There are three basic steps towards breath retraining:
✦ Step One
Become very aware of your breathing. Feel, watch and listen to your breathing as much as you can during the day, paying particular attention to what causes you to take big breaths.
Ask yourself some questions. Is your breathing a still, silent activity or does it involve large inhalations and body movements? Are you going about your daily activities with your mouth open? Do you take a big breath as you stand up from your chair or before talking? Do you heave big sighs, yawn or sniff regularly? Do you wake in the night or early morning with a dry mouth? Is your nose blocked when you wake or do you wake feeling that you have not had a good night’s sleep?
Only when you have become aware of your bad breathing can you take steps to correct it. During our clinics, we outline people’s breathing traits. More often than not they are totally unaware of these and while some people ﬁnd them alarming, more often most ﬁnd them quite amusing.
Awareness of our own incorrect breathing can also be increased by observing other people who are perhaps breathing with their mouths open, panting when shopping, or at bus stops; it is also possible to notice a person’s breathing characteristics over the telephone. Even though all of these people may seem to enjoy good health, many of those who have bad breathing actions may already have or are likely to develop health problems in the future.
✦ Step Two
Learn to breathe through your nose. Breathing through your nose at all times is the correct and only way to breathe.
Some people seem to spend most of their lives with a blocked nose and many have tried, without success, every nasal spray and therapy on the market. In this book those very people will be taught an effective exercise for unblocking the nose in a matter of minutes. This will be the ﬁrst step on the road to permanent and comfortable nasal breathing.
✦ Step Three
It has already been explained how the respiratory centre can accept a low level of carbon dioxide as the norm, despite the stress it may place on various organs. All the breathing exercises featured that we use involve breathing less air than the body has become accustomed to. Over time this helps reset the respiratory system to accept the higher levels of carbon dioxide that it really should have. Remember, when the volume of air breathed in is reduced the carbon dioxide in the lungs accumulates and this in turn will readjust the carbon dioxide threshold.
When asked for a simple deﬁnition of his theory, Professor Buteyko said it is this: the reduction of the depth of breathing by the relaxation of the respiratory muscles to create a little air shortage. Two words he directed at his patients were ‘breathe less’. This is the very essence of Buteyko breathing.
Throughout this blog each exercise and how it should be practised will be examined. However, it is important to always be aware of what is being achieved and why. Remember that overbreathing will trigger asthma and the intention is to learn to breathe a more correct volume by relaxation. Breathing can primarily be reduced by relaxing all the muscles involved in respiration. It is very important to relax the muscles because increased tension leads to overbreathing, reduces blood ﬂow and therefore oxygenation.
A quote from sixth century BC philosopher Lao Tzu states: ‘The perfect man breathes as if he does not breathe.’ Through the Buteyko Method the individual learns to breathe in a calm, silent and still manner.