Saturday, July 25, 2015

Buteyko Breathing Method

Let's change pace here a bit today and get back to absolute basics!  What are the absolute necessities of life; the basics without which we cannot survive? 
  • air
  • water
  • food

A person can go weeks without food, days without water, but it only takes minutes without air for us to perish. 

Most of us do try to give some thought to the food we eat, and the amount and quality of water we drink.  How many of us though, give a moment's thought to our breathing?  Clearly, we're breathing, so what's the big deal right?   It's an involuntary process, so we don't need to think about it. End of story.  

We have proven as humans over many years that we can eat poorly, not drink enough water and still stay alive and functioning at least at some level.  We've learned that if we fuel our bodies with quality food and clean water we can perform better.  Why then do we seem to stop there?  When was the last time you were still and paid attention to your breathing?  How deeply are you breathing?  How many breaths per minute?  Can you hold your breath a long time?  What about holding your breath BETWEEN BREATHS??  I admit, this is something I never thought about.  Why would I?  Breathing is involuntary, like blinking; my body does what's required and I don't need to invest any of my energy to ensure it works. 

But then the more I study health, and we're all teaching deep breathing, I started to think more about cognitive breathing, and I came across this book at the library and brought it home to read it. 

What I read gave me pause to really think about what we think we know about life's most important biological process. 

 I taught deep breathing, and even panting to the mom's in labour while I was nursing in the delivery room; personal trainers teach deep breathing to their clients and even in EFT we learn that we set the changes the tapping brings about with a deep breath.  But do we even really understand what a deep breath is?  Most of us I think, assume a deep breath is the same a big breath.  Maybe we need to distinguish, because they are different.
A deep breath is one that pushes out your belly when you breath, but doesn't necessarily fill the lungs to capacity. The chest really doesn't move in a deep breath. A big breath puffs out the chest and is always followed by a huge exhale....enter the problems...according to this book which is based on the work of a brilliant Russian physician who studied respiration and correlated it to health, Dr. Buteyko.

The point of the book is to convince us that we are all (or at least a huge percentage of us are) hyperventilating all the time.  Which is funny, because like I said above everyone from personal trainers to doctors and nurses are telling people to take a deep (big) breath and slow down.  Again, in EFT I learned that a deep breath was the way to kind of set the energy again after the changes that tapping brings.  After reading this book, I am adjusting my practice on myself to experiment. 

According to this book a big breath is the opposite of what we need to be teaching!  The problem with taking in a big breath is that you have to let out a big breath.  The body's optimal C02 level is 5.5% in the alveoli (little air sacks in the lungs)  Most of us are running with 3.5%, which is very detrimental to health.  The reason it's so bad to have less CO2 is because carbon dioxide (CO2) is not only a waste product, but an important feedback mechanism to the rest of the body.  When there isn't enough CO2 in the lungs, the oxygen that is being carried around to organs by the hemoglobin can't get 'off the train' so to speak.  The oxygen molecules stay bound to the hemoglobin and can't get off to support the organs where it is needed.  As a result, our organs are not oxygenated enough, but our blood levels are looking good, so the doctors see no problem with perfusion.  The blood tests show the oxygen levels in the blood are good, so we think there can't be a problem.  But there is a problem, because hemoglobin isn't the end destination of the oxygen, the tissues are!   
It would be rather like looking at the highways to determine if people are safely at their destinations.  We can see traffic is flowing, and assume that they're taking their exits and getting home, but in fact they may just be driving in circles.  A moving highway says nothing of who's at home.  Oxygen in the blood says nothing of the amount of oxygen actually feeding the brain, or liver or kidneys or anywhere else.

The authors provide a test for you to do in the book (called control pause and referred to as CP) and some very simple exercises to help increase the CO2 in the lungs to the point where the hemoglobin freely releases it to the tissues. 

I think of myself as reasonably healthy, and I don't have asthma or any other breathing problems, but I have to tell you I was alarmed when I couldn't even comfortably hold my breath BETWEEN BREATHS for five full seconds.  After a week of only 20 minutes a day of consciously breathing and doing the exercise outlined in the book, I have my control pause up to 10 seconds.  The goal is still a long way off at a minimum of 40 seconds, but I'm on my way.  

I challenge you to take the time to read this book (It's not a huge hulking book by any means) and see what you think.  Maybe take it to your doctor and discuss it.  

I'm not suggesting that there is never a need for a 'big breath', but what if, in general all this 'big breathing' is doing the opposite of what we intend?  

We pay attention to the food and drink we consume, we exercise to keep our bodies well, why not learn more about how to support your body and re-train your breathing to help you reach new levels of health too? 

Some food for thought today.  
Breathe well!

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