Breathing through the Premenstrual Phase

Natalie Burtenshaw | 24 February, 2021

            Breathing through the Premenstrual Phase

During my breathwork journey there have been many light bulb or aha moments that have strengthened my position on the 'magic of the breath'.

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to Patrick McKeown at the 'Inspiration Festival', on his findings on women and the importance of breathing with in your cycle; I was completely hooked and needed to know more. Post event I contacted Patrick who kindly shared his findings with me.
Before I share, I want to state that without knowledge and a firm understanding of the very being that is you, it would be impossible to feel any kind of benefit from cycle breathing.
Breathing into your cycle can literally only happen once you have connected with your seasons and understand fully the role of each phase.


Inner Autumn ~ Premenstrual phase

This is the time between between ovulation (summer) and menstruation (winter). It is the time when Progesterone peaks then drops very quickly.  Progesterone stimulates the respiratory rate, meaning that in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, carbon dioxide levels drop by around 25 percent . Any extra stress can cause breathing to speed up even further when CO2 levels are already low, and this creates a range of symptoms that are commonly interpreted as premenstrual syndrome.



Changes I've made

During my autumn I now incorporate breathing exercises into my daily routine which are calming and stress reducing. I also do a daily breathing test, BOLT score to see the range of my breath health at this time. {please see video below}

Breathwork for the Premenstrual Phase 

* Breath Holds

By holding the breath for short periods of time, the gas nitric oxide (NO) slightly pools inside the nasal cavity and the gas carbon dioxide (CO2) slightly increases in the blood. Upon resumption of breathing, breathe in so as to carry NO from the nasal cavity into the lungs. As you hold your breath, you may feel a light hunger for air. This signifies that the gas CO2 is increasing in your blood. Both gases play an important role in opening airways, improving blood circulation and allowing more oxygen to be delivered to the cells. This exercise is ideal for a warm up, to help reduce stress, asthma symptoms and breathing recovery following physical exercise



  • Sit on a chair and imagine a piece of string gently pulling you upwards towards the ceiling. 
  • Imagine and feel the space between your ribs widening. 


  • Take a normal breath in and out through the nose.
  • As you breathe out, pinch your nose with your fingers to hold the breath for 5 seconds. 5,4,3,2,1
  • Let go of your nose and breathe in and out through your nose for ten seconds. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
  • Repeat

As you hold your breath nitric oxide pools inside the nasal cavity. Breathing in after 

 the breath hold will carry nitric oxide into the lungs. There it will help open the airways and improve oxygen uptake in the blood.

You should not feel stressed while doing the exercise. If the air hunger is too much, 

 then hold the breath for 3 seconds only.


    • Calming exercise in times of stress
    • Emergency exercise to help with asthma, panic attack & hyperventilation


    * Studies in rats have shown that withdrawal of the female hormone progesterone increased susceptibility to panic-related anxiety, indicating that the lower levels of progesterone during the days before the period may be a trigger.

    *The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are directly related to hyperventilation. In a 2006 study it was found that women with PMS experience a much greater decline in blood carbon dioxide in the premenstrual phase than women who do not experience symptoms.


    *Copyright © 2017 Patrick McKeown


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