Stress and anxiety

Buteyko breathing in a nutshell

In 1952, Russian respiratory Professor Konstantin Buteyko discovered that the volume of air we breathe has notable effects on our health. He listed approximately 150 diseases that are caused by over breathing, or hyperventilation.

Hyperventilation means breathing more air than your body needs at a particular time.  Examples include breathing through your mouth while driving a car or watching TV.  Often, hyperventilation occurs subconsciously, resulting in irritation, inflammation, and constriction of the airways. Breathing incorrectly may have devastating results on your health.

How Buteyko Helps:
The Buteyko program teaches people how to alter their breathing, which may reduce acute anxiety producing hyperventilation. It also teaches participants how to retrain their breathing back to a more normal level with the result that they may no longer have to live constantly with anxiety or in the 'Fight or Flight' state.

The physiology of stress and breathing

  • Hyperventilation may be initiated and maintained by mental stimuli.
  • Strong emotions manifest as excess breathing as if preparing for exertions. If action doesn’t occur within a minute or 2, a mismatch between the actual and anticipated metabolic needs is created
  • The off-balance physiological state (symptoms) stimulates further anxiety due to misinterpretation of symptoms as medical problems
  • Cognitive impairment, feeling of ‘losing one’s mind’, and feeling of being out of control accelerated heart rate, sweating, muscle weakness are alarming
  • Hyperventilation (over breathing) and anxiety form a 'vicious circle', one leading to the other. The process may be 'pushed' or initiated from either end. In one person they will experience anxiety which then leads to hyperventilation, another person will hyperventilate leading to feelings of rising anxiety and/or panic.

From: Multidisciplinary approaches to breathing pattern disorders by Chaitow, Bradley, Gilbert and BIBH website