Breathing against fear, stress and panic: the Buteyko method


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Text comes from: Erfolgsfaktor Sauerstoff: Wissenschaftlich belegte Atemtechniken, um die Gesundheit zu verbessern und die sportliche Leistung zu steigern (2018) & Angst, Stress und Panik wegatmen: Die Sauerstoffversorgung des Gehirns verbessern und Ängste, Depressionen und Panikattacken für immer loswerden (2019) from Patrick McKeown, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Proper breathing helps against stress and anxiety, improves performance and can cure diseases like asthma. How does it work exactly?

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Patrick McKeown Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Patrick McKeown is a naturopath & director of Buteyko Clinic International.

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How life changes through breathing

In 1997 I was a manager in one Company , but since I suffered from asthma, I had been in poor health since childhood. My identity was based on deficits: I was not fit, not healthy and not confident. I was desperately looking for a solution to my health problems. Then I found her.

My life changed forever when I looked at the work of the deceased Dr. Konstantin Buteyko came across a brilliant Russian doctor who researched optimal breathing for astronauts as part of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Cold War initially pioneered his breakthrough findings on the other side of the Iron Curtain, but from the 1990s they spread throughout the world. Through breathing exercises based on Buteyko's teachings, I defeated my sleep apnea and chronic asthma and subsequently completely recovered from the ailments that had accompanied me all my life.

The Buteyko method

I was thrilled, quit my job and became a student of Dr. Buteyko. Thanks to his work, my life experienced a profound change. If you experience something like this, you can't help it: you develop a desire to pass it on. So it was that I finally shared this knowledge with my job.

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I've been on for the past thirteen years Dr. Built Buteyko's innovative approach and developed my program. It is designed to improve overall health and fitness and to contribute to the successful treatment of asthma.

How to treat asthma and regulate depressive moods

I used the Buteyko method to treat my asthma, and by improving my mindfulness I also got a grip on my thoughts. Thousands of people with asthma and other conditions have attended my courses in Ireland and other countries. Participants who came to me with panic attacks, depression, overwork or anxiety reported very good results.

This topic is also easy to read for people who are struggling with concentration problems, reduced consciousness or depressed moods. The content is no longer complicated, and through constant repetition, every reader can easily use the instructions for themselves.

The history of the Butyko method

The Buteyko method was developed in the 1950s by the doctor Konstantin Buteyko in what was then the Soviet Union. His method has been practiced by hundreds of thousands of people to treat problems and illnesses such as asthma, snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety, stress, panic attacks and depression. As a young doctor, Buteyko spent many months on his patients' beds and watched their health.

He found that each of them began to breathe harder as their health deteriorated. As the disease progressed, the breathing movements of the chest and abdomen increased; the breath became more audible, accelerated, they sighed more often and breathed through the mouth. Over time, he learned to predict the start of the dying process simply by watching her breath. This raised a fundamental question for Buteyko:

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How health and breathing are related

Was it the disease that contributed to heavy breathing or did heavy breathing affect health? At that point, Buteyko was suffering from very high blood pressure and his values ​​were deteriorating rapidly. He started to experiment with his breathing by breathing more calmly and reduced. The pain that had plagued him for months quickly disappeared.

In the decades that followed, Buteyko conducted extensive research on this topic and maintained his own laboratory to advance his findings. In 1990 his method was also adopted in the West and is now taught in many countries. Breathing, this basic condition for life, has to meet certain conditions: Short, violent overbreathing can be very dangerous to health. It is therefore obvious that breathing that is less pronounced but still excessive over a long period of time also has negative health effects.

The results of excessive breathing

I have worked with more than five thousand clients over the years - the spectrum ranges from lifelong couch potatos to washboard-bellied Olympians. Based on this wealth of experience, I would like to tell you two stories from people. Your life has changed radically after you learn to stop breathing. One of them is a competitive athlete and the other a freshly baked fitness junkie who just wanted to lose weight and live a little healthier.

At Croke Park Stadium in my hometown of Dublin, more than XNUMX fans regularly crowd to see their favorite teams. In Croke Park, every game feels like the Super Bowl. Football in Ireland is more than just a sport - football is pure passion, a lifestyle of its own and a source of our national pride.

