A Ukrainian doctor, Konstantin Buteyko, created the Buteyko breathing technique (BBT) in the 1950s. This therapeutic breathing method uses breath retention exercises to control the speed and volume of your breath. This helps you to learn to breathe more slowly, calmly, and effectively.

The benefits of Buteyko breathing include enhanced breath control, which helps to prevent breathlessness and promote proper breathing patterns. It’s used to manage and improve a variety of conditions, including asthma, anxiety, and sleep concerns.

Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of Buteyko breathing, how to do it, as well as considerations and alternatives.

Buteyko breathing has several benefits that relate to its ability to improve breath awareness, encourage nostril breathing, and limit overbreathing.

By practicing the technique you’ll learn to breathe properly and efficiently, which can help prevent issues such as wheezing, coughing, and feeling short of breath. It can also help to alleviate unnecessary coughing and clear blocked nasal passages.

Regulates breathing

Buteyko breathing is ideal for people who may breathe too much or hyperventilate, which is common in people with conditions such as asthma and anxiety.

It’s also helpful for people who find it challenging to breathe while doing strenuous activities. Additionally, Buteyko breathing can help alleviate stress and improve athletic performance, as well as improve sleep quality by promoting deep sleep, reducing snoring, and relieving sleep apnea.

Helps with asthma and anxiety

Buteyko breathing is often used to treat and manage asthma since it helps to prevent overbreathing, which can be connected to the condition. Hyperventilation can lead to hypocapnia, which leads to low carbon dioxide levels.

Practicing BBT can help you learn to stabilize your breathing patterns by lowering your tidal volume and respiratory rate. It also helps to balance carbon dioxide levels and reduce anxiety.

Several older studies point to the effectiveness of Buteyko breathing in improving asthma symptoms. In a small 2000 study, people who did Buteyko breathing exercises by video improved their quality of life and reduced their need for bronchodilator intake more than the group who watched a placebo video.

Research from 2008 found that people who practiced Buteyko breathing were able to better control their asthma symptoms. They also reduced their need for inhaled corticosteroid therapy.

Eases eustachian tube issues

A small 2019 study found that the Buteyko breathing technique was effective in treating people with obstructive Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD), which causes symptoms due to pressure concerns in the middle ear.

The group that performed the breathing exercises while also using nasal steroids showed greater improvements than the group that only used nasal steroids.

Buteyko breathing teaches you to breathe more gently and less rapidly. You’ll learn to breathe slower and deeper, which balances your breathing rhythms.

It involves exercises that teach you to hold your breath and refrain from breathing. It’s said that over time the breathing technique will become a natural part of your daily life.

Preparation

  1. Sit on the floor or on a chair.
  2. Elongate your spine to maintain an upright posture.
  3. Relax your respiration muscles.
  4. Breathe normally for a few minutes.

The Control Pause

  1. After a relaxed exhale, hold your breath.
  2. Use your index finger and thumb to plug your nose.
  3. Retain your breath until you feel the urge to breathe, which may include an involuntary movement of your diaphragm, and then inhale.
  4. Breathe normally for at least 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat several times.

The Maximum Pause

  1. After a relaxed exhale, hold your breath.
  2. Use your index finger and thumb to plug your nose.
  3. Retain your breath for as long as possible, which is usually twice the length of time of the Control Pause.
  4. Once you’ve reached the point of moderate discomfort, inhale.
  5. Breathe normally for at least 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat several times.

Tips for beginners

  • When practicing Buteyko breathing, always breathe in and out through your nose.
  • If at any time you experience anxiety, shortness of breath, or intense discomfort, discontinue the practice and breathe normally.
  • As you progress, you may be able to hold your breath for longer periods. Over time, you may be able to hold the Control Pause for 1 minute and the Maximum Pause for 2 minutes.

While Buteyko breathing has many benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone and it’s not a substitute for your doctor’s treatment plan. Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning breathing exercises.

Avoid BBT if you have any of the following:

  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • epilepsy
  • a serious medical concern

Buteyko breathing is a complementary therapy and should be used in conjunction with your other treatments. If you have asthma or anxiety, you can also look into clinical treatments.

If the Buteyko breathing method isn’t ideal for you, you may wish to practice different breathing exercises. These practices can still benefit your breathing patterns and overall well-being.

Other breathing techniques include:

  • 4-7-8 technique
  • box breathing
  • diaphragmatic breathing
  • the Papworth method
  • nasal breathing
  • belly breathing
  • pursed-lip breathing
  • resonant breathing
  • alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
  • humming bee breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
  • three-part breathing
  • breath of fire (Kapalbhati breathing)
  • lion’s breath

The Buteyko breathing technique can enhance your health and well-being in many ways. It’s especially beneficial in improving asthma symptoms, reducing anxiety, and enhancing sleep quality.

You can learn to limit overbreathing in stressful or strenuous situations, helping you to breathe more easily and effectively. Plus, you may find it easier to relax.

Talk to your doctor before starting any new breathing practice, especially if you take any medications or have any medical concerns.