Breathing Retraining: From Sick/Victims to Superhumans
Progress with Frolov-Buteyko Breathing Exercises
Part 7 of Module 10. Buteyko breathing exercises
How much to exercise and other factors
When Buteyko wrote his first manuals with the description of the method for
medical doctors, he suggested 3-4 hours of Buteyko breathing exercises every day. This
was the amount of training that he and his colleagues recommended to their
patients. Many of these patients were hospitalized and, therefore, had a lot of
time and, in most cases, a strong desire to practice. Patients who followed
this rigorous program of breathing retraining, experienced quick and dramatic
health improvements. In a typical situation, a former patient with numerous
hospitalizations - using various medications - in 3-6 months could jog and
exercise rigorously while breathing through the nose, climb 5-7 flights of stairs with a closed mouth and no signs of the disease that kept him crippled for years.
What about those people who have little time but still want to learn the
method? In other words, what is the minimum amount of daily practice so that
there are positive changes in the right direction (breathing less)? The student
should spend about 1 hour per day for breathing exercises in order to experience
gradual improvements in breathing. (That has been my requirement for many
years, which I mention when I teach groups. Note that due to strict adherence to
positive lifestyle changes, my students usually get 3-5 s of CP growth in
1 week. However, with the use of the DIY or Frolov breathing device,
they often get up to 6-8 s CP increase in a week, while practicing less than 1 hour.)
One session lasts about 15-20 minutes. Therefore, 3-4 sessions should be done every
day, with no more than 1 breathing session every hour.
Personal persistence and
self-discipline are the main tools for progress. It is no accident that the
Buteyko method was called “wilful
liquidation of deep breathing” in the USSR,
emphasizing the will power aspect. (Some Russian patients invented the other, grotesque
name “the Siberian method of self-suffocation”.)
Severely sick students, as practice shows, are the most diligent students.
However, many people in the West used and use a mild approach with 3-4 sessions
per day. Also, many Frolov students have up to 2-3 hours per day for
Important note about duration of breathing exercises
When teaching students, online or during live classes, my common requirement is to have 1 hour for breathing and 1 hour for physical exercise per day. However, some students may need up to 2-3 hours of breathwork in a day to get even 15 or 20 s for their morning CP. This is not my invention. Buteyko doctors in the Moscow Clinic have the same requirement right now. It was also required by Dr. Buteyko and over 150 MDs he trained from their patients.
Measuring progress in breathing retraining
First of all, when we discuss CP progress, we are talking about changes in the morning CP. Next, if we consider a typical daily log by its morning CP numbers, these numbers are quite variable and rarely show solid progress from one day to the next. However, if we consider average morning CPs for one week, then it is possible to compare one week with the next one. Therefore, progress in breathing retraining can be measured by changes in average numbers for the morning CPs.
I have been using this approach (how to measure progress in the Buteyko method and breathing retraining) since about 2007-2008 teaching this idea to all my students during the ordinary course.
One's breathing remains easier and the CP higher for some hours after the session.
Later, the influence of other factors (stress, meals, lack of physical activity,
poor posture, etc.) will make breathing heavier and reduce the CP. However, the
student does another session and the process of breathing retraining continues.
This process and the dynamic of the CP, pulse and symptoms can be analyzed
As it is explained above, day to day, the CP usually does not increase steadily. During some days
the CP can be lower than during the previous day. However, if the student does
at least 3-4 short sessions every day (about 1 hour in total), the CP will
improve by at least 2-3 s in a week's time.
As another good alternative, the student can practice the RB all the time
while awake. Such a student can progress up to 5-10 s CP per week or even
faster. This linear progress usually takes place until the student reaches 40 s
CP. This is a very important threshold. The further progress relates to
There are even more severe restrictions, in respect to air hunger, that are
required for some people with, for example, a loss of CO2 sensitivity, sleep
apnea and heart disease. Their safest exercises are relaxation, progressive
relaxation of the body and relaxation of the diaphragm without any voluntary
changes in breathing and with no air hunger. Later, when the CP is about 20 - 25
s, even previously severely sick people can do the CP and practice RB with
air hunger and no unpleasant effects.
Gradualism: an approach to learning air hunger
When the novice starts to practice, it is important to understand that breath
holds and any air hunger, in the lives of many people, are associated in the
brain with extra-ordinary situations (e.g., suffocation or drowning). Hence, the
mind, instead of getting alarmed, needs to learn how to accept breath holds and
air hunger positively. This task is solved faster and easier, if the level of air hunger for first breathing sessions is
so light that the muscles of the body can be totally relaxed.
Later, after many sessions, the nervous system will learn that there is no
danger in breath holds and air hunger. Then the student can practice longer
breath holds (extended pauses and maximum pauses) and comfortably accept
intensive Buteyko or Frolov-DIY sessions with moderate and strong
air hunger, if he or she found them more effective.
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.