From the Pen of Jim McAra......

Hello and thanks for taking the time to read this contribution.

I am 35 and have had asthma all my life. In September '97 I attended a week long course at the Hale clinic here in London which was taken by a Russian called Sasha. His blunt and direct manner was very refreshing and encouraging, especially as I felt that many of the other 'attendees' were really looking for sympathy, attention, someone to whom they could moan about their asthma...

Anyway, in my case, there was a definite improvement. Previously I used ventolin whenever I wanted each day (4-8 times per day?). Today I'm down to two to three puffs a week.

I had tried Chinese herbs (28 per week and a smelly kitchen) and, yes, a definite improvement, but I didn't feel that they offered a 'cure'. Yoga got my attention but I'm a bit too hyper-active and also too lacking in self-discipline to carry that through. Swimming was and is a huge help. I used to know that I was going to be getting a severe attack if I found myself unable to do the same number of lengths I had been swimming in the last few days. Far more accurate than these, in my experience, useless Peak Flow Meters.

May I share my experiences of Buteyko with you?

I used to search frantically under the pillows at 4 a.m. for a quick puff. I can't claim that 'after two sessions of Buteyko exercises I never again searched for my puffer'. However, the frequency of use decreased dramatically within a week. I had been prescribed 'Ventolin and to use it 'two puffs, four times a day', I certainly didn't use it this way. Does anybody? I used it when I needed it which was usually about 12+ times a day in winter and in Summer I could easily get through a puffer every five days. About three weeks after conscientiously practicing Buteyko four times a day, I remember one particular day when I realized, about four hours after leaving the house, that I didn't have my puffer with me. Previously, if the house had caught fire, the first thing I would have reached for if I had three seconds to get out of the house would have been my puffer. Never mind the clothes, where is that puffer! It's the freedom to come and go at will, to eat and drink whatever I fancy and the increased stamina which makes the Buteyko exercises really worthwhile.

I must say that I enjoy the Maximum Pauses. It's just like running or swimming where you are pushing yourself to the limit. It's even easier because you have your statistics right in front of you, so you know "just three more seconds, no I can manage five..." Rocking back and forward in the chair, holding your nose, feeling like your head is going to explode and thinking, "Thank goodness nobody can see me" I find that my mind wanders during the five minute gaps between MPs and yet, I read that the MPs are considered dangerous by some. Why is that?

After two or three days of conscientiously doing the exercises four times a day, there was a radical improvement in my asthma. More energy, less time sleeping and an increased libido were all secondary effects. (I have had to think about how to put down politely that last effect. Hopefully it's OK.)

I must say that I also felt, and feel, quite aggressive if I practice the exercises four times a day. This is not in my nature and I was wondering, is it a temporary thing, or has asthma suppressed part of my true nature for so long?

Four times a day. Forty minutes each time. It really is a lot of time, isn't it? For how long is it necessary to do it four times a day? I do shift work which doesn't help.

Anyway, in closing, I would like to let you know that I spent three weeks working on Clapham common in South London this summer. I was cutting the grass, picking up litter, basically outside all day and... And no problem, whatsoever. Previously I avoided any grassy areas in summer time, I would take prednisilone courses, perhaps three or four times a summer and have been in hospital six or seven times with asthma. Nothing else changed in my life, other than the fact that I practiced Buteyko exercises.

I simply want to encourage waiverers to 'jump in'. Why bother with trying to disprove it, or waiting until scientists prove or disprove it Try it, it works.

Jim McAra