- Updated on August 13, 2020
Part 1 of Module 10. Buteyko breathing exercises
If you practice breathing exercises of the Buteyko method, or with Frolov-DIY breathing devices, you need to take care of certain preliminary conditions or requirements before you start a breathing session. Here are those conditions:
A quiet place to focus one’s attention
A session requires about 15 min of concentrated work without disturbances and interruptions. Being totally concentrated is important during the initial stages of learning. Later, after many hours of practice, breathing exercises can be done while driving a car, watching TV, reading, etc.
Silence (no speaking)
You should be silent and the mouth should be closed during the whole session. If it is necessary to speak, for whatever urgent reasons, air hunger is lost and later you should hold your breath to restore a light level of air hunger (more about this desire or air hunger is below).
The exercises are done on an empty stomach (water is OK) since reduced breathing and larger aCO2 concentrations provide more blood and oxygen for the GI system intensifying peristalsis. Many modern people have inflammation in the stomach they are unaware of, as recent western studies revealed. This inflammation can get worse due to the intensification of peristalsis in the stomach and duodenum if food is present there. (Imagine what would happen if somebody started to vigorously rub skin areas which were already inflamed.) Having water in the stomach does not cause this problem.
Warning. If you are hungry and have problems with blood glucose control, in many situations breathing exercises or reduced breathing will not prevent a further blood sugar drop and, in certain cases, can even intensify hypoglycemia. If this is the case for you, make sure that you are not hungry. You should not have low or very low blood glucose level during the breathing session.
Warning. If you suffer from diabetes and use insulin, the reduced breathing will increase your sensitivity to insulin. This will make your blood sugar level lower than usual. You may suffer from hypoglycemic shock, which is much more dangerous than high blood sugar. Hypoglycemic shock, which often happens after insulin overdose as well, can be fatal. Buteyko breathing exercises lead to reduced requirements of insulin.
The acidification of blood due to increased CO2 content caused by reduced breathing triggers biological pH buffers in the blood. A part of this process is the redistribution of ions in various compartments of the body (intracellular fluid, extracellular fluid, blood plasma, intestinal content, etc.). These processes may require additional water. Hence, drink if you get thirsty at any stage.
Clean and fresh air
The place for exercises should have clean and fresh air so that the student can have a cold and moist nose, as naturally happens outdoors. Backyards of houses or parks are great places, provided that it is not too cold or warm and there is no draft and no direct sunlight. Kitchens with open windows usually provide good conditions. Having long or old and dusty curtains, carpets, books in the room makes air stale and dusty, and many students cannot reduce their breathing in such conditions. Those people who are allergic or sensitive to dust mites, mold, proteins from cats and dogs, and other air-born substances should find a trigger-free place where no (even mild) allergic reaction is possible. Air ionizers can greatly improve indoor air quality.
Find a comfortable place without a draft, but relatively cool. You may feel warm or even hot during the exercises. Therefore, be ready for that to happen and take steps to restore your thermal comfort: take some clothes off to normalize your heat exchange. If a place is too warm, it is often impossible to reduce breathing there.
If your current CP is less than 20 s, you should be on the slightly warm side. Hence, keep yourself comfortably warm when in a poor health state or with a low CP.
If your CP is above 20 s and you have normal well-being (no signs of a cold, flu, or infection, etc.), keep yourself moderately cool. This factor will help you with your further CP growth and health restoration.
If the surrounding temperature is 25 degrees C or more, it is impossible to reduce breathing (you may try to exercise in a wet T-shirt).
Posture during the breathing session
Severely sick students with low initial CPs (less than 10 s) can do breathing exercises while lying, half-lying or sitting in a comfortable armchair with their backs supported. It is more important for them to have proper relaxation since physical exertion can significantly intensify their breathing.
When the CP is above 10 s, it is suggested to practice while sitting on the edge of a solid chair (on half of a chair) without using the back support. You can have your elbows and arms either on the table or on your knees. The spine should be straight and erect. That is another crucial parameter for breathing normalization.
Warning. If you suffer from back pain now, you can lean on the back of a chair or choose some other posture that is comfortable for you and will make relaxation possible. Your back pain may relate to calcium metabolism (and then normalization of breathing will help you to solve this problem) or it may relate to a displaced vertebra or a pinched nerve in your spine (and then visit an experienced chiropractor can solve this problem; Dr. Buteyko and his wife Ludmila learned chiropractic techniques since breathing normalization alone cannot help in all cases).
How to check one’s posture? There is a simple test. You just need any flat vertical surface (e.g., a wall or door).
The “wall test” for correct posture
Go to any flat wall (or door) and attach the back part of your whole body to this wall so that you can touch the wall with the following 6 points at the same time:
– both back sides of your shoes; 2 points
– your lowest vertebra (tailbone); 1 point
– both your shoulder blades; 2 points
– the back of your head. 1 point
Some people feel as though they are looking up too high (probably as they are used to looking down at the ground in front of them). Hence, you may feel that you are looking up too high. The position of your head is not as crucial as the position of your spine. It is important that this test helps to restore the normal position of the spine so that breathing retraining becomes possible.
Now you can sit down on the edge of a chair while keeping the spine straight. This sitting posture is the most common posture used for Buteyko breathing exercises. One can sit on a low chair with crossed legs so that the thighs are inclined towards the floor. Then light diaphragmatic breathing is also possible. People, who can relax in lotus or other similar yoga postures (e.g., “Pleasant” posture), can do so.
It is important for the position of the diaphragm that the thighs are either horizontal or inclined downwards when we are in the sitting position. If the thighs are inclined upwards, as when we sit on a low chair, the diaphragm is compressed by the internal organs and it loses its mobility. Diaphragmatic breathing requires a straight spine so that the diaphragm, instead of being compressed, is freely suspended and can easily be moved up and down.
The simple mechanics of normal breathing at rest or how the diaphragm works
The diaphragm, in a relaxed state (or after an exhalation), has the shape of a cone or dome. During an inhalation, we stretch it in radial directions making it flatter. For exhalations, we just relax the diaphragm and it returns (recoils) back to its original position like a spring. Chest muscles should be relaxed all the time. Try to visualize this process during your own breathing.
For more details about How to develop diaphragmatic breathing 24/7, click the link that is provided.
Make your spine like a broomstick, with your shoulders, chest, and belly freely hanging on this solid frame. This posture allows shorter breaths (even during normal daily life) and the right place for various organs in the body. The reduction of unnecessary muscular tension and elimination of internal pressure under the diaphragm also allows for easier breathing. This posture should be preserved for the rest of the day, but it is particularly important during the exercises. Otherwise, due to the muscular tension and stress in vital organs, the normalization of breathing during the exercises is very difficult or impossible.
Remember, when your CP gets larger and approaches 30 seconds, the posture becomes more and more important. For example, when your CP is about 15-20 s, slouching causes a 1-2 s CP decrease, while a straight spine 1-2 s more. Once you get about 25-30 s CP, poor posture, if present, will be the factor making further health and CP progress impossible.
These requirements are really important, despite the fact that many DIY students often ignore some of these conditions. For example, having poor posture would not allow you to get over 30-35 s for the final CP after Buteyko sessions or exercises with the Frolov device.
Note. On this site, you can get my PDF book “Advanced Buteyko Breathing Exercises” (about 124 pages, 12 USD). Read happy and great reviews of this book on Amazon.com. This book considers effects of overtraining, lost CO2 sensitivity, blunted CO2 sensitivity, “click” effect, “Steps” breathing exercise for walking, Buteyko breathing exercises during physical activity, etc.