Learning the Buteyko method (Questions and Answers)
How quickly do people progress?
CO2 is the main regulator of breathing (How is our breathing regulated?). It tells how much one breathes. Here is a simplified picture of breathing retraining based on CO2 effects. We know that sick people chronically breathe too heavily. Their breathing center is preset to a low CO2 value. In order to retrain their breathing, they need to gradually reset their breathing center to higher CO2 levels. Thus, day after day, week after week and month after month, they gradually readjust their breathing center to breathing less and less air. Their CP gets higher and higher. Some days it may drop. However, week after week there is a general progress, e.g., by 2-4 s or more. For some people, especially obese, the CP can increase only by about 1 s in a week. Whatever the rate of the progress, persistence and self-discipline pay back with easier breathing, higher CP, and better health.
How much time should I practice daily in order to progress with breathing?
Usually 1 hour of breathing exercises per day is enough. This time is divided among 2-4 or several breathing sessions, about 10-30 min long, depending on your individual plan and breathing exercises as suggested by your practitioner. If one devotes more time (e.g., 3-5 hours per day), the progress is faster and the results are often spectacular.
Apart from the breathing sessions, you need to be conscious to other common sense factors, like keeping your mouth closed, not overeating, not sleeping on the back, etc. Altogether, you need, at least “one hour plus”. That means 1 hour of your time for breathing sessions with some additional common-sense steps and activities of the program. People do not regret the time spent. Reduced requirements for sleep and other improvements in quality of life quickly make up for all initial investments of time and energy.
The Buteyko method is still changing and evolving so that people can improve their health with minimum efforts and get busy with their lives. To achieve this goal, breathing teachers share their ideas with each other.
Are there any age requirements?
As soon as people can understand and follow simple instructions, they can learn the method. According to Russian practice, that relates even to patients with the initial stages of schizophrenia. Children from 3 years old and above can also understand the method and its instructions. However, as a requirement, parents or caretakers of these children should also practice the method for better results. There are special methods for younger children (0-2 years) as well.
Is physical exercise that important?
Above I have tried to show that high CPs were human norms centuries ago. Those people did not practice any special breathing exercises. Why did they have good breath holding abilities then? Many conditions were different, but physical exercise was probably the most important factor. Most people in the past were physically active for many hours per day. Similarly, if you have normal breathing and 4-5 hours of physical activity every day, you will be generously rewarded with excellent health and well-being. And it is not hard to exercise for them, since people with large CPs enjoy physical activity. Doctor Buteyko even suggested specific numbers for physical exercise when people learn the method and when they maintain their normal breathing.
"There is no need to spend 3 hours every day to retrain one’s breathing. Instead, one should work hard 5 hours per day with perspiration. This will cure asthma, hypertension, angina pectoris, and other diseases."
"Therefore, in relation to physical exercise or labor, there is a minimum standard for each person. If he exercises less, then he will die gradually. It is similar to a deficiency in vitamins, water, or food. We need about three hours of hard work every day to perspire. This will be a standard for man. He is made up of 60% muscles; these muscles must function. All joints must revolve in their entire amplitude. This is our intention and instruction."
Russian practical experience shows that having 4-5 hours of daily exercise is usually enough to preserve normal breathing and a normal CP. If people cannot exercise and want to have normal breathing, then, as Russians believe, they need to continue to practice the breathing exercises on a daily basis.
What are the physiological and psychological causes of importance of physical activity?
Sick people need physical activity to stimulate the lymphatic system, fight inflammation, and increase metabolism. There are many other physiological reasons why we need physical activity. Shaking of the body (as during jumping or riding in train) intensifies biochemical processes. The hormonal profile can normalize. Some useful chemicals can be produced. However, physical exercise is also useful to counteract the muscular tension due to past psychological traumas, if the person cannot let them go.
Some people hold the past negative emotions within. They are seeking revenge and want to get even. They still not at peace with the past remembering and bringing to others anger, helplessness, guilt, resentment, alienation and hostility. Their new relationships suffer due to unresolved past traumas. Such people need more physical activity and/or breathing exercises in order to eliminate muscular tension and accumulation of negative energy. Physical activity helps to discharge the negative energy.
