This Breathing Secret Reduces Stress and Improves Your Health

    Did 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.

    Please share this post with your family, friends, and co-workers through the social sharing links. I’d also love to hear your Comments below. Thanks for participating and sharing!

      14 Responses to “This Breathing Secret Reduces Stress and Improves Your Health”

      1. Paul says:

        That is probably good information. Some of us, however, have problems like deviated septums; mine is so extreme that nose breathing is only possible when at full rest. This lifelong problem has led to other problems and therefore I can see that this method could be a good thing for those for whom it suits.
        However, I have also been instructed that breathing out fully is necessary to avoid the build up of CO2. Hmmm.
        In view of all this information, which can be conflicting, I virtually have to work out my own salvation. Currently using a chest restraint system to retrain my breathing.

        1. Hi Paul,
          I see how a deviated septum makes nasal full nasal breathing an issue, especially during exertion. It may, however, be worth practicing during meditation and at rest, since nasal breathing also stimulates parts of your brain associated with focused concentration and deeper relaxation.

          My understanding is that as you train yourself to more nasal breathing your breathing passages will expand to accommodate greater flow.

          Also, while breathing out CO2 is necessary, breathing out too much CO2 can create constriction of blood vessels and airway.

          As with all things, individualization and experimentation yield the best results.

          Thanks for your comments,

      2. Camille Naish says:

        Dear Kevin,
        I was sorry to read that you have been having a stressful year. Maybe you have taken on too much?
        About a year ago I subscribed to your guided meditation series on how to release any disagreeable emotions. This, combined with a powerful deeksha blessing given by a Oneness trainer friend on the significant dare of 2, 12. 2012 has made an enormous difference in my life. As the two things occurred at about the same time, I cannot be sure which did what; but I know I found your meditations very helpful and I have recommended them to friends.
        I occasionally suffer from sleep apnoea and plan to follow your nose-breathing instructions! I can detect a slight improvement after doing the control exercise five times.
        Thank you and good luck,
        Camille Naish

        1. Hi Camille,
          Thanks for sharing your experiences and for your openness to practicing new things.

          As far as my work stress goes, yes, taking on too much is indeed a factor. Also, staying with situations that weren’t working. As I’ve been letting those go, new opportunities are opening up and the path forward feels very promising.

          Best wishes,

      3. Ted says:

        Thanks for this will see if I can make it reduce depression and stress Thanks Ted

      4. Anu Siva says:

        Thank you for sharing the Buteyko Breathing Method.
        Thank you Dr. Mercola, Kevin, and Paul.

      5. Larry says:

        I’m curious, so the contriction of blood vessel due to over breathing caused your chest pain? And all that’s recommended is breathing through the nose and occasional holding of breath?

        1. Hi Larry,
          The chest pain I was having was isolated to specifically when I was just starting to breathe heavily in cardio training, so this breathing method is a way to balance the relationship of CO2 and oxygen so that doesn’t happen. Since it seems to be working for me, I assume that is an effective explanation.

          Also, as a result of the breathing test, I found that my ability to handle CO2 even at rest was compromised. This confirmed my cardio experience and gave me something to practice (nasal breathing and the Control Pause). That also seems to be improving quickly.


      6. Anna says:

        Hi Kevin
        I not quite sure if I was aware of my breathing style. But I will give this a go. I will share this with my whole family.

        Thank you for this.

        1. Hi Anna,
          If this just makes you more conscious of your breathing that’s productive.
          Breath awareness is a great way to center ourselves in the present moment and consciously relax.
          Thanks for sharing,

      7. Marcia says:

        I recently took a Buteyko Training course. There is a little more to it than just the nose breathing and the control pause, but that is a very good start. I wanted to share that in holding the breath, it is important that you hold on the exhale as described. I have a lifelong habit of holding on the inhale, very frequently, and not exhaling enough, which causes serious problems. This may be helpful for some.

      8. As a person who has taught Buteyko breath retraining for almost 15 years, I am very pleased that Dr Mercola has embraced the Buteyko method. However, like learning to drive a car, it is one thing to read about the method and quite another to learn it by yourself. We all have different issues around breathing – rate, volume, speed, pattern are all part of it, as is the bio-mechanics of breathing – use of the scalenes and intercostals of the chest will result in more stressful breathing than diaphragmatic, for example. The control pause is a small part of the technique – it is a measurement tool as well as something an asthmatic would use to help overcome breathing difficulties. Breathing efficiently in a relaxed manner, based on one’s metabolic requirements is the root of Buteyko. For the best results, find a qualified Buteyko educator to truly see how powerful it can be.

        1. Hi Chris,
          Thanks for your insight based on your experience teaching this method.

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