Breathing Retraining

Better breathing brings better health

Many know this, but 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.

Breathing large breaths and pushing your abdomen outwards to completely fill your lungs is NOT physiological normal breathing.

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

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, disturb our blood gases and cause malfunction everywhere in the body.

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. (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 stop breathing for a while (sleep apnoea, sleep apnea). Breathing like this all night is exhausting; its 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
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. 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.

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

Breathing retraining takes a degree of awareness and self control in the beginning. But you blend the techniques and training into your everyday activities.

Daytime vs night-time breathing

You can practise breathing at the correct rate, rhythm and volume during the 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 avoid the need for surgical, pharmaceutical and appliance-based interventions for nasal problems, snoring and sleep apnoea.

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

You can get help with your breathing by seeing a breathing educator. This is a relatively new health education profession – the number of breathing educators worldwide is comparatively small, but growing, due to the consistently profound results achieved with breathing retraining. In Australia, there are breathing educators offering breathing retraining courses in most capital cities and in some regional centres.

The Buteyko method of breathing retraining is a particular form of breathing retraining that has been featured many times in the media and has had very successful results in clinical trials. The Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health has a list of educators/practitioners accredited with the Buteyko Institute.

The book, Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea was created to help people who may not have access to a breathing educator or who prefer to follow a self-help program. It has a simple, easy to follow explanation, a self-assessment process and a step-by-step guide to changing the way you breathe. While it is specifically written for people with sleep-breathing issues, much of the information and many of the strategies in the book are very relevant and helpful to people with asthma, breathlessness and anxiety conditions.

Is your breathing incorrect? Take the Faulty Breathing Quiz

Learn about the Buteyko Method of Breathing Retraining

BreatheAbility international runs breathing educator teacher training courses for health professionals.

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