Within several weeks, I no longer had asthma symptoms, and I gradually reduced my medication. I haven't needed any asthma medication since 2005. It is a fascinating process that put me in control of my health.
asthma and me
Late in childhood, I developed asthma as an allergic reaction to cats. I didn't get asthma often; however if I entered a house where cats lived I would get asthma within a few minutes.
As an adult, I began getting asthma more frequently as new things had become triggers-- dust, cold air, second hand smoke, and then eventually exercise. Every year my asthma got a little worse and I required increasing puffer medication to be able to breathe clearly.
In the winter of 2004, I renovated a bathroom in the house I share with my wife and kids in Toronto. There was mould growing behind the walls that I tore down. Combined with the dust, my asthma went from bad to worse to serious.
My asthma medication was no longer effective. I'd been using my puffer almost everyday for many years at this point. My doctor gave me a new puffer that was five times stronger. He warned me about over-use and also prescribed a steroid puffer.
I was frustrated with dependence on asthma medications and their side-effects. In my 20's, puffer use was occasional, by my 30's it was frequent, and by 40 it was every day, often several times a day. It's a helpless feeling to know you can't get through the day-- can't function or breathe without medication.
Over the years, I had done a lot of reading about alternative approaches. I had tried several things including fasting and a raw food diet, for 11 months. Sometimes I would get a little relief which led me to believe that the cause of my asthma might be diet-based or there was a supplement I needed or... something was missing, and I just needed to figure out what it was. Meanwhile my health was declining.
An internet search brought me to the Buteyko method...
It never occurred to me that my asthma was connected to my snoring and that the underlying cause of both was a breathing dysfunction.
Dr. K. Buteyko devoted his career to studying this chronic breathing dysfunction, named 'hyperventilation syndrome' by Dr. William Kerr in 1937. It is the tendency to unconsciously breathe an excessive amount of air.
This over-breathing occurs when awake and asleep. During sleep, if this excessive breathing is strong enough it becomes snoring. Snoring is the most obvious sign of hyperventilation; all snoring is hyperventilation, yet not all people who hyperventilate snore.
While awake chronic hyperventilation can be unnoticeable; people can be chronically breathing an excessive amount of air and not be aware of it at all. However sometimes hyperventilation is very obvious - often characterized by frequent yawning and sighing, shortness of breath, a feeling of not being able to take a deep breath, and several other indicators. Whether 'hidden' or very obvious hyperventilation is accompanied by the tendency to do a lot of breathing through the mouth.
Dr. Buteyko believed that chronic hyperventilation is the root cause or a contributing factor to many chronic health conditions.
DR. BUTEYKO and me
There were no Buteyko teachers in Canada in the winter of 2004/05. I was a member of one of the first Buteyko courses taught in Canada the following June (2005). My teacher was Chris Bauman, the first person to begin teaching Buteyko here. There were seven of us in the class, all asthmatics. Chris began by explaining that asthma is caused by a breathing dysfunction called Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome (CHVS).
I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't think I 'hyperventilated' and, in fact, as a wind instrument player I thought I knew a lot about breathing; I knew how to breathe with my diaphragm, I had good diaphragm tone and control.
She asked how many of us snored. All hands went up. She explained that from the Buteyko perspective snoring is 'hyperventilation.'
Chronic hyperventilation is defined as breathing in excess of the amount of air required for metabolism; breathing more air than your body actually needs. I knew that I snored, but the idea that my snoring was somehow connected to my asthma... this had simply never occurred to me.
Eventually I came to see that I also breathed slightly excessively when awake, something I'd never noticed.
As I worked on the simple breathing exercises asthma symptoms lessened, the need to use medication decreased, and my snoring began to calm down. Within several weeks, I was no longer getting asthma symptoms and gradually reduced my medication. I haven't needed any asthma medication since 2005. It is a fascinating process and put me in control of my health.
BUTEYKO TEACHER TRAINING
I was amazed by this method of restoring my breathing and amazed at the impact it had on my health. I was intrigued by the idea that breathing could be 'wrong' and that this dysfunctional breathing was impacting my health so profoundly. When you think about it snoring is a very odd way to breathe given that during sleep oxygen requirements are lower and breathing should be soft and gentle. Snoring is not soft and gentle breathing.
In retrospect it makes a lot of sense: every moment of living depends on constant breathing; breathing is the 'driver' of every organ system and function in the body; if there is a dysfunction in breathing wouldn't this somehow impact health?
All asthmatics share a genetic/physiologic pre-disposition to asthma. Dr. Buteyko realized that this pre-disposition only becomes a problem when breathing becomes chronically excessive. Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome (CHVS) affects different people in different ways and this is determined by genetic or physiologic disposition. CHVS can impact the heart, digestion, the immune system, really all the body's organ systems, causes anxiety and panic, poor sleep......breathing is everything, breathing is what connects your body to life, moment to moment.
In 2006 I trained to become a Buteyko educator in the first Buteyko educator training in Canada. Since then I have taught this powerful healing modality to hundreds of people, old and young, with a wide range of chronic health issues. I have taught in other areas of Ontario and been invited to speak about Buteyko.
"May you welcome your own vulnerability as the ground where healing and truth join." John O'Donohue