Close your mouth if you want to feel calm

Posted on: 15th January, 2014

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

"“Because breathing through your nose is breathing slower, every breath you take through your nostrils is calming you down. Control your breath to control your health.”

Mary O’Brien visits Charlie Maguire at The Buteyko Centre in Bantry and finds out how keeping your mouth closed and taking lighter breaths through your nose can have a positive impact on your health.

An engineer by trade, when Charlie Maguire first came across the Buteyko method of breathing 16 years ago, something instantly clicked. The theory — first discovered by a Russian doctor in 1960 — made sense to Charlie; overbreathing (hyperventilation) causes a depletion of carbon dioxide in the body and low levels of carbon dioxide in the body constricts the blood vessels, detrimentally affecting heart function. “The heavier you breathe, the less oxygen that’s actually delivered throughout your body due to lack of carbon dioxide,” says Charlie. “Diseases develop best in conditions where there is no oxygen, so overbreathing is damaging to our health.”

Hyperventilation is not reserved for the most extreme and visible cases. Hyperventilation simply means ‘an increase in the function of the lungs above the normal recommended amount’. “The fundamental driver we call stress is hyperventilation,” explains Charlie “and this causes reactions, which puts the body off balance.”

From the time we are born, we are encouraged to take deep breaths, yet the theory behind the Buteyko Method explains how a deepening of breathing does not mean an increase in oxygen uptake, on the contrary it causes a decrease in oxygenation, which leads to hypoxia, imbalance in the acid-alkali balance, and cell-spasming. Eating processed foods, which tend to acidify your blood in an attempt to maintain normal pH, will also make you breathe heavier.

According to Charlie, simply keeping our mouths closed and taking lighter breaths through our nose from the bottom of the diaphragm can have a huge impact on our health. “Because breathing through your nose is breathing slower, every breath you take through your nostrils is calming you down. Control your breath to control your health,” he says.

Meeting Charlie for the first time (or for the first few minutes at least) can be slightly daunting, as it’s clear he’s taking mental notes on everything, from how many times you breathe through your mouth, to the colour of your complexion to the way you walk in the door. It’s difficult to fathom how this fifty-five year-old manages to exude such a strong energy himself, without even opening his mouth; his body seems to radiate vitality — he is in fact a walking advertisement for the power of controlled breathing. On a side note, Charlie is also a farmer, martial arts instructor and trained nutritionist.

Charlie explains that the normal amount of air we should be breathing is three to four litres per minute. The average asthmatic over-breathes between three to five times the recommended amount, sometimes more.

First brought to the west by Alexander Atalamatsky, at the behest of an Australian doctor, the Buteyko method first attracted attention as a means to control asthma, but it also controls the symptoms of over 100 common physical, stress-related ailments.

Professor Buteyko’s research has directly linked deep breathing to at least 150 diseases. He has found that diseases other than asthma such as hypertension, stenocardia, myocardial infarcts, strokes, haemorrhoids, eczema, amongst others, are all symptoms of imbalance created by deep breathing. In cases where Buteyko’s patients had these diseases, they were all cured.

For the past 16 years at The Buteyko Centre in Coomhola, Bantry, Charlie has been teaching students with all forms of the disorders, including mental and physical, caused by Chronic Hyper-Ventilation Syndrome (CHVS), which according to Russian research causes or greatly increases the severity of over 100 common chronic ailments, affecting every part of the physical and mental state. The connective principle for so many seemingly unrelated affects is…panic breathing.

Even a slight disturbance of the breathing pattern away from calm silent, permanent nasal breathing throws a chemical master switch, which controls our ‘fight or flight’ or panic systems.

“Mouth breathers are unconsciously throwing this panic switch up to 30,000 times a day, causing a permanent disturbance and drastically affecting the way the body uses oxygen,” explains Charlie.

Maria learned the Buteyko method of breathing over two weekends at the Buteyko Centre last year. “I have an auto immune condition and have experimented with many different therapies and interventions over the past fifteen years. Following the first few weeks of doing the Buteyko breathing exercises my general energy levels improved and I noticed a number of subtle but significant changes in my life. The second weekend was important to check on the technique and it gave a great opportunity to ask the questions that had arisen once I started the practice. The lessons that I learned at the Centre were not limited to Buteyko breathing and I came away feeling that they were probably two of the most important weekends in my life.”

John Doran’s first experience of the Buteyko Method was seven years ago. “My 14 year-old daughter had severe asthma. She was continually on inhalers, antibiotics and steroids. Several times she had to be put on a nebuliser. She was a keen hockey player but could only last 20 minutes on the pitch before having to use her inhaler. We attended two weekend seminars that Charlie gave in Dublin. Within two weeks all of my daughter’s symptoms had improved dramatically. She had no problems at all for five years. Her asthma returned in a mild form after a summer of bad food, very little sleep and long-haul flights. After another visit to Charlie she requires only very occasional use of her inhaler. As a pharmacist, naturopath and herbalist, I have sent many clients to Charlie with incredible results over a wide range of conditions. If he lived in Dublin, I would refer all of my clients to him.

It is a genuinely life-changing experience.”

For more information contact Charles Maguire on 083 1371994, email:


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