Breathing. It’s something we do without thinking (most of the time), but it turns out we may have been doing it wrong for years.
I recently attended a breathing workshop courtesy of Eco Store, at their Auckland flagship. Surrounded by natural woods, products, essences and plants – it was the perfect environment to take a good deep lungful.
Except therein lies the problem. According to Buteyko breathing principles, “overbreathing” can be a contributor to everything from asthma to hayfever to sleep problems, dental disorders and anxiety. “80% of the population overbreathes at some point,” says Glenn White, practitioner at the Auckland Buteyko Breathing Clinic.
White came across the Buteyko method when looking for an alternative solution to managing the asthma and hay fever he had suffered from since he was a child. After attending a breathing programme, it took him a week through corrected breathing to begin helping his asthma. Three months later and the inflammation he had long experienced with hay fever was down.
The Buteyko principle hinges on the fact that CO2 is an important muscle relaxer, and breathing with your mouth open decreases its levels in your body. According to the method, overbreathing, by breathing with your mouth open and taking deep breaths, causes your airways to become inflamed, leading to an overproduction of histamine and mucous. It can also increase the level of allergens you breathe in such as pollen and dander.
White says that signs you have dysfunctional breathing can include excessive sighing, an irritable cough that won’t disappear, gastric reflux and anxiety. He also believes there is a link between “mouth breathing” and a receding chin, protruding nose, narrow airway and bad breath.
For those concerned with any of the above and who have no nasal restrictions, breath reconditioning could make a big difference. As an added bonus, White says that people who do a Buteyko course find their sense of taste and smell improves as well.
- Good breathers breathe 20,000 times a day
- Bad breathers breathe over 60,000
- Your resting breathing rate should be 8-10 breaths per minute
Key tips for breathing:
- Breathe through your nose and keep your mouth closed
- Keep your tongue to the top of your mouth, behind your teeth
- Breathe with your stomach, not your chest
- Clear your nose before you sleep by using a nasal cleanser for intense problems, or by following this method: block one nostril and breathe through the other, then swap and note any blockages; then take a normal breath in and out and hold your breath for at least 10 seconds; repeat the nostril breathing exercise and note that your nose is clearer)
- Avoid stimulating foods at night such as dairy, alcohol and refined carbohydrates
- Keep your bedroom well ventilated
- Switch off computers and smart devices at least 60 minutes before bed
- Sit down
- Close your mouth and try to reconnect with belly breathing
- Rather than taking deep breaths which leads to a decrease in relaxing CO2 levels, instead focus on gentle breathing
- White says the following two-minute de-stress breathing exercise works for panic attacks, performance anxiety, breathlessness, a tight chest, asthma and to help you sleep. Try to breathe slowly and gently on the in and out breaths and don’t pause for any longer than is comfortable. Repeat two to three times if necessary. You can work up to a breath hold of 10 or more seconds.
1. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of two.
2. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of three.
3. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of four.
4. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of five.
5. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of four.
6. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of three.
7. Breathe in and out through your nose twice then hold your breath for the count of two