Buteyko method and Wim Hof method. What is common and what is different between them? Pros and Cons of each

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More than a hundred years ago, in 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation approved a new standard for the treatment of patients, where the emphasis was on the absolute dominance of allopathic medicine, i.e. treatment using pharmaceutical drugs (1). Such medicine is not usually effective. For example, hypertension is successfully treated only in 5% of cases (MD, professor V.N.Sokrut). More and more people in today’s world are looking for drug-free treatments for various diseases.

People are tired of being sick and paying for ineffective treatments. They have become more aware that many standard treatments will not only not help them but, in some cases, can be harmful and dangerous. Therefore, intuitively, and also guided by the instinct of self-preservation, they are looking for more effective, natural ways of healing.

Hippocrates gave medicine during treatment only as a last resort. Every doctor who takes the Hippocratic Oath knows that allopathic medicine can be harmful and dangerous.

These days a large number of natural types of treatments and therapies are known. Most of them are associated with physical exercises, breathing, relaxation, lifestyle changes and diets.

It’s worth mentioning that the Buteyko method is currently the only scientifically based medical method of treatment in the world that helps with the normalization of breathing. Therefore, it has developed great popularity.

But, thanks in part to social media and the publication of Guinness World Records, the Wif Hof method of breathing and cold exposure has been notably rising in popularity recently.

Wim Hof uses breathing practice for his healing system, which is contrary to the principles of the Buteyko breathing method. Therefore, a large number of people want to understand this contradiction.

What are the similarities and differences between the Buteyko and Wim Hof methods? What are the pros and cons of each? This will be discussed in our video (article). For a more detailed understanding of this issue, we must talk a little about how the human breath works.

Let’s talk briefly about the physiology of respiration.

Breathing is the process of gas exchange. Oxygen for carbon dioxide. The body must retain gas homeostasis. This is the basis of health. A constant level of 46 mmHg of carbon dioxide in the lungs should be maintained. The level of oxygen should be 40 mm RT. Taken together this equates to a MV (minute volume) of 3 liters per minute at rest. Minute volume is the amount of gas inhaled or exhaled from a person’s lungs in one minute. If, with increased ventilation of the lungs, the carbon dioxide content becomes less than 46 mm Hg., then such ventilation is called — hyperventilation. That corresponds to an MV of over 3 liters at rest.

Extract from the K.P. Buteyko table (KP Buteyko — academician, scientist, doctor, physiologist, philosopher of medicine. Inventor of the VLDB method, 1923-2003) «Lung Ventilation Parameters” (2):

СО= 46 mm = MV 3 liters — perfect health,

СО= 36 mm = MV 5 liters — good health,

СО = 28 mm = MV 8 liters — poor health,

СО= 24 mm = MV 13 liters — very poor health,

СО= 23 mm = MV 14 liters — death.

We see from the table that the more a person consumes air, the less СОhe has and the worse his health becomes.

Therefore, K.P. Buteyko suggested the most direct way to normalize breathing is by using the «Volitional Elimination of Deep Breathing method». He theoretically substantiated his method and tested it on tens of thousands of patients in many hospitals of the USSR. Statistics on the effectiveness of his method has always exceeded the value of 90%.

Over breathing and СОloss reduces brain oxygenation. MRI SCAN. Red – yellow = highest oxygen, dark blue = least oxygen. The right-hand image shows a 40% reduction in brain oxygen after one minute of big volume breathing. (source Litchfield 1999)


Buteyko taught many people to breathe naturally, which at rest makes breathing invisible. People often ask how to breathe. Here is the answer — imperceptibly.

During physical exertion or emotional experiences, gas exchange increases, as the cells consume more oxygen and emit СО. If a person breathes only through his nose, then he retains a constant gas level of 46 mm Hg in the lungs, since the nose does not allow you to take a quick and deep breath.

Buteyko unveiled some factors that disrupt the human breath and lead to hyperventilation. Living a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most common causes of deep breathing. Buteyko also talked about factors that normalize breathing and create relaxation such as through cold exposure.

