A Right and a Wrong Way to Breathe?
While it may seem you certainly know how to breathe, most of us actually breathe in such a way as to put our health in jeopardy.
In fact, the whole field of breathing and breath-work has enormous potential for improvement. As breathing techniques are promoted in yoga, Pilates, and meditative methods, they all tend to focus on taking big, deep breaths-which is actually the opposite of what you should do.
According to Patrick McKeown in the Buteyko Breathing Method in his book, The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You, two of the most common problems are over breathing (hyperventilating) and mouth breathing, both of which have adverse health ramifications, and can have harmful consequences if done during exercise.
As Patrick wrote the habit of over breathing is set in place, it tends to become and remain chronic, and to recover you need to use some sort of relearning technique, such as the one devised by Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko. While in medical training he noticed that the sicker the patient got, the heavier they breathed. Later, he also recorded he could lower his blood pressure simply by bringing his breathing toward normal, and in this same way he successfully “cured” his own hypertension.
Effects of Hyperventilation Syndrome
So what exactly is hyperventilation, or “over breathing?” Hyperventilation is defined as “breathing in excess of metabolic requirements of the body at that time.” Some symptoms are:
- Mouth breathing
- Frequent sighing
- Noticeable or audible breathing during rest
- Yawning with big breaths
- Sleep apnea
- Missed heart beats
- Cold hand and feet
- Numbness, tingling, and pins and needles
- Irritable cough
- Anxiety, panic and phobias
- Acid re flux, heartburn
- Gas, belching, bloating, and abdominal discomfort
- Weakness; exhaustion
- Disturbed sleep, including nightmares
What is Normal Breathing?
Normal breathing equates to 10 to 12 breaths per minute. Interestingly, breathing for people with asthma tends to be more breaths per minute. Asthmatics and those with sleep apnea breathe far too much-as much as three times more than normal- and this dysfunctional breathing pattern is part of their disease profile.
So, what causes this dysfunctional breathing in the first place? Most dysfunctional patterns are rooted in the modern lifestyle. Factors include:
- Excessive talking
- Lack of exercise
- High temperature indoors
Over breathing not only reduces carbon dioxide, it also reduces the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and organs in your body. It can cause severe constriction of your carotid arteries, and can reduce the amount of available oxygen to your brain by half. This is why you feel light headed when breathing too hard.
The Buteyko Breathing Method
Dr. Buteyko discovered the level of carbon dioxide in your lungs correlates to your ability to hold your breath after normal exhalation. Repeat the following exercise several times in succession, waiting about 30 to 60 seconds in between rounds. And do the exercise on a regular basis.
- Sit up Straight
- Take a small breath in through your nose, and a small breath out.
- Pinch your nose with your fingers and hold your breath. Keep your mouth closed.
- Gently nod your head or sway your body until you feel that you cannot hold your breath any longer. (Hold your nose until you feel a strong desire to breathe.)
- When you need to breathe in, let go of your nose, and breathe gently through it, in and out, with your mouth closed.
- Calm your breathing as soon as possible.
I strongly recommend integrating it into your lifestyle, and into your exercise. To learn more, check out,
The Oxygen Advantage, is a powerful tool that can help improve your health, longevity, quality of life, and athletic performance.
I am Shirley Noah, I teach the 9 pillars for health. A step-by-step approach to good health. Let’s connect to see how I may best serve you in the near future.