Buteyko Breathing

Buteyko Breathing Exercises to reduce Snoring, Sleep Apnoea and Anxiety… How Buteyko Works

By learning Buteyko Breathing you can learn how to sleep again. Buteyko snoring techniques can give you a peaceful night and enough rest. Opat AJ et al found a reduction in the use of inhalers in some tests.

What is Buteyko snoring and breathing?

While researching heart disease in the 1950s, Konstantin Buteyko, a Russian medical researcher, developed a breathing technique that not only helped reduce high blood pressure, but also a variety of conditions including asthma, anxiety, IBS and sinusitis. The premise of the technique is that many conditions are the result of ‘over breathing’ or chronic hyperventilation. Completely at odds to the popular view that taking big deep breaths of air is ‘good’ breathing, the Buteyko way is to minimise intake, reducing and calming the breath towards normal. Not so different to ancient yogic pranayama or Hatha yoga breathing whereby man could breathe one breath per minute for the duration of one hour.

The Buteyko breathing method believes that we need to increase carbon dioxide levels in the body. Carbon dioxide is often thought of as a ‘waste’ gas, but carbon dioxide is vital to life. While it is true that we breathe to get rid of excess carbon dioxide, it is also important that we retain a quotient of this gas. Depending on our genetic predisposition, the habit of breathing too much causes a reduced concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood, resulting in narrowing of the airways and blood vessels. Conversely, a slight rise in carbon dioxide towards normal has several beneficial effects in the body including; relaxing smooth muscle, increasing oxygenation, switching on the relaxing nervous system, and increasing the body’s production of nitric oxide.

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Smooth Move Buteyko Breathing Method

Relaxing smooth muscle is how Breathing naturally improves conditions including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Headaches
  • IBS
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reflux
  • Coughing.

Smooth muscle surrounds and lines all hollow structures in the body, including the airways, blood vessels, bowel, bladder and uterus. A slight increase in carbon dioxide serves to relax smooth muscle. In the case of smooth muscle lining the blood vessels, this will dilate or widen the arteries, improving circulation and helping lower blood pressure, and the effect on the blood vessels in the head will reduce the incidence of headaches. For the respiratory system, relaxation of the bronchi and smaller airways, bronchioles, will improve airflow and markedly reduce airway spasms associated with asthma. In the case of the bowel wall, relaxed smooth muscle means relief from symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation and reflux.

A study on people with asthma, reported in the Medical Journal of Australia showed that after 3 months people practising the Buteyko breathing method had decreased their requirement for reliever medication by 90 per cent and the use of inhaled corticosteroids by 49 per cent. Buteyko exercises can have remarkable effects on a variety of conditions as well as helping to prevent a host of others.

Oxygen Increase

It seems counterintuitive that higher carbon dioxide levels will increase oxygenation in the body. Yet it’s true. In fact, the Danish professor of physiology Christian Bohr sussed out how this works in 1904, and the Bohr effect has been named in his honour.

In the Buteyko breathing exercises, air is inhaled into the lungs, causing oxygen to cross over the alveolar membrane. Oxygen travels around by ‘sticking’ to haemoglobin molecules, themselves attached to red blood cells. An increase in carbon dioxide ‘tells’ haemoglobin to let go of the oxygen molecules, encouraging the precious oxygen cargo to be delivered to the organs and tissues where it is most needed. The Bohr effect proves that a slight increase in carbon dioxide levels increase oxygenation throughout the body, oxygen needed for muscles to work, energy to be produced, and the brain to function at optimum efficiency.

Increasing oxygenation of tissues will improve conditions including poor concentration and memory, poor circulation and low energy.

Rest and Relax

Switching on the Parasympathetic (or relaxing) nervous system through Buteyko snoring is how breathing improves conditions including: anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, IBS, headaches and reflux.

The Autonomic nervous system is comprised of two parts, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) fuelled by adrenaline and known as the ‘fight and flight’ response, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which has the opposite effect and has been coined the ‘rest and digest’ response. Most people today have an overabundance of ‘fight and fight’ hormone due to the many stresses of modern life. Increasing carbon dioxide levels helps to dampen down the SNS response and switches on the PNS. Which makes Buteyko breathing exercises perfect for anyone who feels stressed and anxious. In the ‘old days’ a person experiencing a panic attack was advised to breathe into a paper bag. What did this do? Increase carbon dioxide levels, switch on the PNS, and switch off the SNS.

Dr. No

Nitric Oxide (NO) is a naturally produced gas that medical scientists want to capture into saleable capsules as it has so many health benefits. At a cellular level, NO works as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, helping in the prevention of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. NO improves the immune response as well as increasing blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, including the brain. Large amounts of NO are produced at the time of sexual climax. Increased carbon dioxide increases natural NO production, bring on Dr. NO.

Belly Breathing

If the muscles of your shoulders and neck feel perpetually tight and knotted, the chances are that you not using your diaphragm to breathe. Diaphragmatic or ‘belly breathing’ is not a Buteyko snoring or breathing method, but it complements all the benefits of Buteyko and more.

Correct breathing means using the diaphragm, a thin dome-shaped band of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. The diaphragm relaxes on the outbreath by moving upwards in a high dome, pressing on the lungs, causing air to be exhaled. On the in-breath, the diaphragm muscle contracts or shortens, allowing air to enter the lungs. The diaphragm presses down on the abdominal organs, causing the tummy to expand slightly, which is why this Butyeko breathing method is sometimes called ‘belly breathing’. People who don’t use the diaphragm properly, rely excessively on the accessory muscles of breathing (scalenes, trapezium and sternocleidomastoid) located around the neck and shoulders, which often causes neck and should pain. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises take the workload, and avoidable strain and tension away from these accessory muscles.

Breathing Boot Camp

In addition to facilitating diaphragmatic breathing, all Buteyko snoring techniques have one goal – to normalise and regulate your breathing volume and carbon dioxide levels towards normal. As seen previously, reduced breathing volume does not decrease oxygen levels; in fact it’s the reverse. Individuals who breathe heavily, with noticeable breathing during rest, or who mouth breathe or sigh regularly are usually more tired, stressed and are not as healthy as their nasal and quiet peers.

The exercises retrain the brain to accept a higher amount of carbon dioxide than it is used to be dealing with if over-breathing is the problem. Generally, once the brain has reset to accept the correct levels of carbon dioxide, and symptoms have improved, you will not need to practice any special breathing exercises.

The best results are by enrolling in a course.