What happens if you pause for too long?

If you pause for too long at the end of your out-breath, you might be more likely to take a really big gasp of air when you breathe in again, making the exercise less relaxing. Slowing the breathing down helps to relax your nervous system and we are training your body to be comfortable with a feeling of a little bit of air hunger. Whilst you can relax into the feeling of needing to breathe a little bit, if you do it too long, you will likely cause your body to tense more. You need to be able to take a silent breath in through your nose and go back to slow breathing after your pause. If you find yourself taking bigger deeper breaths and breathing faster after your pause, you have paused for too long. Try going for a shorter more relaxed pause next time.

Why do I have to walk up and down or nod my head during a pause?

You can be completely still through each level, but to help slow down your breathing or increase your pause length it is helpful to put an action into the breathing to distract your brain from the changes you are making so it is easier to pause for longer or breathe more slowly without tensing your body.

What benefit do I get from doing a daily walk with nose breathing?

When we exercise it has been shown that people with asthma often switch from nose breathing to mouth breathing sooner than those without asthma. By training yourself to nose breathe whilst walking you will warm the air and filter the air– which is less of a shock on your lungs. Cold air from mouth breathing can make the lungs tighten up. Nose breathing releases a special chemical that helps to keep your airways open.

What happens if I get out of breath on my daily walk with nose breathing?

If you get out of breath whilst you are walking with nose breathing, instead of switching to mouth breathing, stop walking. Regain your slow relaxed nose breathing whilst you are resting. When you feel ready to walk again with nose breathing continue on. Make sure as you breathe you are filling from your tummy upwards. You need to make sure your tummy rises as you breathe in before your chest rises. Like filling a glass from the bottom upwards. You will need to take deeper breaths when exercising compared to at rest. Breathe in from the bottom upwards, breathe out from the top downwards.

How can I run and breathe through my nose?

It is very difficult to start with running and nose breathing. You need to start with walking 20 minutes each day to build up your body’s ability to nose breathe during exercise. When you have mastered this without needing to take a rest to regain your nose breathing, you can add in a pause at the end of the out-breath every minute or two. Once you can pause for 35-40 steps you might be able to increase the intensity of the exercise. You might be able to cycle with nose breathing and in time run with nose breathing. Remember, any time you feel out of breath, stop, and regain your nose breathing before you continue. It takes time and practice. If you don’t feel able to run and nose breathe you can switch to breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth before you switch to in breathing in and out through your mouth.

What happens if I can’t unblock my nose?

If you are struggling to unblock your nose with the nose-clearing exercises there are different things you can do. You can breathe using pursed lip breathing. Imagine you were to slowly blow out a candle so there is a slow stream of air. Pursed lip breathing is breathing in and out of a small gap between your lips and into your tummy.

Slow your breathing down during the rest of the day and make sure you are nose breathing throughout the day. Your nose will block if you breathe too much. This is your body’s way of trying to slow your breathing down. We then fight the blocked breathing. If you slow your breathing down you can reduce the mucus blockage.

Consider if there may be something blocking the breathing – if you have broken your nose in the past or have polyps these can block the nasal passageways and no matter how much you do your nip and nod exercise it won’t change it. In this case pursed lip breathing is helpful.

Lastly, it may be dietary related. Foods such as added sugar, wheat, dairy, yeast, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and fast food can all increase the amount of mucus your body makes and in some cases can speed up your breathing patterns. Try eating more fresh salad and greens and fruit and veg as a way of reducing the amount of mucus. Too many refined carbs (white flour products) and too much dairy can make some more prone to mucus which will block the airways. If you need more advice on this please contact Alison through the contact form.

Should my chest move when I breathe?

When you are breathing at rest all the breathing movement should happen in your tummy. Your chest can stay completely relaxed. If you find your chest tightening through the exercises check that you are breathing into your tummy, and letting your chest completely rest. When you use your diaphragm to breathe you can let your chest and shoulders stay soft. It is only when you do more physical exercise that you will need to breathe into your tummy and then up into your chest, for example when you walk or cycle or run.

How can I increase my progress if my breath pause is not improving?

If you find your breath pause at the end of your out-breath isn’t increasing much and you can’t get an improvement or reach 45 seconds (the most you ever need to do) you can do your breathing exercises during a daily walk. Instead of just nose breathing and walking for 20 minutes, try adding in a breath pause and counting how many steps you can take in the pause. You can try doing a pause at the end of your out-breath every minute or two. You can hold your nose and count your steps. You must be able to return to slow relaxed nose breathing into your tummy after 2 breaths. When you do the exercises at rest – your return to slow relaxed nose breathing into your tummy must be immediate. Do at least 5 – 10 pauses during your walk with at least a minute or two nose breathing into your tummy in between each pause. How many steps can you take in your pause?


Walking up and down on the spot creates more carbon dioxide in your body. When carbon dioxide rises this is what causes your brain to tell you to breathe in. If you increase the carbon dioxide you make through exercise and you become more comfortable with pausing your breathing for longer, in the times when you usually want to breathe more when you are struggling to catch your breath, you can more easily relax into the air hunger and improve your body’s ability to cope with a slightly higher and healthier carbon dioxide level. Often when we breathe too much the carbon dioxide is too low and our body gets used to a much lower level and we need to breathe too much.

