Deal With Stress

Use This Breathing Secret to Reduce Stress

lungsDid you know the way you breathe can contribute to hypertension, asthma, anxiety, and sleep apnea—all of which compromise your energy and health and can lead to heart attack and even premature death? That’s pretty significant news for something that we take for granted—breathing. I mean, doesn’t breathing just happen naturally, as much or as little as your body needs it? What does it mean that the way you breathe can lead to stress and these other health concerns? In this article, we’ll explore how poor breathing can lead to hypertension, stress, and other serious health consequences. You’ll then learn a simple breathing secret to reduce stress.

I recently came upon an article “How the Buteyko Breathing Method Can Improve Your Health and Fitness” (, November 24, 2013) which introduced me to the serious consequences of over-breathing and mouth-breathing. In the past year, this had unexpectedly become more than an idle curiosity for me. I had begun to suffer chest pains whenever I first started to breathe rapidly during cardio exercise.

Since this would generally go away as I continued to workout and my blood work, resting pulse, and other health scores were good, I continually brushed this aside. As a personal trainer and someone who meditates regularly and has worked out consistently for decades, I figured I was in pretty good shape, but the chest pain put a question in the back of my mind.

This year has also been one of intense work stress and changes. I wondered if that had anything to do with my chest pain. I was starting to notice that my breathing was heavier, even at rest. I was tired more often and I frequently had a hard time waking up, even after a significant amount of sleep. I also was craving more sweets and alcohol, which I generally stay away from. Was it just the stress of all the changes in my life?

As I read this article, I saw the relationship of all these symptoms to my breathing. When I took the breathing test which I’ll describe shortly and scored very low, I took notice. I had to give this Buteyko Breathing Method a try.

Before I describe the breathing test to you, let’s talk just a little about what happens when you mouth-breathe and over-breathe. To put this in simple terms, it has a lot to do with the amount of carbon dioxide in your body. When you breathe through your mouth and/or exhale deeply and frequently, you expel too much carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide in your bloodstream keeps the smooth muscles around your blood vessels and your airway dilated. When you expel too much CO2, your blood vessels and airway constrict. This leads to less oxygen delivery to your heart and lungs, which leads you to breathe heavier, which escalates the cycle.

At the same time, mouth-breathing and over-breathing tend to dry out your airway passages, which leads them to constrict further. In the extreme case, you get asthma-like symptoms. This can have serious short-term consequences in your cardio-respiratory system as well as dangerous long-term health consequences when you breathe this way regularly.

Fortunately, the cure is simple. You can train your body to breathe with your mouth closed-even when exercising. This prevents over-breathing, while it purifies, warms, and moisturizes the air in your nasal passages and automatically regulates the CO2 in your blood.

Initially nasal breathing may be a challenge, but with practice, over time, you can actually train your body to take in more breath through your nasal passages, even to the point where you can do this during intense physical training. Check back with me in a few months on that one.

Now, here’s a simple test to see if you could benefit from nasal breathing. It’s called the Control Pause Technique: Before you begin, you want to be in a resting state, as you probably are now, sitting still and reading. This technique is taken from the Buteyko Breathing Method as described by Dr. Mercola:

1. Take a small, silent breath in through your nose and allow a small silent breath out through your nose.

2. Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.

3. Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe.

4. At the first definite desire to breathe, you may also feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles. Your tummy may jerk and the area around your neck may contract.

5. Release your nose and breathe in and out through it.

6. Your inhalation at the end of the held breath should be calm. If not, you held your breath too long.

A control pause of 40 seconds is considered good; 25 seconds indicates a need for some improvement; and 15 seconds or less indicates you’ve got a good amount of work to do. 15 seconds or less is where I began.

You can also use the Control Pause as an exercise to improve your score. Do 5-6 repetitions of the Control Pause technique with a 30-45 second break in between each repetition. Do this daily and you’ll notice a difference within the first month, if not sooner. Combine this with breathing through your nose only throughout the day and you’ll improve even faster.

Here’s to lower stress and better health through better breathing.

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2 replies on “Use This Breathing Secret to Reduce Stress”

Fascinating information, Kevin. Thanks for sharing what you learned. I look forward to hearing about your progress.

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