Breathing less seems counterintuitive. But, it turns out that this could be the missing piece to your overall health.
A lot of us tend to overdo things from time to time. It’s human nature.
But what if we are overdoing the thing we literally do the most of?
A quote from breath expert, Patrick McKeown, caught our attention.
“Just as we have an optimal quantity of water and food to consume each day, we also have an optimal quantity of air to breathe. And just as eating too much can be damaging to our health, so can overbreathing.”
Studies show our breathing rates have almost doubled in less than 100 years.
But breathing more sounds like a good thing, right?
Too Much of a Good Thing
The idea that overbreathing can be bad for us is not necessarily new.
If you dive through history, you’ll find a whole gang of scientists and researchers whose experiments suggested that less is actually more in regards to the breath.
Perhaps the most famous was a Ukrainian physician named Dr. Buteyko.
After he finished medical school in 1952, Dr. Buteyko was diagnosed with severe hypertension and given 12 months to live; he was 29 years old.
As the story goes, one night he was staring at his own reflection. He watched himself as he took deep, haggard breaths through an open mouth. His shoulders and chest flexing deeply with each labored breath.
He realized he was breathing in the same exact way as his terminally ill patients.
Right then and there he conducted a quick experiment. He relaxed his shoulders and chest, and slowly sipped air through his nose for a few brief minutes. Within minutes, his persistent headache and body pains subsided.
A few minutes later he returned to his normal breathing patterns and the pain quickly returned.
Dr. Buteyko quickly became obsessed with the idea that overbreathing causes illness.
His idea makes sense, scientifically speaking. We know that maladies such as heart disease, ulcers, and chronic inflammation are all linked to disturbances in circulation, blood pH, and metabolism.
How we breathe affects all of these functions.
By the 1980s Buteyko had published over 50 scientific papers and treated tens of thousands of patients with more than an 80% success rate.
He died in 2003 at the age of 80.
Less is More
There are thousands of Buteyko breathing clinics and teachers around the world today. His breathing methods have been used by suffering patients and Olympic champions alike.
The methods and techniques vary widely depending on your teacher, but the central message is the same; breath through the nose, breathe less, and breathe slow.
Now, we want to clarify here that this does not mean doing sessions of deep breathing is bad for you. Quite the opposite in fact. Practicing conscious deep breathing can have a ton of benefits.
What Buyteko and all his followers are advocating for is to slow our “normal” breathing rates; the way we breathe for the majority of the day. And to take those breaths through the nose, not the mouth.
If you want to dive further into Buteyko breathing methods, you can probably find a teacher near you.
But if you just want to work on finding the “perfect breath” to optimize your health, we created an exercise just for you.