seconds to 35 seconds means there is room for improvement. The goal is to reach a comfortable breath hold time of 40 seconds. The average control pause of students attending our clinics is around 15 seconds. Students attend to help improve their asthma, anxiety and sleep problems. With each 5 second improvement to their control pause, breathing becomes lighter and the student feels better.
The Buteyko Clinic Method consists of seven exercises with a number of variations. The foundation of the method is to breathe only through the nose both during day and sleep. Nasal breathing with tongue resting in the roof of the mouth helps to ensure that the airway is larger. This reduces the risk of sleep problems including obstructive sleep apnea. At first, when the student switches to nasal breathing, they may experience a feeling that they are not getting enough air. This feeling of air hunger quickly goes away with practice of the Buteyko breathing exercises. The normal physiologically breathing mode of the human being is in and out through the nose. Mouth breathing is just a bad habit often caused by a stuffy nose. The first exercise of the Buteyko Method involves holding of the breath to decongest the nose- allowing the child or adult to make the switch to nasal breathing on a permanent basis.
Breathing through the nose is a great start to improving health. However, it is not enough. It is also important that breathing volume is normal and regular. Exercise 2 to 7 are specifically designed to help the student change their breathing patterns in order to help open their airways, improve their blood circulation and oxygen delivery throughout the body.
In the various books, webinars and online training courses offered by Buteyko Clinic International, breathing exercises are listed as follows:
Exercise 1: Nose unblocking exercise
Exercise 2a: Normalising breathing volume- hands on chest and tummy
Exercise 2b: Normalising breathing volume- finger blocking nostril
Exercise 2c: Normalising breathing volume- hands cupping face
Exercise 3: walking with diaphragm breathing
Exercise 4a: walking with breath holds to create light air hunger
Exercise 4a: walking with breath holds to create medium to strong air hunger
Exercise 5: Steps (light air hunger) for severe asthma, anxiety, panic attacks
Exercise 5: Steps (medium to strong air hunger) for children and teenagers
Exercise 6: Many small breath holds (mini pauses)
Exercise 7: Relaxation to create air hunger
For example, if you are experiencing nasal congestion, constipation or excess mucus in your lungs – then exercise 1 or 5 offers the best relief. On the other hand, if you are having asthma symptoms, Ex 6 when practiced early on during the symptoms can often eliminate the symptoms. The main exercises for children and teenagers to address breathing patterns are exercise 3 and 5. For persons with obstructive sleep apnea, the main exercise is Exercise 2. An experienced Buteyko practitioner will advise the best exercises for the maximum effect. A number of Buteyko exercises are free on youtube. Check out our channel: buteykoclinic
My son, Ryan, is a 16 year old who suffers from Autism as well as a syndrome that causes some dysmorphic facial features. Due to structural anomalies Ryan has a hard time closing his mouth, is a mouth breather, drools , has trouble forming certain sounds and his tongue pressing against his teeth is causing his teeth to push outward despite braces. Ann started doing myofacial therapy with Ryan and I cannot believe the change. It is so different from what his Speech therapist is doing. He is better able to control his mouth, his mouth is not hanging open as much and the drooling has decreased drastically. She is very patient with him because he has a hard time with body awareness, which causes us to have to do everything over and over, but I cannot believe the change in him. She is dedicated to helping in ways I didn’t even know possible. No one tells us these services are available. Now that I see what she is able to accomplish, all I can see is the amount of children that would benefit from her services. Not only is she a therapist, but a teacher as well. She patiently explains everything to me so that I can continue to work with Ryan at home. I am excited to see all the improvements that are yet to come.
I first started in orthodontic treatment at twelve years old, and now at twenty years old I have completed two full length rounds of standard braces, and one major double jaw surgery. All of these treatments have failed to one degree or another due to my persistent tongue thrust as soon as my treatment was complete. I then began a final course of Invisalign, and decided to give Myofunctional therapy a try in conjunction so that I had a chance at no relapsing after my correction. In less than three months I had a ninety percent fix of my tongue thrust, and my only regret is that I didn’t start when I was twelve. Ann worked with me on my schedule (extremely busy as an undergraduate student), and even over FaceTime to save me long trips to an office. With a little persistence and discipline in keeping up with exercises, I’ve been able to correct a problem that has cost thousands of dollars in orthodontia and years of my life in braces. I recommend myofunctional therapy to anyone who is experiencing problems with their corrective treatment. It was an absolute game changer for me, and I recommend jumping on with treatment as soon as possible!
Because of the exercises you nave shown me and because of your help. I am no longer choking on my tongue at night. My tongue stays at the top ot my mouth so that I am not mouth breathing, which means I am sleeping so much better.. You are so knowledgeable , and have been immensely helpful and I truly appreciate you! –
Doing Myofunctional Therapy has been a game changer, especially for someone who never realized a tongue thrust was a real thing I had to worry about. I have always questioned why my top front teeth were becoming buck and ended up going through 2 rounds of braces before we caught onto the real problem that I had a tongue thrust. Working with you was great! We took time to improve the problem doing various exercises and really dug deep into the situation. Exercises were effective and got the job done in a non-frustrating way. You were very flexible, especially for someone like myself who has a busy schedule. The platform we used to do sessions online was great, so you can do everything from the comfort of your home. Lots of times, people find it hard to drive to an appointment. I would give you a 10 out of 10 rating for these reasons. Thank you for all your help!
My experience with Myofunctional Therapy as amazing. Ann always went out of her way to make appointments work to fit my schedule. The results truly changed my smile with strengthening exercises and practice. My future and smile both seem brighter because of what Myofunctional Therapy has done to me.
Thanks a ton!
I feel like it really helped me. It really helped me remember to put my tongue to spot and I improved my /r/ sound.