Buteyko: Breathing exercises for better health

Buteyko: Breathing exercises for better health
Buteyko is a form of alternative physical therapy that makes use of specific breathing exercises to treat respiratory problems, such as asthma. The Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko originated the technique in the 1950s on the foundational belief that many medical problems are caused by hyperventilation, or increased respiratory rates, and breathing that is too deep.

Buteyko breathing techniques aim to retrain a patient’s breathing patterns through repeated breathing exercises that are supposed to correct hyperventilation. Three main breathing exercises make up the Buteyko method; these include nasal breathing, reduced breathing exercises, and relaxation.

Nasal breathing is emphasised as an important method of breathing by the Buteyko technique and is simply the act of retraining oneself to breathe through the nose, rather than through the mouth. According to Buteyko doctrine, nasal breathing protects the patient’s airways by warming, humidifying, and cleaning the air as it travels through the nose. Buteyko practice, therefore, encourages patients to keep their nasal passages clear and clean, to breath only through the nose during physical activity, and to breath through the nose as much as possible during the day and night.

Reduced breathing exercises involve controlling one’s breath and purposefully reducing one’s breathing rate and the volume of breaths one takes. Buteyko practitioners believe that, through consistent practice, reduced breathing techniques become an instinctive habit and patients will eventually adopt new methods of breathing rather than having to focus on how fast and how much they inhale.

Finally, relaxation is a technique used in Buteyko practice to deal with asthma attacks. During the onset of an asthma attack, patients may begin breathing rapidly. The Buteyko technique retrains patients at this initial phase by preventing them from hyperventilating, which according to Buteyko doctrine, can eventually lead to the prevention of asthma attacks.