Shalom group!

It's been about a month or so that Iv'e been a "passive" member of this group. I've been trying desperately to post some messages, but I'm having problems with the computer system in my university.

In any case, I was very excited to find this group, and even more surprised to see the excessive discussion about Buteyko, which I thought nobody, but really nobody has heard of, except for here in Israel with the vast Russian immigration (and of course here it is not well-known either.

So here is a brief history of me and my asthma:

I'm Gali, a 24 year old girl, suffering from severe asthma since the age of 1.5 years.

Severe asthma means:

  1. 15-20 puffs of Ventolin a day.
  2. About 20 hospitalizations, including twice in the intensive care unit (once with a 3-day intubation and coma), and a similar number of visits in the ER, when the only solution is intravenous Aminophylline + Hydrocortisone.
  3. Lung tests that show FEV of 30% before and after bronchodilator.
  4. Prednisone dependency (oral).

Well, it is true that I have never taken any treatment regularly (except for the various "S.O.S" medications) - a total denial, one could say. I guess that due to my attitude and rebellious character, I've always considered myself to function pretty well, except for these "episodes" when I almost die here and there. (Using Ventolin did not count at all). It is only during the last 4 years that I have gradually changed my point of view due to various reasons, one of which was my significantly deteriorating condition. I could hardly walk a 100 meters, not to mention to climb up stairs. That is when I started giving all sorts of doctors and methods a chance (a serious chance, as opposed to being forced as a child). I came across the Buteyko technique last year. There was a big article about it in the paper, and since Israel is a very small country, I just called up one of the people on that article, who seemed to me with the most severe asthma compared to the rest. He happened to be a 60 year old professor, who made a huge impression on me when he told me that after using Ventolin every day, he doesn't at all anymore. I was still VERY VERY sceptical, since "no one has such severe asthma as I do". However, I decided to give it a try, mainly because the technique claims to be with no medications at all. In the article in the payper, the Russian practiotioner did claim that asthma can be cured by the Buteyko technique, but he also said that there is no 100% guarantee, since most people abandon the exercises too early. Still, I was more than sceptical.

Now, before I start describing in detail my experience at the Buteyko clinic, I must say that I have thoroughly read Peter Kolb's posting of the Buteyko technique, and I find it is not all of it. He indeed sketched the basics, but there is more to it. The differences may, however, be the result of a different practitioner, I guess.

Well, last year in February, I attended a 10-day course practicing the buteyko technique. We were a group of 10 people of all ages, and we met every day for about 3 hours for 10 days.

We had a Russian practitioner (a doctor) and his helper, a nurse who was also an interpreter from Russian to Hebrew. They gave us some background theory for leymen, but the essence of these meetings was pure practice. Practice means sitting in a very specific position, taking in shallow breaths into the stomach (more or less).

First you have to sit for 10 minutes in rest to make sure your pulse is steady, then practice for 20 minutes (broken into 5 minutes ans a short pause) and then another 10 minutes of rest after which the pulse is checked again. If the exercise has been done correctly, the pulse is necessarily lower. I cannot explain to anyone who has not tried this HOW DIFFICULT THIS IS!!! Not only is it much more than unpleasant to have this permanent need to gasp for air, but it is unbearable to sit in this position and direct your breathing to somewhere else than you're used to.

Due to my severe situation, I was totally refractory, and I wasn't able at all to perform the exercises correctly. Therefore, there was no choice but giving me relatively high doses of oral prednisone (until I reach a reasonable "control pause" - cf Peter Kolb's article). This was very hard for me to accept, since at the time I was without oral Prednisone for a while, and to start again was quite frustrating. The Buteyko technique claims that Steroids are a synergist to it.

The major initial goal is to get rid of bronchodilators. They claim that in order to be cured, you need one month of practice for every year you've had the disease. I had to practice 4 times a day (normally you need to do it twice), which was almost impossible. It takes about 45 minutes each time, and in between you are also suppose to breath "shallowly".

In the beginning I was very adament, and after about 10 days of strict practice, I could gradually cut down with my Venolin, until I did not use it at all! For a whole week! No, I don't think you can see what that means.

Since the age of 5 I've been using Ventolin about 15 puffs a day. Even when hospitalized, with Aminophylline and Solumedrol dripping into my vains, I still needed Ventolin, not to mention when being "just" on oral Prednisone. So it's true, I was on about 30mg of Prednisone when I experienced that historic week, but still - for me it was much more that unbvelievable.

However, during this week I was tapering down my Prednisone, probably too fast (I tapered down faster that I was told to), and again I started to feel bad.

This is when I gave up. I am sure that had I been at the time on a deserted island, with the sufficient mental support, I would have gone on with the exercises. It is just that I found it almost impossible for me, both physically (impossible to do when in an attack or when not feeling well enough), and practically. I am both a student and a working girl, and it is just impossible to live according to such a strict schedule.

The above section turned out to be a bit messy, so here are the things the Buteyko technique requires and not mentioned in Peter's posting:

  1. Very specific posture to keep during the exercises.
  2. Very strict schedule (the exercises must be done RIGHT before going to sleep and RIGHT after waking up).
  3. Sleeping with a tape or something to block your lips ( to make sure nose breathing is taking place).
  4. Sleeping with a special belt made of very simple cotton cloth around the stomach (for the first few weeks only).
  5. Sleeping without a pillow FOR GOOD.
  6. Prednisone administration in "refractory" patients like me.

The technique may also have side effects in the beginning - a "cleaning" reaction of the body.

H O W E V E R and despite all of the above, I cannot forget this "Ventolin free" week, and Buteyko is the only thing I believe to work. Please also remember that anyone with milder asthma would not have to practice asd much, nor to take any medications. It is still hard for me to believe that Buteyko has the definite answer and that it provides compleate cure. Still I think it is worth a try.

As you all probably noticed, I have very little medical knowledge about all of this, and I am quite sceptical myself. But Buteyko is the first thing I am going to take up again when I am sure I have enough mental strength for it. I think that all of you in the group who developed strong antagonism to Buteyko should try it even if it is not the ultimate cure. What can be so bad about "just" feeling better, even if your lung volume tests haven't changed? Please note, that in order for the technique to work, it should be practiced strictly and regularly (not only when an attack is impending or while lying down in bed!).

Well, this is about it for now. I have some more to my history (Serevent, Flixotide, and not needing Ventolin), but I'll save this for later.

Thank you for taking time to read this.

Shalom ("bye" in Hebrew),