The Breath: Transform your health through breathing light
By Tamara Gillest
Last month, I talked about energetic balance and managing your gas pedal. That set the foundation for understanding your breathing pattern and using it to manage your nervous system and transform your health and wellness.
As a yoga instructor and therapist, I’ve transformed my practice around the Buteyko breathing method. It has changed my life and the lives of those around me. Buteyko breath education helps people understand the science of how breathing affects the body. So many people suffer from mild to severe anxiety, sleep disorders, asthma, rhinitis, and many other physiological imbalances, and it could all be related to how they breathe. Correct your breathing pattern and you could solve major health problems.
This methodology was introduced by Professor Konstantin Buteyko (1923 - 2003) who initially uncovered a link between how much a person breaths to asthma. But after over 50 years of research, Professor Buteyko found that many other common conditions are caused by breathing too much. Just like food, the body can process only so much oxygen. Breathing too much, ironically actually deprives your tissues of oxygen and can result in imbalance and disease.
The feeling of wanting more oxygen is related to your body's intolerance for carbon dioxide (CO2). That’s right, CO2 is not a waste gas.
It controls pH in your blood and the ability for oxygen to permeate into the tissue of your body. Low pH causes active tissues (through movement and exercise) to be acidic and when this happens, more oxygen is released from the hemoglobin. Retaining CO2 helps lower pH which causes the oxygen to release - you want this to happen, especially when you are exercising. Conversely, if your retained CO2 is too low, the resulting pH is high making it difficult for oxygen to permeate into your tissues. This leads to the production of disease producing free radicals.
There is a difference between a big breath and deep breath. A big breath expands the chest; a deep breath allows the diaphragm to expand resulting in tissues expanding down into the tummy and pelvic region. A deep breath signals the nervous system to relax, slow down, and let go. Instead of you breathing bigger, harder, faster: think about breathing quieter, deeper into your belly, and at a slower rate. And yes, this is counter to what many fitness instructors and body workers have been teaching for years.
Professor Buteyko started helping clients with asthma. He found that when they learned to control their breath by 1) breathing through their nose at all times; and 2) reducing both their breath volume and rate, his clients started to diminish signs of asthma. Further studies showed that the breathing exercises helped to diminish or eliminate symptoms of many other conditions. Subsequent research shows that chronic over-breathing or hyperventilation is linked to anxiety, asthma, sleeping disorders, hypertension, rhinitis (nasal congestion and hay fever), chronic pain, digestive issues, heart conditions, diabetes, just to name a few.
How much is too much? The answer involves both volume and rate. For example, 10-12 gentle breaths per minute is considered healthy. Most people suffering from asthma take on average of 15 – 20 large breaths per minute, more than twice the amount of air that the body can utilize.
In summary, good breathing habits can make all the difference in the world for managing anxiety, racing mind, common breathing disorders, and poor health. Buteyko breathing exercises are simple and easy to integrate into your daily routine and activities. This applies to everybody. Even if you are athletic and stuck in a rut, not making progress towards your personal goals, you might want to investigate your breathing pattern and practice. If you are suffering from a chronic condition, you should start practicing immediately, as it will change your life, reduce health care costs, and help you live a more enjoyable life. Consider reading the book, “Close your Mouth: Buteyko Clinic Handbook for Perfect Health” by Patrick Mckeown or find a practitioner to learn more about your breathing pattern.
Tamara Gillest, MS, Certified Yoga Therapist, E-RYT-500
Owner of BendnMove Yoga and Movement Studio, West Seattle, www.bendnmove.com
Tamara has her Master’s degree in Science and is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Educator of Yoga and Buteyko. She currently offers individual and group yoga therapy sessions, as well as Buteyko Breath Education at her studio in West Seattle. Tamara collaborates with health care professionals to support and improve individual health and quality of life with a non-invasive, nurturing experience.