The Comfortable Pause
I’d like to share with you a simple way of testing the health of your breath. The Comfortable Pause (also known as the Control Pause or BOLT (Body Oxygen Level Test)) is central to the Buteyko method. It is an indicator of your tolerance to Carbon Dioxide. Consequently it may pick up on breathing dysfunctions such as over-breathing (hyperventilation).
But I breathe just fine….
In my experience people get really defensive when you suggest they check their breathing. Either people are reluctant to believe that something we do about 20,000 times a day can go wrong. Or they get offended that you are suggesting they might not be doing it right. I get it. I teach breathing for a living, and have been practising Pranayama for about 30 years. But even I had to accept when I studied Buteyko with Patrick McKeown, that my breathing wasn’t functional. Dysfunctional breathing isn’t just mouth or chest breathing. The odd sigh or yawn, talking too much, or breathing incorrectly at night also count.
The chemistry of breath is complicated and the purpose of this article isn’t to explain that. Check out other articles on the Blog for more information. The aim here is to give you a simple way to check your breath regularly. Lots of things can knock your Carbon Dioxide tolerance, such as illness, medication, stress, snoring, or talking more than usual. I use this as a way to check my breathing most days. Checking first thing in the morning (after you’ve been up for 5 or 10 minutes, and before your morning coffee!) is generally the best time to do this for consistency. You will need a timer.
How to do it
Sit comfortably and settle.
Inhale normally through the nose, and exhale normally through the nose.
After the exhale, pinch your nose and hold the breath out of the body.
Time how long it takes for you to feel the first urge to breathe in. This is usually felt as a contraction of the diaphragm or tightening of the throat.
This is NOT a test to see how long you can hold your breath. It is a measure of how long it takes your body to react to a lack of air / build up of carbon dioxide. This is why it’s called a Comfortable Pause – do not hold the breath out so long that you are panicking and gasping for air.
When you feel the initial urge to breathe in, remove your fingers from your nose, and look at the timer. Breathe in through your nose calmly.
What does it mean?
The ideal score for a healthy person is 40 seconds plus!
Anything under 25 seconds is considered dysfunctional.
Under 10 is problematic.
Re-building Carbon Dioxide tolerance takes time and a great deal of patience & determination. But, there are a list of ailments associated with lowered CO2 tolerance the length of your arm, ranging from fatigue, to rashes, to digestive issues, so can you afford not to? Investing in your breath is never time wasted – as well as boosting health, Carbon Dioxide is a mild sedative, and a vaso-dilator. It will restore your balance and calm. The ancient yogis identified the Comfortable Pause as the door to enlightenment. Just saying….
We offer breath coaching if you would like to work on your breath.