One of the hardest things about breathing education and retraining is MOTIVATION, putting in enough effort (breathing exercises and lifestyle changes) early on to make a real change your breathing pattern. A colleague calls it “time, dedication and discipline” (TD&D). Sufficient effort at the beginning means clients soon see a decrease in symptoms, (after the first day or two often getting a good night’s sleep or no longer needing asthma reliever inhalers) which motivates them to carry on, and they will soon (usually after 1-3 months) be able to taper down the amount of breathing exercises; it is not usually a big time commitment long term.
For most people we check and record their breath holding time or control pause (CP), a stress free breath hold after a normal outbreath. This is also now sometimes called BOLT (body oxygen level test –see Patrick McKeown’s new book the Oxygen Advantage), and it gets longer as you make progress. The main driver of progress is putting in time doing relaxed/reduced breathing (RB). (I won’t go into these measures and exercises in detail here, as it is the logging and monitoring I want to describe).
But it is also not good to be too competitive, some people try too hard and strain to push up the BOLT or CP, and it must be a stress free breath hold. One way to check clients are not trying too hard is to check what is happening to the pulse which should stay the same or drop; if the pulse increases, that suggests the breath hold was not a stress free one. So pulse is also checked and recorded.
For me, the best way of ensuring the client stays on track is to use the breathing log, developed by Buteyko colleagues Hadas and Amit Golan of Breathe on. (This is free to use and I recommend you sign up for it even if you are learning from books or other self-help methods). So rather than looking at clients’ records on sheets of paper during a session with them, I now check on line how their morning CP or BOLT is progressing and how much of their breathing exercises they are doing, and if each exercise is effective. For most people it is very motivating to see their data and progress plotted up on a graph this way. It also means that I can monitor my clients and see quickly if they need further coaching, or need to make adjustments. Symptoms and triggers, and time exercising, hours of sleep, pulse after each exercise and other parameters can all be logged, but the 2 measures in the examples below are the ones I quickly check on regularly; RB reduced/relaxed breathing and CP control pause /BOLT or breath holding time.
Three logs from Butyeko breathing training
The three clients below now monitor their breathing each day and maintain it with just 10 mins of breathing exercises. (Click on the image of the 6 graphs for a clearer inmage in a new window).
1) This client with ME/CFS got good symptom relief and was able to drop down her relaxed/reduced breathing and maintain her CP at over 45 sec in less than 4 months which is excellent. You can see 2 holidays (the second spans July 1st) where exercises were skipped, and the CP slid down a little!.
“My symptom “score” started at 76 and has reduced to 20 over a four month period. The most dramatic outcome has been that I now sleep well nearly every night which has made a huge difference to me. This started two nights into the course….The other improvements have been slower to appear but have included a marked reduction in anxiety levels, in lethargy during the day, chronic exhaustion and headaches”.
2) This client with disordered breathing was able to start reducing her exercises after about 2 months.
“Before I started the course I had days I couldn’t leave the house as I had lack of energy and sometimes fell over. Pretty restrictive generally. It was tiredness and so much more; my body didn’t want to move and was in a lot of pain…..I can now start back to work gradually anyway and begin to live my life”.
3) This client with anxiety, rapidly increased her CP in about a month, then reduced. The lower values in March coincided with a very stressful time, showing the link.
“I feel calmer, more energised and I am sleeping better, without snoring. The Buteyko method has given me a daily support mechanism and an emergency medical kit when times get hard”.
Give it a go and see if it helps you to improve your breathing.
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