Asthma...my Buteyko Diary
I am a chronic asthmatic, and my condition is deteriorating. I have been an asthmatic
since my early 20's and have been dependent on medications for all that time. In particular,
I am totally dependent on the drug Ventolin, and cannot go anywhere without my inhaler.
This summer I have been using my inhaler 15 to 20 times a day, and this would horrify any
doctor. I have been desperate for air and utterly miserable. I have even started planning
an early retirement, and considered moving to a better climate. But why should I have to
do this when I have a good job and a lovely home and garden right here.
Last night (27/01/2003) I decided to investigate the Buteyko Breathing method, in the hope
that I might find a way of getting the asthma monkey off my back once and for all, and become
I was astonished by what I found and spent many hours reading all I could find. In particular
I found a terrific site at www.wt.com.au/~pkolb/buteyko.htm which seems to be the premier
information site on the subject. In particular I recommend that you read the testimonies at
Reading these testimonies makes you think that Buteyko is not far from being a miracle
cure for asthma. So I have decided to give Buteyko a serious try, and I will report my progress
here, from day one. Bear in mind that yesterday I used my puffer maybe 20 times and when
I went on my daily walk I was puffing most of the way, and could barely make it up slight inclines.
Having now read the Buteyko essays, I can see that a Buteyko teacher would classify me as
Buteyko is a method where the body retrains its breathing. It is based on the theory that the
body breathes too much (rather than too little as the condition of asthma would suggest)
and the need for breath needs to be dramatically reduced. The key to this retraining is to
breathe only through the nose. You should not breathe through the mouth at all.
Here is a broad outline of the buteyko method as far as I can ascertain it from the Internet.
- You must breathe only through the nose
- To assist this aim, you tape up your mouth at bedtime and at any other time that you feel
the need to do so. (Professor Buteyko, the Ukrainian pioneer of the method does not
support this practice but many people do it)
- It involves a program of breathing exercises
which must be practised faithfully until the body is reprogrammed. These exercises are hard work.
- These exercises consist of a rotation of 3 different types of breath, namely a) VSB's
(Very Shallow Breathing) b) CP's (Control Pause) and c)MP's (Maximum Pause)
- VSP...breathe very gently through the nose taking in little and exhaling little; it is almost
imperceptible. You breathe slowly "from the bottom of the stomach" and take in less air
than you feel you need so that you feel "hungry" for air. "This is the first line of defence against
Asthma and is the most important".
- CP..pause your breathing cycle somewhere in the middle, but not with empty lungs, then
hold your breath until you begin to feel uncomfortable, then return to a few minutes of VSP.
You should be able to return immediately to normal breathing without gasping or more frequent breaths.
- MP..Like a CP except that you then add a further 10 seconds or even more so that you are REALLY
uncomfortable, and then return to your VSP's. (Professor Buteyko saw no therapeutic value in
MP's and even though they are everywhere recommended I may follow Professor Buteyko in this).
- Apparently, by doing these exercises 4 times a day your breathing will improve dramatically.
- It seems that Buteyko breathers take as little as two breaths a minute and 4 seems to be a
common goal during their VSP exercises.
- One of the essays suggests that the health regime as measured by the CP is as follows:
- If your CP is less than 10 seconds you are seriously ill
- If your CP is less than 25 seconds you are unhealthy
- If your CP is 30 to 40 seconds you are OK
- If your CP is 60 seconds plus you are really healthy
Day One (27/01/2003)
So how did I measure up last night?
I found that in the totally relaxed state I was still taking 11 breaths per minute, and my CP was 15.
I decided to go to bed with my mouth taped. This was a pretty scary thing to do. I imagined that
I would suffocate and die. But I did fall asleep fairly quickly. (They say that Buteyko breathers enjoy
fantastic sleeps). I slept for the first time on my left side as this is also recommended.
