Breahing Retraining for Elderly Buteyko Students: Special Needs?
By Artour Rakhimov (www.NormalBreathing.com)
While amazing effects of the Buteyko method for ordinary people are known (see world's best clinical results for clinical trials on cancer and asthma), would elderly Buteyko students have different effects and special needs to retrain their breathing and maintain their health later? In other words, the question is: Should 60+ or 70+ year old Buteyko students (those who retrained their breathing)
do anything differently in order to maintain their good health?
This question may rise when elderly Buteyko students, for example,
feel that they are not able to have the same level of physical exercise
as some decades ago due to their aging. Therefore, the issue here
relates to reduced abilities and motivation to exercise. It is true
that younger people are much more competitive, and they can easily
exercise nearly 2 times more than people who are in their 70+ or older.
These observations split the original question into two others:
- 1. Do elderly people require the same amount of exercise as younger
people in order to maintain similar breathing parameters (e.g., the CP)?
- 2. If not (e..g, elderly are ok with less exercise), what are the
potential problems and solutions due to less exercise?
The answer to the first question is that elderly people require or
are OK with significantly less exercise in comparison with people in
20's. For example, to maintain the same morning CP, an elderly person
in 70's often needs nearly twice less exercise than a young breathing
student. Somehow, with aging, the body adjusts or adapts to getting
more benefits from less exercise. This is possibly possible due to
reduced metabolism in the elderly, while exercise is the main method to
generate CO2 within the cells.
The Table below provides a link between physical exercise and the
expected morning CP.
Now we can consider the second question in more detail (potential
problems due to less exercise) or which other, apart from CO2
generation, exercise benefits can be greatly reduced when a person
The same concern rises for those groups of breathing students who
cannot exercise due to various health conditions (multiple sclerosis,
severe arthritis, or other types of damage to bones or ligaments). What
can they do, instead of physical exercise, to achieve better health and
higher morning CPs?
Part 1. Breathing exercises for elderly people
Soviet and Russian Buteyko MDs suggested that these groups of
students (who cannot exercise) should do more breathing exercises.
Practice shows that during initial stages of learning (for up to 1-3
months), this approach usually works, and such students can achieve
nearly the same results as exercising students.
The important requirement here is that, once these students are able
to start exercising safely, they need to do it asap. If they fail to do
that then it is common for these students, as well as elderly
unable-to-exercise students, to lose some grounds (e..g, from 30+ to
20+ for their morning CPs).
Is it possible to counteract this effect and how? There are several
options in this area. Two important benefits of physical activity are:
1) continuous stimulation of lung tissue due to a large amplitude or
stretching during physical exercise (the tidal volume at rest or the
amplitude of lung inflation-deflation is only 500-600 ml, while
exercise pushes this number up to 2,000-3,000 ml)
2) physical activity for the respiratory muscles that include
diaphragmatic and abdominal muscles, together with muscles that expand
the rib cage.
As Dr. Buteyko suggested in his 1972 Lecture in the Moscow State
University, âWe need about three hours of hard work every day to
perspire.â This surely also relates to the respiratory muscles and lung
But practicing Buteyko reduced breathing exercises, as a substitute
for physical exercise, does not solve the above 2 problems (no
mechanical stretching and nearly no exercise for the respiratory
muscles and tissues).
What can be done? For these groups of students (who cannot get
enough exercise), I suggest to compare effects of different breathing
exercises, such as:
1) Buteyko reduced breathing exercises (even with maximum pauses and
strong air hunger)
2) alternate nose pranayama exercise with resistance (with long
breath holds after inhales and exhales, while making exhalations as
long as possible and applying resistance)
3) application of the breathing devices.
My expectation for these students is that pranayama with resistance
(one can practice alternate nose pranayama breathing exercise while
keeping one nostril totally blocked and another one partially blocked
with 2 fingers to create more resistance so that a full active
inhalation takes up to 5-15 seconds) and breathing devices will
outperform Buteyko breathing exercises due to these 2 factors: maximum
lung stretching and good exercise for the respiratory muscles.
Indeed, reduced breathing is based on taking smaller inhalations (or
reducing tidal volume). In addition, increased CO2 dilates airways
while decreasing resistance to air flow. This reduces the work for the
respiratory muscles. In other words, breathing muscles get less work
during and after Buteyko breathing exercises. With less or no intensive
physical exercise, one can expect degenerative effects in lungs and
breathing muscles of these students. Solutions?
Pranayama with resistance and breathing devices, while providing
about the same levels of CO2 (and probably even higher numbers) during
sessions, do not have these drawbacks. They both require large
amplitudes of inhalations-exhalations and they increase work for the
respiratory muscles during breathing sessions. In fact, many of my
advanced breathing students sweat when they practice intensive sessions
with modified breathing devices (up to 1 liter or more for the extra
dead space and with additional resistance so that they require up to
7-10 or more seconds in order to make a full inhalation).
One can test and compare effects of various breathing exercises of
the same duration on themselves.
Apart from optimum breathing exercises, there are several other
details that seems me important in relation to elderly people learning
the Buteyko method on the West. These details will be discussed in Part 2.