It is fascinating to note that before World War 2, the normal minute volume for breathing was 4-6 litres per minute, but this increased to ~12 litres per minute by the 1990’s.
Something has been going on:
20th/21st century lifestyle –all these factors can encourage you to breathe more than you should:
- Overeating, eating processed foods
- Sedentary lifestyle/poor posture encouraging upper chest breathing
- Helpline type jobs –lot of talking
- Centrally heated homes/”soft lifestyle” soft beds, oversleeping
- Environmental pollution
- Belief that deep breathing is good for you –breathing more and more when you feel breathless
- Information overload –internet, gadgets –“screen time” linked with poor sleep
- CHRONIC STRESS –the big one!
Dr Buteyko defined stress as anything that causes you to breathe more than you need to.
Stress can be emotional or physical.
A good example is someone I know who sustained a very nasty broken leg in a skiing accident. She had the initial physical stress and pain of the injury to deal with; suboptimal surgery in a non- state -of -the -art foreign hospital, of painful travel home; emotional stresses insurance to sort out, weeks off work, immobility, worry about the future, many, many visits to hospital for X- rays that showed lack of annealing of the fracture; the stress of expecting to see the consultant who could handle the complicated case but seeing junior doctors who gave conflicting advice; further surgery and bone grafts; physical stress of more pain and 6 months of having to sleep on her back to keep the injured leg straight. (You can breathe up to twice as much sleeping on your back as your side).
Not surprisingly her breathing pattern suffered. You get the picture, chronic stress can lead to chronic hyperventilation/disordered breathing pattern.
And what are the symptoms of disordered breathing/hyperventilation? Numerous, including increased pain and panic, which can make you breathe more, depleting your body oxygen and causing a vicious cycle.
A client with ME/CFS described rather well the time leading up to her health collapse as “a decade of crises”- the breathing can slide into abnormality without you noticing, and stay that way as it is eventually accepted as normal. For some, ill health comes out of the blue or “I was fine until I had that cough, then I never really got better” but for many “I just didn’t feel right for several years” with IBS/anxiety e.t.c. creeping up on them.
So physical factors causing stress could include: pain; illness and injury; infection; toxic environment/pollution, and emotional stressors could be: work stresses (indifferent, bullying or inconsistent management); or not having a job; financial worries; toxic relationships; exams; bereavement; new baby e.t.c, e.t.c
With today’s culture, many people put their job before their health, dosing up on decongestants when they have the flu and soldiering on rather than resting and recuperating.
The work/life balance is a difficult one, I heard someone say she doesn’t have time to look after her health while she is working –it’s OK for retired people! Something badly wrong there….
Luckily a disordered breathing pattern is something that can be put right; surely it is worth it to safeguard your future health, or improve your current health…
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The diaphragm is a large, thin sheet of muscle dividing the thoracic (chest) cavity from the abdominal cavity (belly), and is the major muscle of breathing. As the diaphragm contracts, the lungs move downwards, expand and fill with air. Diaphragmatic breathing, along with breathing through the nose (not the mouth) is essential for healthy breathing. However, as a breathing educator I see many clients –especially those with ME/CFS/fibromyalgia or anxiety who make little or no use of this important muscle! Instead, they often breathe though the mouth, the breathing is obvious in the upper chest, accessory muscles in the upper chest and neck and shoulders do the donkey work of lifting the ribcage, and posture is often slumped.Continue Reading
A client asked me recently “Why not write a topic about what deep breathing actually means in the Buteyko context?” So here goes, I am preparing to open a can of worms… But before I do that I will just recap that as a breathing educator I identify and help to correct (using the Buteyko method), disordered or dysfunctional breathing and that: The aim of breathing education is to restore a healthy breathing pattern, to allow the natural, normal, nasal, soft, gentle, smooth, quiet, invisible, efficient, underlying breathing pattern to emerge, so breathing is easier and with the diaphragm free. The most effective way of doing this is by relaxation; by removal of layers of tension caused by bad breathing habits and stress. As the breathing softens and reduces, symptoms decrease too. Dr Buteyko called his method “reduced breathing by relaxation”. And when I teach I avoid the word DEEP like the plague! That is because it is so utterly confusing as it means two (at least) completely different things to different people:Continue Reading