Breathing Retraining

Breathing retraining is a simple step-by-step process of identifying incorrect breathing techniques and habits and then replacing them with the correct ones.

Many people get so confused about breathing, with all the different styles, methods and breathing gurus out there. If you want your body to function properly, there is only one way to breathe. And that is, to breathe correctly – with physiologically normal breathing. That is the aim of breathing retraining. This normal ‘functional’ breathing supports healthy airways and correct function of all body systems.

This can be very different to the breathing exercises taught in hospital wards, Pilates, yoga, martial arts, Wim Hof method, singing and fitness classes or when using a breathing-exercise gadget.

Breathing large ‘deep’ breaths and pushing your abdomen outwards to completely fill your lungs is NOT physiological normal breathing. Fully exhaling to empty your lungs is NOT normal and is NOT healthy.

Physiological normal breathing is silent, through the nose, very gentle, and almost invisible.

If you can learn to breathe like that, to have that as your baseline, ‘every day’ breathing pattern, then it is very unlikely that you will snore, have a chronic cough, a constantly clogged nose, or struggle to breathe comfortably.

Over 90% of people who do our breathing program report within 1-5 days:

  • better sleep, less anxiety, and a greater sense of calm
  • less nasal congestion (within minutes)
  • less or no snoring
  • significant reduction in asthma symptoms and need for asthma reliever medication.


Overbreathing is the most common overarching breathing pattern abnormality. It is breathing more air per breath, and/or per minute than is physiologically normal. It may develop and become a habit, due to chronic stress, illness, poor  posture, lack of awareness and inadvertent practice of incorrect breathing.

If we over-eat and eat the wrong foods we get over-weight and sick.
If we over-breathe and breathe with the upper chest in the day, we irritate our nasal passages and lungs, disturb our blood gases, and cause malfunction everywhere in the body. Over 80% of people over-breathe, at times, or all the time.

Wondered why you get dizzy blowing up balloons?

Loss of carbon dioxide during over-breathing causes smooth muscle to constrict around airways and blood vessels, reducing the availability of oxygen to the brain and body tissues. Anyone who has experienced dizziness after blowing up balloons or practising deep breathing in a fitness class, will be familiar with the effect that over-breathing can have on the blood supply to the brain. The MRI scan below shows a 40% reduction in oxygen in the brain after one minute of over-breathing or ‘hyper’ventilation. (Litchfield 1999)

Red, yellow and pale blue areas (right-hand side of the scale) correspond to higher oxygen saturation.

At night over-breathing makes an annoying noise and may even suck the walls of the throat shut and restrict or stop breathing for a while (sleep apnoea, sleep apnea). Breathing like this all night is exhausting; it’s also dehydrating and irritating to the nose and throat; it deprives the brain (and everywhere else) of oxygen.

What conditions can breathing retraining help with?

hayfever, sinusitis, rhinitis
blocked nose, chronic mouth-breathing
emphysema / chronic bronchitis / COPD
reduced exercise capacity
stress disorders
snoring, sleep apnoea
elite sports performance


Principles of breathing retraining

Breathing training/retraining is a simple process of identifying incorrect breathing habits and then replacing them with the correct ones. The aim is to get you back to breathing the way nature intended – physiological normal breathing = optimal function. It really is that simple.

The benefits are immediate, and most people comment that they have had their best sleep in decades within just a few days of starting this process.

BreatheAbility Method and Buteyko Method

The BreatheAbility method of breathing retraining was developed by physiotherapist Tess Graham, from the foundation principles and practices established by Professor Konstantin Buteyko of Moscow in the 1950s. Tess trained with Professor Buteyko and is one of only a few Western practitioners to whom he awarded the Diploma of Buteyko Method.

From her training in the Buteyko Method in the 1990s, she has developed upon its basis, a method of application of breathing techniques and retraining that is easy, simple, step-by-step, comfortable, and do-able for anxious, busy, and stressed people (BreatheAbility). With this style of breathing retraining, you blend the practice into your everyday activities. The aim is to avoid any stress or discomfort in training. Tess Graham has now delivered breathing retraining for almost three decades, to more than 7000 people with extraordinary and consistent success.

Daytime vs night-time breathing

While breathing is automatic, you can also consciously vary it.

You can practise breathing at the correct rate, rhythm, and volume as you go about your day, which resets the ‘drive to breathe’ centre in your brain, to deliver quieter, softer, more regular breathing at night. Often on the first night! During the day you enjoy a boost to your energy levels, and you lower your risk of serious health issues.

Correcting your breathing may help you reduce or avoid the need for surgical, pharmaceutical, and appliance-based interventions for nasal problems, snoring and sleep apnoea, and reduce the need for asthma reliever medication, as you experience less symptoms.1

The simplest things in life are often the best: changing the way you breathe yourself, has to beat having a machine do it for you.


Get help for your breathing


BreatheAbility established its online course in Breathing Retraining (called Breathe Away) in response to the enormous need from people all around the world to improve their breathing, and subsequently their health. The online breathing course is based on the ground-breaking breathing retraining programs that Tess Graham has delivered since 1993. We aim to teach people to breathe better with less need for surgery, medication, machines, or appliances. 

BreatheAway Online Breathing Retraining Course  

Is your breathing incorrect? Take the Faulty Breathing Quiz

(1) ‘Buteyko breathing techniques in asthma: a controlled trial’. Bowler SD, Green A, Mitchell CA. MJA. 1988; 169: 575–578.

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