Waiting to Exhale | July 10, 2019

Buteyko breathing has been all over my IG feed recently.  I do analysis of breathing biomechanics in my practice as an Integrative Movement Therapist, and talked about it last week with an acquaintance. They even asked me “Is it Buteyko?” Nope, but perhaps it will be something I look into studying more deeply.  The control pause that Buteyko uses for diagnostics is something that I learned from Functional Movement Systems — a simple breath hold after exhale performed after a single normal inhale while relaxed and sitting up right. This is timed to the FIRST sign of discomfort or the first urges to breath, and not how long one can forcefully hold the breath.  This tests your body’s tolerance to CO2. This morning at 4:30am my first control pause came to 42 seconds, which is lower than normal for me, but life has been pretty stressful recently. Without any preparations, I could, if I pushed it, hold for 60sec, but this is not really diagnostic.

FMS suggested a minimum hold of 25 seconds to establish a baseline of healthy breathing to engage in any other physical correctives. Below this level the recommendation is to focus ONLY on breathing correctives. If you’re control pause is lower than 25 seconds it’s common to have symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, blocked nose, coughing, breathlessness, and asthma.  Optimal breathing according to physiological standards is 3-4 liters per minute. This capacity results in a control pause of about 60 seconds. At 20 seconds your body is breathing about 3 times this amount. Holds of 15 seconds or less are reason for urgent concern. 

But breathing is good, right? CO2 is the catalyst for the release of oxygen to tissues and organs, oxygen might be taken into your body during inhale, but it’s released during exhale. Hard and fast breathing reduces your body’s ability to use oxygen.  Every system of your body benefits from the better delivery of oxygen, and so breath training can have immense and profound results on overall health.

What’s your control pause today?