A session requires about 15 min of concentrated work without disturbances and interruptions. Being totally concentrated is important during initial stages of learning. Later, after many hours of practice, breathing exercises can be done while driving a car, watching TV, reading, etc.
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 breath to restore the light air hunger (more about this desire or air hunger is below).
The exercises are done on 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 intensification of peristalsis in the stomach and duodenum, if food is present there. (Imagine what could happen if somebody starts to rub vigorously skin areas which are already inflamed.) 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 further blood sugar drop and, in certain cases, can even intensify hypoglycaemia. 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 usually. You may suffer from hypoglycaemic shock that is much more dangerous than high blood sugar. Hypoglycaemic shock, which often happens after insulin overdose as well, can be fatal. Buteyko breathing exercises lead to reduced requirements in insulin.
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 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 the house or a park are great places, provided that it is not too cold or warm and there is no draught and no direct sunlight. Kitchens with open windows usually provide good conditions. Having long or old and dusty curtains, carpets, books in the room make 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 draught, 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 normalise your heat exchange. If the place is too warm, it is often impossible to reduce breathing.
If your current CP is less than 20 s, you should be on a slighter warm side. Hence, keep yourself comfortably warm when in a poor health state or with low CP.
If your CP is above 20 s and you have normal well-being (no signs of 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 T-shirt).
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 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 normalisation.
Warning. 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 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 cases).
How to check the posture? There is a simple test. You need only 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 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 find that they looking too high (probably they get used to looking down at the ground in front of them). Hence, you may feel that you are looking too high. The position of your head is not as crucial as the position of your spine. What is important that this test helps to correct or restore the normal position of the spine so that breathing retraining is possible.
Now you can sit down on the edge of a chair with 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 straight spine so that the diaphragm, instead of being compressed, is freely suspended and can easily be moved down and up.
The simple mechanics of normal breathing at rest or how the diaphragm works
The diaphragm, in a relaxed state (or after exhalation), has a shape of a cone or dome. During 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 visualise this process during own breathing.
How to develop diaphragmatic breathing 24/7
Make your spine like a broomstick, with shoulders, chest and the belly freely hanging on this solid frame. This posture allows shorter breaths (even during daily normal life) and the right place for various organs in the body. Reduction of unnecessary muscular tension and elimination of internal pressure under the diaphragm allow easier breathing. This posture should be preserved for the rest of the day, but it is particularly important during the exercises. Otherwise, due to muscular tension and stress in vital organs, normalization of breathing during the exercises is very difficult or impossible.
Remember, when the CP gets larger, the posture becomes more and more important. For example, when one’s CP is about 15-20 s, slouching means 1-2 s CP decrease, while straight spine 1-2 s more. Moreover, once the student gets about 25-30 s CP, poor posture, if present, will be the factor making further health and CP progress impossible.
It is assumed that you know how to measure the CP, since the test is described on previous pages of the educational section of the website. If you are not sure about the correct procedure for the CP measurements, it is necessary to find and learn more about the CP test.