The Buteyko (Bhew-tae-ko) Breathing Method is recognised by the Russian medical authorities. Not alone that, but it has been backed up by two independent scientific trials held in the Western world. The method has received widespread attention including a detailed debate in the UK House of Commons in July 2001. Evidence from thousands of people worldwide who improved their lives forever by applying Buteyko breathing exercises is also available.
This non-medical treatment is based on the life’s work of Russian respiratory physiologist, Professor Konstantin Buteyko, who developed a programme of exercises to foster correct breathing. The Buteyko Breathing Method is based on bodily processes and not on a placebo effect.
There are three ways of controlling asthma. The first and most important is learning to breathe through the lungs’ natural defence the nose combined with correct breathing. The second is living a life balanced by proper nutrition, regular exercise and relaxation. The third avenue is using preventative and relieving asthma medication.
Think of it as a three-way junction where you, the person with asthma, can choose the direction. The first two avenues are like the scenic routes: they’re entirely natural, proven and improve overall health, but require personal commitment and an investment of time and energy. The third avenue is the one most often travelled by people like you but it never addresses the root cause of your breathing problem. The third avenue also involves taking chemicals which are alien to your body. Sooner or later, your body fights back or submits to the continuous use of powerful drugs.
I’m often told that people with asthma are fortunate to have such a wide range of medication available to them now, and I agree. We are fortunate. However, as a person with asthma myself, I feel that being dependent on medication for survival generates feelings of weakness and vulnerability. That being said, I always stress to my patients that medication, especially preventer medication, is very important, but that they should take enough to maintain control no more and no less. Likewise, I advise patients to try to avoid situations that are likely to trigger an attack.
I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, a condition that worsened as I grew older until I discovered Buteyko Breathing through a newspaper article. I learned as much as I could, self-taught the techniques, and found myself gradually reducing the amount of medication I had to take to control my asthma.
When I experienced the impressive benefits of the Buteyko Breathing Method, I wondered why more people didn’t know about it or how to apply it to their own lives. I decided to explore the possibility of training so that I could teach this beautiful and simple method to asthma sufferers like myself. I found out that I could enrol at the Buteyko Institute of Moscow and, after many trials and tribulations, I started my training under Dr Andrey Novozhilov and Dr Luidmilla Buteyko.
Since I finished my training in March 2002, the knowledge I gained in Moscow has been complemented by my own research, by consulting with asthma specialists from different parts of the world, and my experience of working with asthma patients from all parts of Ireland at clinics and workshops that I now conduct.
The simple question is: does it work? In a word: yes. Some patients achieve excellent results effortlessly, but with others it takes a little more time and determination. The success of this therapy for every patient depends on the patient’s ability to put the theory into practice. There is no big mystery this therapy is based on normal body processes. Scientific trials have shown clearly that the Buteyko Method can be one hundred per cent effective in the treatment of asthma.
The only real key to the effectiveness of the therapy is that individuals are prepared to set aside the necessary time to learn and practice the exercises.
I commend those of you who, on reading this book, will decide to make that effort. I can honestly say that your investment of time and energy will be gratifying, and that it will transform your life… for the rest of your life.
I can hear you thinking that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that there’s always a catch. There is no catch this time. Once you learn how to control your own asthma, you are in charge of your own life and treatment. This therapy is about teaching you the skills to deal with your own asthma problem; my job is essentially to make myself redundant.
This book, written by a person with asthma for people with asthma, contains essential information to help you deal with your condition. Each exercise is a simplified version to make the contents as user-friendly as possible in the hope that you will be able to understand and appreciate this approach, and that you will be able to apply it practically to your own asthma problem.
Included is a special section for children who naturally will have difficulty understanding breathing patterns. Every child who comes to me is told how lucky he or she is to be learning a therapy as effective as this, a therapy that deals with what otherwise would be a life-long illness… without medicine, tablets, hospital visits or injections.
At our clinics in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo and Athlone, patients receive the practical help and training exercises are tailored taking into account individual nuances. My clinics also deal with any questions patients may have, and so they are a useful way of exchanging information.
Feedback from those who attend our clinics has been extremely helpful in furthering my own knowledge of asthma, in developing the content of future clinics, and also in the writing of this book.
There’s another simple question you may have at this point: why is the Buteyko method not better known? That’s a good question, and one to which I don’t have a clear answer. Looking at the current situation openly, however, one of the most striking features is that medical research is mainly funded by pharmaceutical companies, in one form or another. Asking the pharmaceutical industry to fund research into a method such as Buteyko with its non-medication approach is perhaps like asking turkeys to vote in favour of Christmas. The usual answer is that there has been insufficient research for authoritative judgments to be made.
If a non-medication approach to asthma such as the Buteyko Method achieved widespread acceptance in Ireland, there would be massive savings in the national health budget. Given the potential for savings, the Department of Health should be interested in commissioning or supporting research into the method. To date, there has been no indication of any awareness of this potential by the Department.
My main aim is to help people overcome their asthma-related problems by using the Buteyko Breathing Method. When enough people have experienced the benefits, I hope that public opinion might have enough leverage on medical authorities to encourage them to assess Professor Buteyko’s method with an open mind. If that happens, then at least there will be a long-delayed debate on the subject.
I am open to any comments, suggestions or criticism which you may have regarding this book. Constant feedback from my patients has already improved my understanding of asthma and my ability to help people.
All this therapy involves is a commitment to observation of breathing and practice of simple breathing exercises, plus a reasonably well-balanced lifestyle. The reward is freedom. The prize is freedom from asthma.
I wish you every success in applying this tried and tested method developed by an extraordinary Russian doctor.
Patrick McKeown BA MA (TCD) Dip. Buteyko (Moscow)