My name is Gerard O'Neill and I completed at the end of November a Buteyko course (run over five consecutive evenings) here in Dublin, Ireland. It was run by Chris Drake from the Hale Clinic in London.
About two weeks before attending the course I got hold of the brief details about the Buteyko technique from the Buteyko Home Page (having already signed up to participate in the course). At that stage I was experiencing a steady deterioration in my health (this had begun over the summer) and I was taking up to six puffs of Serevent and a similar number of Ventolin just to keep going. Next stop, I knew if I went to my doctor, was steriods. I immediately began practicing the shallow breathing and maximum pause methods outlined in the Home Page and within 4-5 days I was down to just one puff of Serevent at night!
This was the case when I started the course with Chris. There were ten of us (ranging from one elderly lady requiring oxygen and three doses of a nebuliser per day to another who did not have asthma but had considerable difficulty breathing through her nose) and he explained about Buteyko and the technique. I have set out below some of the insights and ideas that I consider to be of most relevance to readers of the Buteyko mailing list.
Using a simple tabular diary, we wrote down over the course of five days our achievements with regards to an exercise programme which we had to complete 4 times a day (first thing in the morning, just before lunch, just before the evening meal and just before going to bed):
1) Take Pulse: measure it for fifteen seconds and multiply by 4 (Ideal: 60 or less but most asthmatics won't achieve this until after practicing Buteyko for some time and reducing their medication).
2) Control Pause (CP): breath in and out normally through the nose and hold the breath (pinching the nose if necessary) until it becomes uncomfortable (i.e.: until you can breath again without gasping) NB: divide the number of seconds of your control pause into 60 and you will have a measure of your degree of 'over-breathing': normal breathers have a control pause of 50-60 seconds: but these only make up 1 in 10 of the population according to Buteyko!.
3) Very Shallow Breathing (VSB): breathing in and out through the nose as shallowly as possible (so that you can feel your diaphram moving but hardly feel the air going in and out of your nose) - do this for three minutes (which nobody could (!) but keep bringing your breath back to the shallow style during the course of the three minutes).
4) Relax the Shoulders: shrug the shoulders and relax your neck as the muscles of the chest will be unused to shallow breathing and may have become tense.
5) Maximum Pause (MP): then repeat the technique of the Control Pause but hold it even as it becomes increasingly uncomfortable - the first level to aim for is 45 seconds; thereafter you should build to 70-80 seconds as a really therapeutic MP for dealing with asthma attacks or just feelings of tightness in the chest.
Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 (aiming for a higher MP than the first).
Repeat step 3 then 2 (Control Pause). This second CP should be higher than the first as a result of the exercises.
Repeat Step 3 and then take your pulse.
NOTE: never do this less than two hours AFTER eating. Eating often leads to over-breathing in asthmatics as all food and drink sets off the immune system (food is after all a 'foreign substance' in the body). Putting it very simplistically, asthmatics have a below normal level of natural steriods due to the alkaline nature of their blood (in turn the result of over-breathing), and so the body cannot dis-arm the immune system during a meal as it normally should. This is why many asthmatics experience wheeziness etc. as a result of eating or drinking particular foods.
Going through the exercises described above, I was able to replace my one puff of Serevent with one of ventolin during the first few days. Serevent (or salmeterol) is a long lasting bronchodilator, which (I learned in the class) has the same therepeutic effect as up to fifty puffs of ventolin! I actually got headaches and cold symtoms as a result of giving up Serevent (not surprising: I had been taking it two or more times a day for over five years!). I was then able to give up the Ventolin, helped by using micropore surgical tape on my mouth at night to make me breath through my nose (we were also advised to lie on the lefthand side and to use two or more pillows; it made a difference).
Using the surgical tape was not easy. I woke up at 4 or 5 am needing to take it off as my nose might be running or I felt short of breath: but some VSB kept me on track (and some coffee!). My appetite was also considerably reduced, and I did follow the instructions to only eat when I was hungry: not when it was lunch time etc.
I have continued with the exercise programme since the course, sometimes reducing the number of minutes of VSB as I have been integrating this into my day-to-day activity (when driving, watching television, on the train etc.)
All-in-all a life changing experience: I now no longer take any drugs for the first time in nearly 20 years (I am 37). I also feel very healthy, very calm (a side effect of shallow breathing we were told) and very happy. Not bad for a simple breathing technique!
All those on the course taking steroids were advised to continue taking them, with the first objective being to reduce and ultimately eliminate the usage of bronchodilators (such as Ventolin (Salbutamol) and Bricanyl (terbutaline)). Only after this has been achieved (perhaps over a period of weeks or months) were steroid users then advised to go to their doctor to agree a programme of reduced usage of the steroids. This is because the restoration of the body's natural steroid production will only be achieved after the habit of over-breathing has been well and truly eliminated. Until then, the steroid tablets and inhalers are making up for a real physiological gap in the body and so they have a function to play in the interim.
We were advised to avoid exercise (by way of sport, keep fit etc.) for the duration of the course and for the next few weeks if possible. Then we should resume such exercises continuing to breath through the nose and stopping as soon as we are forced to breath through the mouth (the latter being the fasttrack to over-breathing).
Other conditions such as eczema, polyps, diabetes and even arthritis are all potential beneficiaries of the Buteyko technique.
I was struck by the huge diversity of ailments and degrees of discomfort suffered by those attending the course. Up to a third of the course was given over to one-to-one coaching and 'target setting', simply because of this diversity. This in turn would incline me to strongly recommend that those who can should actually receive instruction from a Buteyko instructor as we all starting from different degrees of suffering and with different complications (in my case, chronic allergies). But I realise that many (most?) of the recipients of this mailing list may simply not have access to an instructor, so I hope that the above comments are of help.
May you all be well.