If you practice breathing exercises of the Buteyko method, or with Frolov-DIY breathing devices, you need to take care about certain preliminary conditions or requirements before you start a breathing session. Here are those conditions:
A quiet place to focus one’s attention
A session requires about 15 min of concentrated work without
disturbances and interruptions. Being totally concentrated is important
during the initial stages of learning. Later, after many hours of practice,
breathing exercises can be done while driving a car, watching TV,
Silence (no speaking)
You should be silent and the mouth should be closed during the whole
session. If it is necessary to speak, for whatever urgent reasons, air
hunger is lost and later you should hold your breath to restore a light
level of air
hunger (more about this desire or air hunger is below).
The exercises are done on an empty stomach (water is OK) since reduced
breathing and larger aCO2 concentrations provide more blood and
oxygen for the GI system intensifying peristalsis. Many modern people
have inflammation in the stomach they are unaware of, as recent western
studies revealed. This inflammation can get worse due to the intensification
of peristalsis in the stomach and duodenum, if food is present there.
(Imagine what would happen if somebody started to vigorously rub skin
areas which were already inflammed.) Having water in the stomach does not
cause this problem.
Warning. If you are hungry and have problems with blood glucose
control, in many situations breathing exercises or reduced breathing
will not prevent a further blood sugar drop and, in certain cases, can
even intensify hypoglycemia. If this is the case for you, make sure
that you are not hungry. You should not have low or very low blood
glucose level during the breathing session.
Warning. If you suffer from diabetes and use insulin, the reduced
breathing will increase your sensitivity to insulin. This will make your
blood sugar level lower than usual. You may suffer from hypoglycemic
shock, which is much more dangerous than high blood sugar. Hypoglycemic
shock, which often happens after insulin overdose as well, can be fatal.
Buteyko breathing exercises lead to reduced requirements of insulin.
The acidification of blood due to increased CO2 content caused by reduced
breathing triggers biological pH buffers in the blood. A part of this
process is the redistribution of ions in various compartments of the body
(intracellular fluid, extra-cellular fluid, blood plasma, intestinal
content, etc.). These processes may require additional water. Hence,
drink if you get thirsty at any stage.
Clean and fresh air
The place for exercises should have clean and fresh air so that the
student can have a cold and moist nose, as naturally happens outdoors.
Backyards of houses or parks are great places, provided that it is
not too cold or warm and there is no draft and no direct sunlight.
Kitchens with open windows usually provide good conditions. Having long
or old and dusty curtains, carpets, books in the room makes air stale and
dusty, and many students cannot reduce their breathing in such
conditions. Those people who are allergic or sensitive to dust mites,
mould, proteins from cats and dogs, and other air-born substances should
find a trigger-free place where no (even mild) allergic reaction is
possible. Air ionizers can greatly improve indoor air quality.
Find a comfortable place without draft, but relatively cool. You
may feel warm or even hot during the exercises. Therefore, be ready for
that to happen and take steps to restore your thermal comfort: take some
clothes off to normalize your heat exchange. If a place is too warm,
it is often impossible to reduce breathing there.
If your current CP is less than 20 s, you should be on the slightly
warm side. Hence, keep yourself comfortably warm when in a poor health
state or with a low CP.
If your CP is above 20 s and you have normal well-being (no signs of
a cold, flu, or infection, etc.), keep yourself moderately cool. This
factor will help you with your further CP growth and health restoration.
If the surrounding temperature is 25 degrees C or more, it is
impossible to reduce breathing (you may try to exercise in a wet
Posture during the breathing session
Severely sick students with low initial CPs (less than 10 s) can do
breathing exercises while lying, half-lying or sitting in a comfortable
armchair with their backs supported. It is more important for them to
have proper relaxation, since physical exertion can significantly
intensify their breathing.
When the CP is above 10 s, it is suggested to practice while sitting
on the edge of a solid chair (on half of a chair) without using the back
support. You can have your elbows and arms either on the table or on
your knees. The spine should be straight and erect. That is
another crucial parameter for breathing normalization.
If you suffer from back pain now, you can lean on the
back of a chair or choose some other posture that is comfortable for you
and will make relaxation possible. Your back pain may relate to calcium
metabolism (and then normalization of breathing will help you to solve
this problem) or it may relate to a displaced vertebra or a pinched nerve
in your spine (and then visit to an experienced chiropractor can solve
this problem; Dr. Buteyko and his wife Ludmila learned chiropractic
techniques since breathing normalization alone cannot help in all
How to check one's posture? There is a simple test. You just need any
flat vertical surface (e.g., a wall or door).
The “wall test” for correct posture
Go to any flat wall (or door) and attach the back part of your whole
body to this wall so that you can touch the wall with the following 6 points
at the same time:
- both back sides of your shoes; 2 points
- your lowest vertebra (tail bone); 1 point
- both your shoulder blades; 2 points
- the back of your head. 1 point
Some people feel as though they are looking up too high (probably as they are used
to looking down at the ground in front of them). Hence, you may feel
that you are looking up too high. The position of your head is not as
crucial as the position of your spine. It is important that this test
helps to restore the normal position of the spine so that breathing
retraining becomes possible.
Now you can sit down on the edge of a chair while keeping the spine
straight. This sitting posture is the most common posture used for
Buteyko breathing exercises. One can sit on a low chair with crossed
legs, so that the thighs are inclined towards the floor. Then light
diaphragmatic breathing is also possible. People, who can relax in lotus
or other similar yoga postures (e.g., “Pleasant” posture), can do so.
It is important for the position of the diaphragm that the thighs are
either horizontal or inclined downwards when we are in the sitting
position. If the thighs are inclined upwards, as when we sit on a low
chair, the diaphragm is compressed by the internal organs and it loses
its mobility. Diaphragmatic breathing requires a straight spine so that
the diaphragm, instead of being compressed, is freely suspended and can
easily be moved up and down.
The simple mechanics of normal breathing at rest
or how the diaphragm works
The diaphragm, in a relaxed state (or after an exhalation), has the shape
of a cone or dome. During an inhalation we stretch it in radial directions
making it flatter. For exhalations, we just relax the diaphragm and it
returns (recoils) back to its original position like a spring. Chest
muscles should be relaxed all the time. Try to visualize this process
during your own breathing.
Make your spine like a broomstick, with your shoulders, chest and belly freely hanging on this solid frame. This posture allows shorter
breaths (even during normal daily life) and the right place for various
organs in the body. The reduction of unnecessary muscular tension and
elimination of internal pressure under the diaphragm also allows for easier
breathing. This posture should be preserved for the rest of the day, but
it is particularly important during the exercises. Otherwise, due to
the muscular tension and stress in vital organs, the normalization of breathing
during the exercises is very difficult or impossible.
Remember, when your CP gets larger and approaches 30 seconds, the
posture becomes more and more important. For example, when your
CP is about 15-20 s, slouching causes a 1-2 s CP
decrease, while a straight spine 1-2 s more. Once you
get about 25-30 s CP, poor posture, if present, will be the
factor making further health and CP progress impossible.
These requirements are really important, despite the fact that many DIY students often ignore some
of these conditions. For example, having poor posture would not allow you to
get over 30-35 s for the final CP after Buteyko sessions or exercises with
the Frolov device.
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.