Buteyko Breathing Method
by Carol Baglia
Breathing is such a regular, involuntary process that usually you do
not pay attention to it unless you develop a problem such as asthma,
allergies or anxiety attacks. However, breathing properly is as
fundamental to your health as proper nutrition and physical exercise.
A multitude of factors can cause you to breathe inappropriately.
These include diet, drugs, emotions, environmental pollutants,
illness, injury, financial concerns and even mannerisms. "Improper
breathing is a common cause of ill health," says alternative health
guru Dr. Andrew Weil. Stress expert Dr. Charles Stroebel agrees,
saying that "Breathing can be implicated in close to 70% of diseases
as a causative or contributing factor."
The Buteyko (pronounced bew-TAY-ko) Breathing Method, developed by
Dr. Konstatin Buteyko during the last half century, teaches us that
proper breathing prevents disease and improves health. Dr. Buteyko
was a Russian physician and researcher who devoted his career to
studying the connection between disease and breathing. He
demonstrated that chronic hyperventilation is actually a cause of
allergic reactions, asthma, panic attacks and more than 150
other "diseases of modern civilization."
Yogis, gurus and Taoist Monks have used controlled breathing and
breath-reduction concepts for centuries. The Buteyko Breathing Method
is a retraining program comprised of safe, easy, effective techniques
to reverse chronic hyper-ventilation and restore the body's balance
and health. In chronic hyperventilation, or over-breathing, you are
releasing excessive carbon dioxide and moisture while inundating your
body with extra germs, dust and smoke.
Over-breathing disturbs the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio in your
lungs. Your body needs the right proportions of both oxygen and
carbon dioxide to perform optimally. When this formula is not in
proper proportion, you experience a cascade of metabolic and chemical
imbalances in the entire body because this gas exchange affects every
cell. Luckily, we can voluntarily control the respiratory system and
healthy breathing habits can be restored.
The art of reduced breathing is achieved through relaxation. Under-
breathing, or deliberately limiting the consumption of air, is
necessary to counteract over- breathing in the past and return
balance to the body. Regulating the rate and volume of breath during
all daily activities, such as physical exercise, sleeping and
talking, is the key to mastering the Buteyko Breathing Method.
Just as there are consequences to eating too much, there are
consequences to breathing too much. Over-breathing dangerously lowers
carbon dioxide levels, dehydrates your body and activates defense
mechanisms. Allergic rhinitis, sinusitis and nasal polyps are the
body's natural defense reactions as it attempts to prevent the loss
of carbon dioxide by blocking the nasal passages. The Buteyko method
is founded on the premise that the nose is the first line of
protection against hyperventilation and invasion by foreign
particles. Nostrils are intended to control the movement of air in
and out of the body. In addition, the nose is specifically designed
to warm, moisten, clean and circulate air before it reaches the
lungs. Breathing exclusively through the nose is crucial for proper
Normal bronchial secretions, a quart per day, go unnoticed. However,
when you over-breathe (too quickly or forcefully), mucus production
increases to maintain moist airways. As this over-breathing
continues, mucus dries out, so the body makes more. As the mucus
concentrates, the nasal passages become congested. When an irritant
is inhaled, mast cells release not only histamines, but also other
chemicals and extra mucus, thereby causing inflammation and breathing
The more you breathe, the more breathless you feel. Instinctively,
having a clogged nose usually makes you breathe harder or through
your mouth. When breathing through your mouth – this comparatively gi-
gantic opening – more air, and, therefore greater amounts of pollen,
dust, germs and pollution enter your body. All of these irritants are
col-lected on the mucus and end up being swallowed and digested. When
you are sucking in big deep breaths of contaminated atmospheric gas,
your thus compromised body has to handle the contents.
Unfortunately, breathing through the mouth bypasses all the nasal
benefits. This, in turn, increases the loss of carbon dioxide so that
the airways narrow with inflammation (chronic bronchitis) and smooth
muscle spasm (asthma). The body tries to close off the windpipes in
an effort to limit the escape of carbon dioxide and maintain an
appropriate ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen. All this stimulates
the rate of respiration and the vicious cycle continues.
An allergy or sensitivity is an adverse reaction of the immune system
to a substance that most people find harmless. Dr. Buteyko defined an
allergy as an abnormal immune reaction of the metabolic processes of
the body. He blamed lowered levels of carbon dioxide.
Hyperventilation causes the reactions of your immune system to become
abnormal – in other words, your body reacts allergically.
With that in mind, understand that the opposite is also true: as long
as your immune system is strong enough, you will not have allergic
reactions to whatever it is you are exposed to, be it from pets to
pollen to perfumes.
Normalizing the breathing pattern with Buteyko techniques are
effective for allergies because:
• Carbon dioxide levels return to normal so airways can remain normal.
• Proper breathing prevents mucus from drying out and requiring the
production of more mucus.
• Histamine production is reduced, resulting in less inflammation and
• The immune system works more efficiently when carbon dioxide levels
are correct, instead of interfering with vitamins, catalysts,
• Fewer irritants are inhaled which means fewer invaders for the body
Simply stated, you have the best anti-stress remedy imaginable right
in front of your face – your nose. With calm, energy efficient
breathing, you can be healthier. A basic rule of Buteyko is, "Breathe
through your nose always." You should breathe through your mouth only
as often as you eat with your nose.
The respiratory center in the brain can be reset when the over-
breathing has become habitual and hidden. As you learn to regulate
and relax your over stimulated breath, you take responsibility for
your own healing. Learning how to do this reduces harmful stress
levels, revitalizes your mind and body and allows you to enjoy the
gift of the breath of life to its fullest. Anthroposophy author,
Rudolf Steiner says, "All healing originally resides in the human
For more information please see:
Buteyko Breathing Method