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"Breathe Less, Live More: Exploring the Science of Yoga and Buteyko Breathing"

February 07, 20234 min read

"Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you have." - Eckhart Tolle.

Maybe It's Time To Slow Down & Breathe Less...

We all know that breathing is essential for survival, but did you know that how we breathe can also have a significant impact on our overall health and longevity? In the world of yoga, pranayama is all about directing and channelling the breath in order to cultivate and harness the life force energy.

We do a number of different breathing practices as part of pranayama. But what is the ultimate goal of yoga pranayama as part of the whole yogic system?

To slow down the breath and breathe less!

But why breathe less?

Well, studies have shown that the animals with the longest lifespan also have the lowest breathing rates per minute. For example, turtles and elephants both breathe slowly and live a long time, while animals like hamsters and rabbits have a fast breathing rate and a much shorter lifespan.

The Butekyo Method....

And it's not just in the animal kingdom where breathing less leads to better health outcomes. The Buteyko Breathing Method is based on the idea that chronic over-breathing (aka hyperventilation) is at the root of many health problems, including asthma, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

The Buteyko breathing method was created by Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, a Russian physician and breathing specialist.

The method involves retraining the breathing patterns to reduce the volume of air taken in and the rate of breathing, in order to restore the body's natural balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

In our daily lives, there are several factors that contribute to the habit of over breathing or hyperventilation. Over breathing refers to taking in more volume of air than what our body actually needs, which can lead to a state of acidosis (an acid system). The accumulation of acid in the body can also be caused by a variety of reasons, including:

  • the consumption of acidic foods,

  • improper hydration,

  • the prevalence of negative emotions and thoughts.

  • stress and anxiety (being in a constant fight or flight state)

  • lack of physical exercise (sedentary lifestyle)

All of these factors contribute to an acidic system, which in turn leads back to over breathing (and more acidity- catch 22), which can cause a range of health problems such as asthma, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

The Bohr Effect

So, what is the science behind breathing less that leads us to better health?

Enter the Bohr effect...

"The Bohr effect is a crucial physiological mechanism that helps regulate the delivery of oxygen to the tissues. This effect, named after Danish physiologist Christian Bohr, refers to the relationship between the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) in the bloodstream and how they affect the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the tissues.

When we retrain our breathing patterns to reduce the volume of air taken in by slowing the breathing down and slowing the rate of breathing we increase the levels of CO2 .

The Bohr effect states that an increase in CO2 levels leads to a decrease in the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen, making it more likely to release oxygen into the cells, resulting in improved energy utilization, physical performance, and overall health.

In other words, breathing less leads to an increase in the amount of oxygen available to the body, which in turn leads to better health outcomes.

The conclusion

So, there you have it! Both yoga pranayama and the Buteyko Breathing Method support the idea that breathing less (volume) is better for our health, and this is backed up by the science of the Bohr effect. So next time you're feeling a little run down, maybe take a break from the deep breaths and try slowing down your breath instead. Your body (and your lifespan) will thank you!


 "The Bohr effect and its relation to oxygen transport" by J.C. Wanger et al., published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 1958.

The Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga Book- Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss.

"The Buteyko Breathing Method for Better Health" by Patrick McKeown.

"Breathe Right Now: A Guide to Better Breathing" by the Buteyko Clinic

Slow Your Breathing Down & Live Longer.

Slow breathing checklist:

Here is a quick checklist to get you started with your breathing. Remember imperfect action beats inaction, get started and keep evolving.

  • Practice a little every day

  • Gently move your body for 5-10 mins first

  • Do the 5 day FREE Breath Challenge... it's where you will get all the instructions.

  • Create an even smooth equal breath ratio (4 & 4)

  • Make your Exhale twice as long as your Inhale (3/6 or 4/8)

  • Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit quietly for 5 mins and let your breath get softer & softer... (less than 4 fingers- see YouTube above).

  • Have a wonderful day 😀

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Mark Breadner

Mark is the founder of YogaCoach

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