Buteyko Breathing and evidence-based Therapies
Buteykohead was set up to integrate the Buteyko breathing programmes used in our clinics with cognitive and mindfulness-based techniques. We were founded in March of 2002 to provide training in the Buteyko method via classes, and self learning resources. Find out more about this here (external link)
Over the past eighteen years, we have provided instruction to thousands of children and adults. We also work directly with health care professionals in the implementation of the method. Find out more about this here (external link)
Currently, all Buteykohead classes are taught online on a one to one basis using video calling. Learn more about these sessions here.
Buteyko Breathing Method
We are all over-thinkers, every one of us, some of our countless thoughts are helpful. However, most of them are not, and because of this none of us are immune to the maladaptive emotions of anxiety, depression and anger that this overthinking can trigger. These emotions are not pleasant. They may cause us to sleep poorly, make us want to avoid doing the things we love, or they can lead us into doing things which we later regret. They also can feed irrational thoughts; whereby we think that there is something wrong with us, that we are not the same as other people, that we are somehow stuck like this. Sadly, if we have this kind of thinking we may not want to do anything about the way we think and feel. For what it’s worth we have helped hundreds of people who used to hold this belief about themselves.
Whether it is being skipped in a queue, or losing our livelihood, we have little to no control over the events that happen to us in life. Therefore the tools that we use to manage our thoughts and emotions determine how life is for us. These tools help us to cope better.
Learning how to deal with what goes on in our heads was never taught to most of us. It was left to us to to find it out for ourselves. In fact, worse than that many of us were given the worst possible advice: Fight your thoughts and reject your emotions.
Suppose we had the same lack of awareness and understanding about our diet, what do you think the health and economic outcomes of societies would be? There is, of course, a lot of bad food and unhealthy eaters now, but can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t know about the consequences of excessive consumption of fat, sugar and salt? If we did not know about these things our health care systems could only serve in reacting to what they are being presented with.
This is exactly what is going on in mental health, we have a system that only serves to react to what is already happening.
It is changing though; more and more people are taking personal charge of their mental health, which like a healthy diet requires some knowledge and continuous application.
With Buteykohead the learning that you need to apply is quite simple, it involves practising three techniques to bring about a positive change to your mental health.
Why these three methods? They compliment each other: each technique helps the other technique achieve its aim, but more than that, these are tools that have worked for us. We personally have learnt them, use them and will continue to use them.
The Buteyko Breathing Method
The way we breathe can either aggravate our calm our emotions, here are some reasons why the Buteyko method works so well in making us feel at ease:
Buteyko breathing is nasal breathing. Nasal breathing influences the parasympathetic nervous system which controls rest and digestion (1) you feel calmer consistently. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, impacts the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight or flight response (2), this way of breathing contributes to us being agitated. Everything seems like a chore.
Buteyko breathing is diaphragmatic or belly breathing, which means that the most efficient muscle that you have for pushing and pulling air into your lungs is used as opposed to chest or thoracic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing helps you relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body (3). It also lowers your heart rate and helps to lower your blood pressure (4).
The main aim of Buteyko breathing is to reduce hyperventilation both at rest and in times of stress. Hyperventilation occurs in response to emotional states, such as depression, anxiety, or anger (5). When hyperventilation is a frequent occurrence, it’s known as Hyperventilation Syndrome. It is indicated by a faster than normal breathing pattern that can cause light-headedness and poor concentration. It has also been to shown to prolong, and increase felt levels of anxiety and perceived autonomic arousal (6).
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
We will teach you how to use cognitive methods and mindfulness meditation as a way of recognising in the moment when negative thoughts are creeping up. The purpose is not to stop these thoughts from occurring, but to stop us from running with them. It is our spiralling thoughts which often triggers our anxiety, depression and anger.
To do this you will learn to separate your thoughts and emotions from you and treat them as entities that can be observed without placing importance on them. The reasoning behind this practice is that when we are fearful or treat our thoughts and emotions as being heavy burdens, they tend to become magnified. Conversely, when we treat them passively, -when we are at peace with them- allowing them to come and go, they lose their power of us, our day does not become consumed by our heads.
When you continuously apply MBCT techniques you build a life-changing habit of being at peace with yourself and being able to carry on despite your thoughts.