In the early hours of the morning I awoke feeling asthmatic. My instinct was to reach for my puffer;
I was feeling quite frantic and struggling for breath. But I decided not to give in and to practice some
CP's instead. I was very uncomfortable for this time and worried that I really should be taking the
Ventolin. But eventually I fell asleep again and woke up a few hours later.
Today I am going to begin my formal exercise program.
Caution: It is highly advisable that you attend a proper Buteyko course, rather than the DIY
method. I will be looking for one at the first opportunity.
Day Two (28/01/2003)
This method is absolutely astonishing, one day on. I have not used my ventolin at all today,
and except for one period just after lunch I have not felt even the mildest symptoms of asthma.
My mistake was to eat too much at a work luncheon and I felt a bit wheezy for a couple of hours.
However, I refused to touch the Ventolin and focused on the breathing exercises instead. Soon
I felt normal again, but food is obviously something to be monitored.
This compares with every day prior when I was using my Ventolin up to 20 times a day.
I notice though that sometimes my nose is almost blocked and I wonder...how do you do the breathing
exercises when that happens?
Answer: Go for a brisk walk...read on.
Buteyko seems to be nothing short of miraculous. I have not used my puffer once since starting,
compared with ave 15 puffs a day prior. Tonight I went for a very brisk 4km walk and not once did
I feel tired or short of breath. In fact I felt strong and could have kept going. Every other time I have
needed to stop for breath and use the puffer. The secret was/is the nose breathing. Close the mouth
and breathe exclusively through the nose. Go for a walk right now and try it. You will be amazed how
energised you feel. I don't know whether you will have needed to do some Buteyko exercises first;
I suspect not because just breathing through the nose is half of what Buteyko is all about. Let me know
how you fare.
Note: As the walk progresses you will notice your nose releasing fluids and soon it is all cleared up.
I am completely, absolutely and totally persuaded by the efficacy of this remedy. During the last four
days I have not used my inhaler at all. I cannot remember such a span of freedom from asthma drugs in
Once or twice I have felt the need for treatment, with a mild feeling of wheeziness, but I have immediately
applied shallow breathing techniques and soon I am calm and OK.
Some side effects have become very noticeable; my nose is incredibly clear. For most of my life I have
lived with a "blocked nose", hence the need to breathe through the mouth; and suddenly my nose is
distinctly unblocked. In fact Buteyko theory teaches that mucous is a direct product of CO2 deficiency,
acting as a shield against further assaults on the lung cells. By remedying the CO2 balance one eliminates
the need for these defences and hence the nose no longer need fill with mucous.
This in turn has led to another side effect; my sense of smell now is very acute. I go to the toilet and the
smell of urine is overwhelming. If someone now lights up a cigarette in my presence I have a very strong
reaction to it. Last night I slept without taping the mouth. I think it was a mistake as I woke up with mild asthma
symptoms, including mild gasping through the mouth. Breathing through the mouth is the origin of the
"over breathing" that Buteyko so opposes.
Day Nine (04/02/2003)
During the last nine days I have used my inhaler twice. Not twice a day, but twice only.
I find that my sleep has once or twice been interrupted by asthma and I have reached for the puffer.
Otherwise, the improvement has been miraculous. I am not totally free of asthmatic feelings; there are
quite a few times when I feel mildly asthmatic, but instead of reaching for the inhaler, I practise my
breathing and soon start to relax. If I have one problem it is the problem of complacency. When things
are going well (which is most of the time) I am tempted not to do my exercises, and presume that I am
now cured. This slackness finally caught up with me this morning when I was feeling asthmatic for
quite some time. I reminded myself that I MUST keep up the practice.
It is astonishing that during the course of 9 days I have been so well, and that my inhaler usage
has dropped to just two puffs.
I have just received in the mail a book called "Freedom from Asthma" by Alexander Stalmatski
with a foreword by Professor Buteyko. I intend to read the book and let you know what I think of it.
But you already know what I think of the Buteyko method: It is a miracle in my life.
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