The Buteyko breathing technique is a breathing method that can be used for various purposes. Advocates of Buteyko breathing consider it a natural way to improve health, increase energy and concentration, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and improve sleep quality.

Buteyko breathing is a technique that Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko developed in the 1950s. The technique involves taking deep breaths in through the nose while keeping the mouth closed.

Some people use Buteyko breathing to manage asthma symptoms and other respiratory problems, but it also has its own risks and safety precautions that people should consider.

This article explores what Buteyko breathing is, its potential benefits, drawbacks, and how to perform Buteyko breathing.

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The main concept behind Buteyko is that people with asthma tend to breathe more deeply and more rapidly than they need to. Experts call this hyperventilation.

Buteyko based his breathing method on the idea that poor breathing habits can contribute to health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

The Buteyko Breathing Method teaches people how to use their diaphragm for full-body breathing instead of shallow chest breathing which uses too much oxygen and leads to hyperventilation and overproduction of carbon dioxide (CO2).

There are many purported benefits of Buteyko breathing. More research is necessary to conclusively prove these benefits, as most studies have been small-scale and researchers have not repeated them often.

May help with Eustachian tube problems

A 2019 study found that the Buteyko breathing technique was effective in treating symptoms in individuals with obstructive Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD), which is a condition that affects the pressure of the middle ear.

Participants who carried out Buteyko breathing alongside nasal steroids showed more improvement than those using the steroids alone. The study noted that Buteyko breathing may be an appropriate alternative for people who cannot afford Eustachian tube balloon dilation surgery.

Regulates breathing

Buteyko breathing regulates breathing by teaching people to exhale more than they inhale, which forces the body to use less oxygen and therefore makes it easier for them to breathe more efficiently.

Reduces asthma symptoms

The British Guideline on the Management of Asthma revised in 2011, indicates that the Buteyko Method “may be considered to help patients control the symptoms of asthma.” This is unusual as it is the only complementary therapy that is endorsed in the guidelines.

The Buteyko breathing technique specifically focuses on the control of hyperventilation. Trials suggest benefits in terms of reduced symptoms and bronchodilator usage but no effect on lung function.

May help lessen anxiety

Some evidence suggests that the Buteyko breathing method can help lower anxiety levels in people with anxiety disorders.

The Buteyko technique reduces anxiety by helping people control their breathing. Breathing exercises effectively lower anxiety because they teach people how to control their heart rate and blood pressure. This can help them feel calmer and less stressed.

To perform the Buteyko breathing method, a person should do the following:

Getting ready

  • A person should sit on the floor or on a chair where they can elongate the spine and keep it upright.
  • Breathe normally for a few minutes to relax all of the muscles.

The control pause

  • Exhale slowly, and then hold that breath.
  • Use the index finger and thumb to plug the nose.
  • Hold that breath until there is an urge to breathe, and then inhale. There might be an involuntary movement of the diaphragm during this part.
  • Breathe normally for at least 10 seconds.
  • Repeat several times.

The maximum pause

  • Exhale slowly, and then hold that breath.
  • Plug the nose with the thumb and index finger.
  • Hold that breath for as long as possible; aim for twice the length of time of the control pause.
  • When there is moderate discomfort, inhale.
  • Breathe normally for at least 10 seconds.
  • Repeat several times.

To learn the new skill, experts recommend that people take 5 hours of face-to-face lessons and then practice 15–20 minutes thrice daily for at least 6 weeks.

The main drawback of this breathing technique is that it can be difficult for people to follow the instructions. It requires people to take deep breaths and exhale slowly, which can be uncomfortable for some people.

Some have criticized the Buteyko method as being pseudoscience because mainstream medicine has not yet accepted it as a valid treatment for asthma or any other disease. Some drawbacks to this method make it difficult for people to adopt it for their lifestyle.

Some of these drawbacks include:

  • lack of evidence about how well this technique works
  • lack of science-based information on how long one should practice Buteyko breathing to see results

Additionally, a lot of the research into Buteyko breathing is older research. This may concern some people as they may feel like it is outdated.

A person can try many other breathing techniques, should they not find the Buteyko breathing technique comfortable or suitable for their needs.

These include:

  • 4-7-8 technique
  • alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
  • belly breathing
  • box breathing
  • Breath of Fire (Kapalbhati breathing)
  • diaphragmatic breathing
  • Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
  • Lion’s Breath
  • nasal breathing
  • pursed-lip breathing
  • resonant breathing
  • the Papworth method
  • three-part breathing

The Buteyko Breathing Method is a type of breathing retraining that helps people who are experiencing asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems. It was developed in the 1950s by physician Dr. Konstantin Buteyko as a way to help people with asthma breathe more easily.

The technique aims to reduce the amount of air taken in with each breath and make people take deeper breaths more often.