If a person can let those traumas and negative emotions go, then he/she can go on with the life while having clear minds, cheerful mood and easy breathing. Practice shows that vibrant health is possible with little physical activity.
How can I reduce psychological stress?
Note that I am not talking about forgetting about those events. I also do not mean condoning or excusing the perpetrators. In fact, in some cases, it could be better for all involved sides to take legal actions against the perpetrators.
There is no single side that wins from having these negative emotions (anger, helplessness, guilt, resentment, alienation and hostility). They generate further alienation, self-destruction and hostility. Even our new relationships suffer. Many people carry this heavy burden of the past forever. Our culture particularly encourages such macho-behavior in males.
There are various methods and techniques that were developed by humanity in order to deal with this huge and old problem present, to a certain degree, in every human being. Virtually all sources in this area are labeled under the title “forgiveness” (or letting it go). If you are determined to forgive somebody, find books or articles. Some useful information can be found here: www.forgivenessweb.com. You can also download for free a good book "Why forgive?".
More radical and fast solution of past traumas is the New Decision Therapy developed by Kandis Blakely (USA). There are now many NDT practitioners in various countries who help to forgive others and selves.
To learn the first steps of the Buteyko method for free, visit the Section "Learn".
Reference pages: Breathing norms and medical facts:
- Breathing norms: Parameters, graph, and description of the normal breathing pattern
- 6 breathing myths: Myths and superstitions about breathing and body oxygenation (prevalence: over 90%)
- Hyperventilation: Definitions of hyperventilation: their advantages and weak points
- Hyperventilation syndrome: Western scientific evidence about prevalence of chronic hyperventilation in patients with chronic conditions (37 medical studies)
- Normal minute ventilation: Small and slow breathing at rest is enjoyed by healthy subjects (14 studies)
- Hyperventilation prevalence: Present in over 90% of normal people (24 medical studies)
- HV and hypoxia: How and why deep breathing reduces oxygenation of cells and tissues of all vital organs
- Body-oxygen test (CP test) : How to measure your own breathing and body oxygenation (two in one) using a simple DIY test
- Body oxygen in healthy: Results for the body-oxygen test for healthy people (27 medical studies)
- Body oxygen in sick : Results for the body-oxygen test for sick people (14 medical studies)
- Buteyko Table of Health Zones: Clinical description and ranges for breathing zones: from the critically ill (severely sick) up to super healthy people with maximum possible body oxygenation
- Morning hyperventilation: Why people feel worse and critically ill people are most likely to die during early morning hours
References: pages about CO2 effect:
- Vasodilation: CO2 expands arteries and arterioles facilitating perfusion (or blood supply) to all vital organs
- The Bohr effect: How and why oxygen is released by red blood cells in tissues
- Cell oxygen levels: How alveolar CO2 influences oxygen transport
- Oxygen transport: O2 transport is controlled by vasoconstriction-vasodilation and the Bohr effects, both of which rely on CO2
- Free radical generation: Reactive oxygen species are produced within cells due to anaerobic cell respiration caused by cell hypoxia
- Inflammatory response: Chronic inflammation in fueled by the hypoxia-inducible factor 1, while normal breathing reduces and eliminates inflammation
- Nerve stabilization: People remain calm due to calmative or sedative effects of carbon dioxide in neurons or nerve cells
- Muscle relaxation: Relaxation of muscle cells is normal at high CO2, while hypocapnia causes muscular tension, poor posture and, sometimes, aggression and violence
- Bronchodilation: Dilation of airways (bronchi and bronchioles) is caused by carbon dioxide, and their constriction by hypocapnia (low CO2)
- Blood pH: Regulation of blood pH due to breathing and regulation of other bodily fluids
- CO2: lung damage: Elevated carbon dioxide prevents lung injury and promotes healing of lung tissues
- CO2: Topical carbon dioxide can heal skin and tissues
- Synthesis of glutamine in the brain, CO2 fixation, and other chemical reactions
- Deep breathing myth: Ignorant and naive people promote the idea that deep breathing and breathing more air at rest is beneficial for health
- Breathing control: How is our breathing regulated? Why hypocapnia makes breathing uneven, irregular and erratic.
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