Breathing Techniques: What Works for What
Breathing techniques: overview
Breathing techniques can be divided on several categories. This page analyzes some, most known or most popular respiration methods only.
1. Breathing techniques that involve manipulation of the inhaled air (by changes air composition) or blood injections. Click the tab “Air/Blood” above to read more about these procedures.
2. Breathing techniques that change air composition due to application of respiration devices. Some examples of these methods are the Frolov respiration device, Samozdrav, Carbonic, DIY breathing device, and so forth (click “Devices” for more detail).
3. There is also a large group of sport devices which are promoted to improve sport performance and fitness. These respiration trainers include the Training Mask, New Breath, PowerLung, Expand-a-lung, PowerBreath, and several others. Read more about them after you click on the tab “For sport”.
4. Breathing devices can also be used during sleep, for example, to prevent sleep apnea. Examples are mouth taping at night, CPAP (Constant Positive Airway Pressure) machines, and other sleep-related devices and methods studied in clinical studies. Click the tab “For sleep”.
5. Proper breathing techniques that does not involve the previous methods and rely purely on the abilities of the human body to control or change own breathing. These methods include the Buteyko breathing system, yoga pramayama, fire breathing (another hatha yoga technique), meditations visualizations, and numerous deep breathing exercises (see the tab “Proper” for more info).
This YouTube video explains how to choose breathing techniques wisely.
Breathing methods with direct changes in air or blood composition
Some of these methods and their examples are described on this page: CO2 inhalation and injections. Note that application of many breathing devices, such as the Frolov respiration device, also causes predictable changes in air composition with increased CO2 and reduced O2 levels in the inspired air.
In addition to this method, there are numerous studies that involved adding extra oxygen (hyperoxic air, up to 100% O2) or providing air with reduced oxygen concentration (similar to hypoxic training that takes place naturally at high altitude).
Breathing devices for better health
Simple respiratory devices became very popular in Russia and some other former Soviet republics due to involvement of 100s of medical professionals in their study and promotion.
The most known example is the Frolov respiration device. Samozdrav, Carbonic, and DIY breathing device are other examples of respiratory devices with similar physiological effects during breathing sessions that are conducted at rest.
Depending on the specifics of a breathing session, these devices increase carbon dioxide levels and reduce oxygen levels in the inspired air and alveoli of the lungs. Thus, they are based on intermittent hypercapnic hypoxic training. The degree of these changes depend on the geometry of the device and specific application instructions used during sessions.
Breathing techniques for sports and fitness
Currently, the Training Mask is probably the most popular and known breathing device used by athletes (but there are definite benefits of the Training Mask 2.0 for ordinary people as well).
Russian researchers developed “New Breath” that can be also used during physical exercise since the previous generation of respiratory gadgets, like PowerLung, Expand-a-lung, PowerBreathe, and UltraBreathe, could not be used while exercising.
One version of “New Breath” can be used while swimming, and, hence, this method can be described as “breathing technique for swimming”.
Reviews of some of these devices will be prepared later.
Breathing methods for better sleep
Adding extra dead space, even by wearing a simple dust mask or a surgical mask, makes breathing slower and deeper during sleep while increasing its regularity due to a very mild increase in alveolar carbon dioxide levels.
Therefore, nearly any method or breathing technique that increases dead volume helps to reduce apneic episodes reducing problems with sleep apnea. Medical studies proved efficiency and immediate benefits of such methods.
A simplest breathing technique that stops mouth breathing involves a use of a surgical tape to tape one’s mouth during sleep. The method is safe and has been used by thousands of Buteyko breathing students.
Proper breathing techniques
Finally, the most natural breathing methods include proper breathing techniques that does not involve any gadgets or devices that change air composition. A person can voluntary control own breathing during breathing sessions.
This takes place during an ancient yoga slow-breathing exercise called pranayama. Millions of people have used this exercise worldwide for more than 20 centuries. Yoga and pranayama were nearly synonyms centuries ago. But modern yoga is about poses or asanas. For more details about yoga and the breath, see the Amazon book “Yoga benefits are in breathing less”. Another yoga technique is known as firebreath or bhastrika. It involves fast and short inhalations-exhalations.
Pursed lip breathing have been used by medical professionals around the world for many decades. It involves creation of light resistance during exhalations using pursed lips.
Correctly done meditation, visualization, tao methods, prayer, and many other relaxing activities (even being in nature with its power of sounds) are also examples of breathing techniques but with mild or light physiological effects.
The most dynamic breathing system that exploded in the Western world during last two decades is the Buteyko breathing method. This system is based on the reduced breathing exercise, but lifestyle changes and physical exercise with nose breathing are key factors for overall success since the purpose of this method is to normalize automatic breathing.
This idea of breathing normalization is sensible owing that over 95% of modern people have too heavy breathing at rest and during sleep, while the degree of overbreathing (or hyperventilation) is even stronger in people with chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, COPD, and many others.
Note that, in spite of proven physiological evidence, most people believe that breathing more air provides more oxygen for organs and cells of the body.