Unfortunately, many people hyperventilate without knowing it.
Before I learned about breathing retraining, I noticed that I became very breathless and uncomfortable when I read my toddler daughter several stories in a row. “Wow, I’m just sitting here and I’m getting winded,” I told myself. “Am I out of shape or what?!”
Well, yes. And that was despite my asthma being controlled with steroid and reliever inhalers.
Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, who developed the Buteyko Breathing Technique starting in the 1950s, said that many of the common chronic health conditions people suffer from today such as asthma, allergies, anxiousness and snoring are just different expressions of hyperventilation, or over-breathing. He posited that stopping hyperventilation would control and reduce symptoms of the conditions, and that has been true for many people who have learned his techniques since.
We’ve all seen, if only on TV or a movie, someone hear unexpected bad news and start showing signs of hyperventilation — typically, rapid breathing, through the mouth, with a distressed look on their face.
Now consider everyday situations you may come across (and don’t think anything of it):
- A runner panting during or after exercise
- Someone opening their mouth to get more air when they get out of a car or walk up a flight of steps
- Someone laughing so hard they start coughing
And I always think of Julia Child too and her breathless way of speaking:
Dr. Buteyko called non-emergency over-breathing “chronic hidden hyperventilation.” We take 20,000-30,000 breaths a day so someone doesn’t need to over-breathe that much on each inhale to cumulatively take in a lot more air than they need.
Through breathing retraining, students can increase their breathing capacity and practice lifestyle changes to breathe in a relaxed manner while talking, eating and undertaking other routine tasks,
In a way, refusing to hyperventilate is a radical act. The other day my daughter’s behavior was escalating and she looked like she was about to start yelling I told her honestly, “I’m starting to breathe heavier and I need to take a break.” That got her attention and she calmed down too.