A note of caution
Now is the time to sound a note of caution. Before Buteyko Breathing is commenced this section should be read carefully. While Buteyko Breathing is a perfectly safe therapy, it can involve an element of risk for people with particular illnesses or susceptibilities.
Please note the following in particular:
• If you experience an exacerbation of your symptoms, then you are not doing the exercises correctly and you should stop until you establish that you can do them correctly.
Do not commence breath retraining if you have any of the following conditions: sickle cell anaemia; arterial aneurysm; very high uncontrolled blood pressure; any heart problems in the past three months; uncontrolled hyperthyroidism; a known brain tumour or kidney disease.
• If you suffer from any of the following, then you should only undertake breath retraining under the direct supervision of an experienced qualified Buteyko practitioner: diabetes; (a reversal of hyperventilation will increase blood sugar levels which may in turn lead to a coma, exercises must be performed only with an experienced Buteyko practitioner in conjunction with an endocrinologist) severe asthma; emphysema; epilepsy; schizophrenia; unsatisfactory blood pressure levels or chest pains or pain in the heart region.
• If you have any of the above conditions, or if you experience any distress, or are in any way unsure, please refrain from doing exercises involving holding the breath beyond the first feeling of a need for air. Exercises involving holding the breath include nose unblocking, maximum pause, breath-hold during physical exercise and Steps. If you are in any doubt as to whether breath retraining may be suitable for you, please contact Asthma Care (see Appendix 6 for contact information).
What to expect
Roughly two thirds of those who apply breath retraining will experience a cleansing reaction within the first two weeks and each time the control pause increases by ten seconds. Reduced breathing leads to an increased blood flow and better oxygenation of all internal organs especially eliminatory organs. Cleansing reactions are indicative of the powerful physiological change which the body undergoes.
For people with asthma, the most common reaction is excess mucus from the nose and airways. For a few days and weeks, the nose may be runny, especially during physical activity with nasal breathing. It is also possible to experience an increased amount of mucus moving up from the lower airways. Mucus that was previously trapped is released by a dilation of the airways and is brushed upwards to the throat. If it is green or yellow, spit it out. Most importantly, do not force the mucus to the throat. If necessary a gentle throat clearing will suffice. Let the mucus come up naturally because forcing mucus up without addressing hyperventilation will only lead to the creation of more mucus.
In addition, you may experience other symptoms such as a slight headache, diarrhoea, nausea, excessive tiredness with increased yawning, mild depression, general ‘flu like symptoms, insomnia, a bad taste from the mouth, foamy saliva, coloured urine, a greatly reduced appetite or a general feeling of being unwell. People who have been on a large course of steroids may be able to smell the tablets/medicine through their skin.
Do not be alarmed if you do experience some symptoms. This is simply your body readjusting to a healthier way of life. Symptoms are, in general, not disruptive and will pass in two or three days. Like any detoxifying process of the body, there is a short adjustment phase. Many people look forward to the reaction because it is direct feedback as their body cleanses itself after all those years of bad breathing.
Do the following to help reduce the intensity and duration of cleansing reactions:
• Drink warm water regularly throughout the day.
• Continue with reduced breathing by relaxation.
• Take pain relievers, such as a headache tablet, if necessary.
Most importantly, do not stop doing the exercises when you experience a cleansing reaction. The symptoms are a direct result of overbreathing and the control pause (explained later) will increase when the cleansing reaction has passed.
On a positive note, everyone will experience signs of health improvement including: fewer asthma symptoms; less coughing, wheezing and congestion especially in the mornings; increased calmness and concentration; better sleep and more energy, and reduced appetite and cravings for coffee, chocolate and other foodstuffs.