Measure your Relative Breathing Volume with the Control Pause

The Control Pause (CP) test is central to the Buteyko Method as a measurement of how long you can comfortably hold your breath. This simple test helps to determine your sensitivity to carbon dioxide and susceptibility to breathlessness. As you continue to practise Buteyko Method exercises you will find that your measurement steadily increases and your symptoms of breathlessness decrease.

The Control Pause Test

from the book Close Your Mouth by Patrick McKeown


  • Sit down and adopt a reasonably straight posture;
  • Take a small breath in and let a small breath out (the breath should not be noticeable);
  • Hold your nose on the exhalation. Your lungs should be mostly empty but not completely devoid of air. Holding your nose is necessary to prevent air entering into the airways;
  • Count how many seconds you can comfortably hold your breath before you need to take a breath in. (Please note that this is not a test of how long you can hold your breath using willpower, but simply until you feel the first physical urges to breathe.)
  • Release your nose and breathe in through it;
  • Continue to breathe normally through your nose. Your first intake of breath after the Control Pause should be no greater than your breath prior to taking measurement. If you need to take a big breath after measuring the Control Pause it is a sign that you have held your breath for too long.
    The level of carbon dioxide in the body determines the length of time the breath can be held; a higher level of carbon dioxide corresponds to a longer breath hold. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the blood helps to reduce the symptoms of over-breathing and lower breathing volume to a normal level. A lower breathing volume also assist with general health, sports performance and is a natural appetite suppressant, leading to easy weight loss.

What is the Significance of the Control Pause?

The Control Pause test helps to determine breathing volume and tolerance to carbon dioxide in the blood. Carbon dioxide is required in the blood in order to release oxygen to muscles and organs. Over-breathing reduces carbon dioxide levels and therefore decreases oxygenation of the body.

When CP is low, breathing volume does not match the body’s metabolic requirements, which results in an increased severity of hyperventilation-related symptoms. If your Control Pause is less than 20 seconds it is highly likely that you will regularly experience symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, breathlessness, blocked nose, fatigue, and sleep-disordered breathing.

The closer your CP is to 40 seconds, the better the match between breathing volume and metabolic requirements, and the greater the oxygenation of the body. It is common for people in the Western world to have a Control Pause of between 5 and 15 seconds, indicating a prevalence of habitual over-breathing.

By practising the Buteyko Method using books, DVDs, or with the tutelage of a Buteyko practitioner, you will be able to increase your CP until you have reduced or completely eradicated the symptoms associated with over-breathing. Every time your Control Pause increases by five seconds you will experience significant changes to your health and enjoyment of life.