Tara Kachroo

Waiting to exhale: breath holding as a diagnostic

Waiting to exhale: breath holding as a diagnostic

Buteyko breathing

Buteyko breathing has been all over my IG feed recently. I do an 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.

Breath Holding

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 upright. This is timed to the first sign of discomfort or the first urges to breathe, and not how long one can forcefully hold the breath. This tests your body’s tolerance to CO2. This morning at 4:30 am 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 60 seconds, but this is not really diagnostic.

Breathing as a Baseline

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. While I don’t follow these directives as if they are natural law, they are excellent guidelines.

If your 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 litres 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 is reason for urgent concern.

Exhales are often more important than Inhales

Many people focus on the depth of their inhale as the only breathing diagnostic. However, exhaling is just as important. CO2 is the catalyst for the release of oxygen to tissues and organs, and while oxygen might be taken into your body during inhale, it’s released during exhale. Hard and fast breathing reduces your body’s ability to use oxygen; longer exhales increase it. Every system of your body benefits from the better delivery of oxygen, so breath training can have immense and profound results on overall health. Integrative Movement Therapy has a profound focus on breathing mechanics and breath retraining. While it’s not always the first priority of treatment, it’s always assessed and considered.