Two basics of the Wim Hof method are movement and cold exposure. For example, running in cold weather.  These elements of the Wim Hof method are very effective. For reference, in Russia and many other countries, cold exposure for many people is a natural event in their lives. On the feast of Epiphany on January 19, people dive en masse into an ice hole and this is a common thing. World famous Parfiry Ivanov, who never wore clothes, also cured many people with cold exposure. A common occurrence in Russia is a going to a bathhouse, where for several consecutive hours, a person changes between high temperatures above 100 degrees, to low, between — 10-30 degrees. This temperature contrasting is also effective. Many people also just dive into an ice-hole in the -40 degree cold for fun: https://youtu.be/y-PqgiTJCVs

But without relaxation, it is very difficult to withstand the cold. Many Wim Hof students cannot immediately take cold temperatures, this takes time and a level by level «phasing» approach.

Tempering and relaxation according to Wim Hof leads to a decrease in lung ventilation. For example, before cold exposure, a person breathed 10 liters per minute and had dangerously low levels of СОin his lungs (26 mm Hg). After relaxation and cold, the ventilation of the lungs decreases to 6 liters per minute and the person has an improved СОrate of 32 mmHg. (2). Therefore, according to both theory and practice, we know that cold exposure is good for your health! You just need to ensure that there is a gradual, step by step exposure, so as not to cause harm.

Here we can note a SIMILARITY between the methods of Wim Hof and Buteyko.

However, we see that before the start of cold exposure or ice baths, Wim Hof performs breathing practice himself and teaches other people about it.

The essence of the Wim Hof breathing practice comes down to the repeated change from intense, active breathing to breath holding.

A person creates high-level hyperventilation, where the level of СОis critically reduced. At this stage, his body, according to the Henderson – Hasselbalch equation, has acute alkalization.

ACID-BASE NOMOGRAM (Reproduced with permission from Brenner BM, Rector FC [editors]. Brenner & Rector’s the Kidney, 8th ed. Saunders/Elsevier, 2008.)


Wim Hof then holds his breath, raising his СОlevel to a critical level. During this process our body has acute acidification.

ACID-BASE NOMOGRAM (Reproduced with permission from Brenner BM, Rector FC [editors]. Brenner & Rector’s the Kidney, 8th ed. Saunders/Elsevier, 2008.)

This contradicts the Buteyko method, where breathing should be without pauses and without hyperventilation.

Here we can note a DIFFERENCE between the Wim Hof and Buteyko method.

After such breathing according to Wim Hof (which leads to acute alkalization and acute acidification), the human body is ready for cold temperatures. The pH stress experienced by the body with these swings in pH helps a person overcome stress and fear of cold temperatures. Yes, it can lead to world records, but it greatly wears out the body and it quickly ages and dies. The average person does not need to accomplish such records.

We believe that for training with cold temperatures, you first need to relax the body and make breathing very small.

It should be noted that the Wim Hof method does not lead the body to relaxation, but rather to intense tension in order to lower one’s sensitivity to cold temperatures.

This is another sign of how the two methods differ.

The Buteyko method reduces breathing to a normal level in order to lead to an ideal rate of СО(46 mmHg), then, according to the Bohr effect, the cell will receive more oxygen and the person will be warmed by natural heat in the cold.

The Bohr effect, in essence, means that the more carbon dioxide is in the lungs, the more oxygen enters the cells.

You will find that if you take off your clothes in the cold and relax, then the cold does not cause problems. On the other hand, if the body is strained and tries to protect itself from cold by muscle tension, it will become even colder.

Pros and Cons:

Pros of the Wim Hof method:

  • It involves active cold exposure and a movement-based lifestyle, both of which have a positive effect on physical and mental health.

Cons of the Wim Hof method:

  • It involves an incorrect method of breathing as a prep for cold exposure which could be harmful to the body over time.

Pros of the Buteyko method:

  • It is a fundamental approach to human health according to physiology
  • it has both rich practical and clinical experience.
  • it is scientifically sound.

Cons of the Buteyko method:

  • There are few specialists who exist and few training centers that train instructors on this method.
  • There is not much media support or exposure of it.
  • It is in competition and opposition with allopathic medicine, which makes the Buteyko method relatively unknown.


Author: Alik Mullahmetov, Buteyko instructor, founder of the Respiratory System health school.


Evidence materials:

  1. The newspaper «News of medicine and pharmacy» No. 12 (667), 2018. «To be healthy or to be treated: choose for yourself.» Authors: Apanasenko G.L., Professor. Web: mif-ua.com/archive/article/46637
  2. The publication “Buteyko Method. Experience of implementation in medical practice «, Moscow,» Patriot «1990


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