Breathing exercise: Buteyko vs Yoga


I find it interesting that the supposed benefits of the Buteyko technique, achieved through “shallow breathing” (and even the “control pause”) methods of breath training are contained both in the asana and pranayama repertoire of yoga. For example, in Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and Halasana (plough pose), the effect of the Jalandara Bandha (chin lock) is not only the excitation of the parasympathetic system (which results in the relaxation response) but also in creating a shallower breathing pattern resulting from the geometry of the two poses.

There is no clear, overwhelming scientific evidence supporting Buteyko’s methods to make it a mainstream method. (There are a few studies that have some effect on asthma therapeutics, but all in all are not that impressive.) However, what’s interesting is that when one views asana (and pranayama) from a Buteyko perspective (i.e., the optimization of the CO2 and oxygen balance), one can easily see that this is already “part of the curriculum” of yogic training — something that has been going on for several thousand years. Now all of a sudden, khumbaka (breath retention), is all the rage?

I think caution must be observed. Pranayama is usually taught under close supervision by an experienced teacher. The risk of neurological (and psychological) damage of careless pranayama practice without the foundation a solid asana practice, has been drilled in my head throughout the Iyengar teacher training program. Buteyko practice (as a breathing methodology) is by definition, manipulation of prana. So I would not underestimate the possible long-term effects (of a do-it-yourself approach) to managing the body’s energy system.

All I can say is, be careful!

Categories : Energy, Yoga

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