We hold many opinions about ourselves, some of which we are not aware of and what can happen is that sometimes, out of nowhere, even if we are relatively calm a very familiar thought pattern creeps up on us and repeats again and again. It might be a putdown, a fear, or an embarrassment. This may lead us to be anxious, feel sad or angry.
These thoughts are extreme, rigid and negatively biased views that we are holding of minor past or future events that don’t seem to go away easily. We can get so tired of this same noise day after day.
If this resonates with you, then looking at, and changing how you are viewing yourself or a particular event can be very helpful in dealing with this repetitive noise. We will teach you some very effective strategies (7,8) for doing this, the objective of these strategies is not about putting a positive spin on what has happened or what you think will happen. This rarely works. Rather, it is to build flexibility within yourself and look at what is troubling you using a different lens to create a more balanced mindset about it.
When we establish and reinforce alternative, more rational ways of looking at things it builds neuroplasticity and allows us in the long term to think in ways that are adaptive and helpful. This ultimately leads us to have a more satisfying life.
Putting it all Together
How we breathe can start and worsen negative thoughts and feelings. The Buteyko breathing method is used in order to have a continuously calm physiological state through diaphragmatic, reduced nasal breathing. Constant Mindfulness teaches us to notice when our negative thoughts are beginning and to not become ensnared by them. For persistent negative thoughts especially, ones that are repetitive and familiar to us, we can look at them, and like a trusted friend offer a different view. This nullifies their strength.
These three are not once-off exercises that will solve all your problems, but they will if you keep at them make it much easier for you to be free and live.
In 2002, Patrick completed his clinical training in the Buteyko Breathing Method at the Buteyko Clinic, Moscow, Russia. This training was accredited by Professor Konstantin Buteyko. Having suffered from asthma, rhinitis and sleep-disordered breathing for over 20 years, Patrick is able to offer both theoretical knowledge and his own experiences to help his students to overcome similar challenges. To date, Patrick has written eight books and produced four DVD sets on the Buteyko Method, including three Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk bestsellers: Close Your Mouth, Asthma-Free Naturally, and Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten your Mind. The Buteyko self-help manual Close Your Mouth has been translated into ten different languages including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian and Russian. His latest book is titled “The Oxygen Advantage” and improves sports performance by addressing dysfunctional breathing patterns and simulating high altitude training: www.oxygenadvantage.com.
Patrick is Director of Education and Training at the Buteyko Clinic: www.buteykoclinic.com. His professional memberships include Fellow of The Royal Society of Biology, Full Member of the Physiological Society and Academy of Applied Myofunctional Sciences. Patrick holds regular workshops and talks on dysfunctional breathing in countries worldwide including the USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Denmark, France, Holland, the UK, and his native Ireland. He has trained Buteyko practitioners from 32 countries and regularly provides Buteyko breathing courses in Dublin, Galway, London, Sydney and the USA.
In 2013, Patrick collaborated in a clinical trial investigating the Buteyko Method as a treatment for rhinosinusitis in asthma patients with the University of Limerick, Ireland. Results from a three-month follow-up with participants showed a 72% reduction of nasal symptoms including snoring, inability to get a satisfying breath, nasal congestion and more. An abstract of the trial was published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal Clinical Otolaryngology.
Ciaran learnt and practised the Buteyko breathing method at an early age as a way of controlling his asthma and anxiety. Ciaran’s initial interest in the method came from observing his brother’s (Patrick Mckeown) progress in alleviating his symptoms. He recalls that at the start the exercises were tough but easily achievable. Impressed at the results, he worked with his brother to incorporate the Buteyko method in his practice for over 12 years.
A trained teacher and psychotherapist member of the BABCP he considers a holistic approach as being essential to improving and maintaining good mental health and reducing stress. This makes him able to relate with his student’s particular needs and work in collaboration to come up with solutions that fit them.
He believes that the Buteyko breathing method compliments cognitive and mindfulness-based techniques by providing the necessary physiological calming so often neglected in other treatments.
(1) Scientific American: Proper Breathing Brings Better Health
(2) Cureus: The Influence of Breathing on the Central Nervous System
(3) Frontiers in psychology: The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults
(4) Frontiers in Public Health:The Impact of Resonance Frequency Breathing on Measures of Heart Rate Variability, Blood Pressure, and Mood
(5) Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences: Hyperventilation and exhaustion syndrome
(7) Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: Cognitive behavioral therapy in anxiety disorders: current state of the evidence
(8) The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses
(9)Brain volume changes after cognitive behavioral therapy.