The sports star with breathing problems

While players are considered more semi-professional, management invests significant sums in the latest sports technology for team members. She monitors her lifestyle and her physiological parameters around the clock. If a player eats a single frit late at night, management knows about it.

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I met David when he was about to become one of the Croke Park stars. He was twenty years old and trained with his team five days a week. Although he was in excellent physical condition, he often struggled with breathlessness. In addition, he often had a stuffy nose and had to cough. There was nothing more exciting for David than playing in the packed stadium, but after each game a barking cough tormented him and his lungs felt like they were filthy.

What over-breathing means

He trained hard and did everything he could to hide his symptoms from his trainers and their electronic surveillance systems. Eventually, he consulted a doctor and was prescribed medication that slightly relieved his discomfort; however, he struggled to keep up with his teammates. Finally, he was seriously worried that his coaches would throw him out of the team if they found out about his problems.

When I started working with David, he showed all the typical characteristics of a person who breathed far more than his body needed. He breathed deeply and through his mouth, even at rest. He pumped oxygen into his lungs, but it was too much, and his breath didn't regulate in a way that was natural and imperative for a competitive athlete. Due to bad habits developed over the years, his body was no longer in line with his breath. So he could no longer ensure a sufficient CO2 concentration.

Breathe properly as a revelation

David went through my complete program and practiced the exercises: breathing reduction, holding your breath during training and sleeping with your mouth closed at night to learn to breathe through your nose again. Today David is one of the stars of his team and no longer has any complaints to hide from his coach - only his love of fries remains a secret.

Like David, many competitive athletes breathe excessively, regardless of how many years of training they can look back on. For some, this means that they never fully exploit their potential, no matter how hard they train. In addition, they have to do more than their colleagues to maintain their fitness. When athletes first hear about the effects of chronic hyperventilation, it sometimes takes some time to understand the implications. On the other hand, it is often a revelation:

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Excellent performance thanks to correct breathing

They finally have an answer to questions that have been going around in their minds for years, and they are developing a completely new understanding of training. One factor that sets top athletes apart from others is their ability to train with higher intensity and longer breaths. You too can intensify your training without putting additional strain on your lungs by incorporating a few simple exercises into your existing workout. You should understand what factors are involved in the transport of oxygen to the organs and muscles, and allow you to improve your running efficiency (i.e. use less energy) and your maximum oxygen capacity VO2 max (your body's ability to Transport and use of oxygen).

Over the years I have seen all types of athletes achieve exceptional results using this method, including rugby players, soccer players, runners, cyclists, swimmers and Olympians. Many of these athletes had breathing problems and a weak diaphragm. Learning how to breathe more efficiently has had a remarkable impact on your athletic performance. It is counterproductive to train the body while neglecting breathing efficiency. You should learn how to improve your breathing stamina through any training program.

Make full use of your sporting potential

As impressive as David's story is, don't be misled into believing that better breathing techniques can only benefit elite athletes. They often have a much stronger effect on everyone and on average trained people. Let's take Doug's case. Doug is a powerful mid-forties. He had asthma since childhood and therefore had little sporting ambition.

Doug's brother, however, was a real sports cannon. When the two children were, his brother regularly went to the park with their father to play basketball; Doug was reserved for the viewer role. He always had the feeling that something was wrong with his body.

How breathing can improve life

He tried to follow in his father's footsteps and managed to stay on the rowing team at his college for a year. But after each training session, his lungs whined for mercy. His lack of aerobic capacity restricted him and seemed to make a sportier lifestyle unattainable.

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But when his father started to grow old and frail, Doug decided to take countermeasures to be there for his children and grandchildren. Doug started running. After a few steps, he gasped as usual. Realizing that he needed to rebuild his cardiovascular fitness from scratch, he turned to me. And I was able to help him improve his breathing technique. Today Doug is also sporty and fit. You see how better breathing can improve everyone's life.


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  1. Harald

    Interesting article. Do athletes have an advantage in the Butyko method or is it generally well suited? I would be happy about experience reports.

    • Simone Janson

      Thank you for your comment, we are happy to pass this on to the author!

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