How many seconds should you be able to pause before reviewing medication?

You should never make any unsupervised medication changes. With Buteyko breathing exercises it is advisable to do a medication review when you can consistently pause for more than 25 seconds and return to slow relaxed nose breathing into your tummy (not your chest) afterwards.

How long should I be able to pause at the end of my out-breath?

It is important to remember that it isn’t always the length of your breath pause that is important, but how well you can relax your body during the breath pause. Professor Buteyko who invented the breathing techniques that form the basis of this breathing course suggested that 45 seconds would be an ideal length of pause at the end of your outbreath. You must be able to also return immediately to slow relaxed nose breathing into your belly not your chest.

Can I pause for too long?

Yes – there is no benefit to pausing for more than 1 minute at the end of your outbreath.

Why do I need to practice every day for four weeks?

Your breathing is a behaviour and unlike many behaviours they form habits. It is one of the easier habits to change. In order to change a habit your body needs to practice something for at least four weeks in order to make a new habit. The more you practice the new habit the easier it will be to do it without thinking about it.

What should I do if the practice makes my breathing worse?

You may be pausing for too long or tensing your body. Check to see if you are tensing your tummy or shoulders. Are you letting your chest relax and just breathing into your tummy?

I’m finding it difficult to just breathe into my tummy and not my chest – what should I do?

After you have made sure you can breathe through your nose – do the nose clearing exercises first- lay down on your bed. Put a small bean bag or small teddy on your tummy and practice making the teddy move up and down with your breathing. You can put a hand on your chest and a hand on your tummy and make sure it is just the hand on your tummy that is moving as you breathe in and out slowly.

How can I use this to help relieve symptoms of stress/anxiety as a teenager?

If you don’t have asthma and want to reduce the feelings of stress in your body, don’t worry about how long you pause for. Do a shorter pause if necessary and during the pause, focus on the area of your body that feels tense and see if you can imagine giving the area of tension a big hug and as you pause let that area of your body melt and soften. When you breathe in again, imagine breathing underneath the area of tension in your body and imagine you can let everything soften as you breathe out.

Just doing slow breathing in for four seconds and out for six seconds can be very useful. You don’t need to push the out-breath. When you come to the natural end of your exhale, just pause for a second or two. Wait for your body to want to take the next breath in. In this way, you can start to watch your body breathe for you. Your in breath is active, your outbreath is passive and fully relaxed. Pause and watch your body breathe in…..and then let go as your body automatically breathes out….pause…..wait for your body to breathe in…..just keep watching your breath breathe itself.

How many times a day should I practice?

For the most progress it is ideal to practice three times a day. You can still make progress by doing your exercises twice a day. If you only have chance to do it once a day, it is better than nothing. Try to do some breathing practice every day for a month to make a new habit.

What happens if I miss a day?

If you miss a day, don’t worry, it may mean that you need to do a few extra days of breathing practice at the end of the course. Try to do it 2-3 x the next day.

When will I see an improvement in my breathing?

You might begin to see an improvement in your breathing by the time you can comfortably pause for 25 seconds. If you can be really focused on nose breathing, you might see some progress in being able to breathe more easily through your nose in the first week or two.

What is a healing crisis?

When you practice the breathing exercises sometimes your body wants to do a spring clean so it can have a cold or flu like symptoms as a way of clearing some of the waste out of the body. Once your body has had a clear out, you can often find your breathing improves automatically after this. If you are producing more mucus, you can use steam breathing with pursed lip breathing through the mouth if you are finding it hard to nose breathe.

What is the stop cough?

Sometimes asthma can present as a cough, and the more we cough the more it irritates the airways and causes you to cough more. Instead of coughing you can huff or use the stop cough method. You can watch the video here

Why do we do the pauses at the end of the out-breath?

Your body tenses a bit as you breathe in and it stretches your body. When you breathe out, everything in your body relaxes. Asthma can present a difficulty in breathing out and fully letting go. In order to change this – we encourage you to pause at the end of each outbreath, just for a second or two. And then every couple of minutes during the exercises we do a longer pause to increase the relaxation and get your body comfortable with the feeling of air hunger that would usually make you want to breathe more. By increasing the pause time, you can feel more able to relax your breathing rate all of the time.

What does pausing your breathing do?

Pausing your breathing helps you to notice where the tension builds in your body when you need to breathe in. It teaches you how to relax with the feeling of air hunger, which is a similar feeling when you feel unable to breathe with an asthma attack. By training your body to relax with air hunger and pause for longer, it relaxes your drive to breathe, which means you breathe more slowly more of the time, and that helps to keep your body and breathing more relaxed.

How does slow breathing help?

Slow breathing helps to relax your fight and flight nervous system that makes us breathe too much. When we breathe too much a lot of the systems in our body get out of balance. It is fine to breathe more when we exercise, but if we are always breathing more and it becomes a habit, your body thinks there is a stress all of the time. Eventually our body gets tired of feeling this stress. The asthma attack is what happens when your body gets tired of the stress of breathing just a little bit too much all of the time. Your body is trying to make your breathing slow down to try to find balance again. However, we tend to fight this tightening and constricting, which makes matters worse. If we can learn how to keep our breathing slower it tells our brain and nervous system that we are more relaxed and it doesn’t need to have an attack to be able to find balance, you just maintain your balance more of the time.

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