What is the “Buteyko Method”

KP Buteyko did not call his work the Buteyko Method. Instead, he called his work the “Volitional Normalization of Deep-Type Breathing”

When we dissect this phrase, we find the truth of the Method:

Normalization and reduction of breathing by the persons own will.

While some people think it’s all about Oxygen, it’s also all about CO2 and maintaining partial pressures of all breathing gases. Further reading into Buteyko’s work reveals Normalizing breathing is achieved only with relaxation, and that to correctly manage Buteyko Normalization techniques is to learn how to establish and maintain relaxation of breathing structures so that function is easily optimized. Restoring Normal Breathing is more than control pauses,  scoring points and increasing pauses between breaths. It is more than just mouth taping or nasal breathing. It is about restoring functional adaptability that allows for optimal oxygen uptake, and this allows for more efficient healing and functioning. This in turn means less medicine is needed. Over time, symptoms can disappear when normal adaptive ability returns, and over more time, healing occurs so profoundly that no medicine is needed again.

In 1931 Otto Warburg won the Nobel prize for his discovery that cancer thrives in low oxygen low pH environments.  Warburg’s discovery influenced the ideals of many health providers, because it signified the importance of good oxygen delivery and maintaining a healthy pH.  It also suggested a reductionist’s dream preventative strategy for maintaining good health – maintain oxygen levels and increase pH.

Pharmaceutical companies found myriad ways to improve circulation – ostensibly to assist oxygen delivery – and introduced many new medicines to reduce reactivity in lungs and increase nasal breathing volumes. Surgeries for breathing issues became commonplace, and the new surgical fashions emerged, like routinized tonsillectomies and turbinectomies. Diagnoses like Asthma became more prevalent and oxygen therapies became commonplace.

However, KP Buteyko always said that medicine was upside down.  When considering oxygen and it’s role in health, medicine conveniently forgot they had already awarded another previous Nobel winner, Christian Bohr, for his discovery of the “Bohr Effect”, a few decades before Warburg’s work became known.  Bohr’s work  explains how maintaining efficient oxygen delivery to the tissues is reliant on a stable CO2 balance and how these partial pressures play a universal role in stabilizing pH.  It seems that Warburg’s work was simply hijacked by the medical and alternative health establishment, reduced to saleable books featuring “alkaline diets” and high profit margins selling “alkalizing supplements” and “antioxidant supplementation” and that in order to sustain this fabulous income stream, Bohr’s work which details the underlying mechanism of oxygen delivery to cells is suppressed.

The rendering of oxygen into a substance to be administered as medicine allowed it to gain prominence in medical institutions.  Reductionist followers of Oxygen Theory believed that simply increasing oxygen is a good thing, and assumed that more oxygen is easily obtained by simply breathing more air more often, or even artificially increasing oxygen levels by breathing pure oxygen from a gas canister.

Oxygen gas bottles and meters became standard at the heads of most hospital beds, and the cure for all ailments was administration of oxygen.  Oxygen Incubators were introduced into birthing and maternity wards, and babies were routinely stimulated to breathe deeper and more often.

“Deep Breathing” was determined to be the usual way to “Get More Oxygen” and was actively encouraged in medical and alternative health circles.  Deep breathing apparatus were developed, deep breathing exercises were expounded and deep breathing programs sprang up across the globe.  Deep breathing advice began to be repeated so often that it became cliché.

But this is not Normal breathing, not even according to medical standards. In medicine,  elevated breathing is always seen as a sign of stress, and people who breathe hard while doing mild activity are known to be “unfit”.  Isn’t it illogical to encourage activities that we associate with being unhealthy in people who may already be unwell?

Normalization of breathing implies something deeper and more holistic, and something that is doing it by itself without breathing gymnastics or anxiety inducing activities.

Normal breathing is FUNCTIONAL: That means all the right structures are involved and this is not just about your nose or your diaphragm, but also about your ability to maintain good oral posture and preserve good muscle relaxation and correct muscle tensions in the right places at the right times.

Normal Breathing is ADAPTIVE: No use breathing like a Zen Master when you need to run away from an attacker; or breathing like a steam train when you need to relax enough to allow for sleep. Breathing normally means that breathing patterns adapt efficiently and effectively to your environment to allow for the correct function of all other systems.

Normal Breathing is EFFORTLESS: when you breathe in a functional and adaptive way, breathing should be effortless. that means you don’t feel it, see it or hear it – and you cannot smell it either. Effortless breathing at rest uses almost no auxiliary muscles and should be quiet and nasal only.

You can’t be breathing normally when you are holding your breath, or making your inhalations too big, or breathing out all your air, or using devices attached to your face, or mouth breathing, or engaging in massive breathing activity while remaining passive. These are usually signs that breathing is disordered, and disordered breathing is a trigger for stress reactions that reduce oxygen delivery to the tissues and – you guessed it – this affects breathing.   Over breathing in order to introduce huge amounts of oxygen is not the answer.  Deep volume breathing destabilizes how oxygen is delivered to the tissues and increases hypoxia.

KP Buteyko’s own discovery was related to his own personal experience, and was later backed by sound scientific research over a lifetime. His “discovery” was that there is only one overarching disease – the Disease of Deep (Dysfunctional) Breathing.  This Disease has its roots in Respiration Function, and that when respiration is affected the whole organism is destabilized due to loss of oxygen delivery to the cells.

Breathing is crucial for all function, because the body cannot live without oxygen and we cannot get it into our bodies any other way.  When breathing becomes even slightly disordered – that is not “normal breathing” anymore. Even slightly disordered breathing causes less oxygen delivery to all cells of the body.  Breathing Normally is a way to efficiently ramp up your function at every level – because oxygen is delivered effectively which allows for optimal energy production. Normal breathing is subtle and not everyone understands what factors will influence it but in each person there are many small adaptations that can cause breathing to become disordered over time.

This is why in-person breathing normalization programs are so important, because a personal assessment is made of each individual. How they move, speak, swallow a drink, relax, sit, stand, walk, lie down, react to stimulus – all become part of the assessment before the adapted techniques of breathing normalization can begin. Breathing Normalization programs should be an adjunct to all chronic health therapies. Understanding why your breathing has adapted and awareness of how to reduce these stressors is key to successful outcomes. Each person is unique and so, “Buteyko Breathing” is a highly adaptive and subtle practice that needs to be in tune with each persons level of functional ability.

KP Buteyko’s son, Vladimir Buteyko, and Vladimir’s wife, Dr. Marina Buteyko; continue his  father’s work in Russia to this day.  Vladimir Buteyko is the world’s leading expert in Buteyko Breathing practice and understanding and continues to research and publish about the “Buteyko Method”.   The Buteyko Clinic in Russia under Vladimir Buteyko currently holds the patent for what is now known as “Haemohypocarbia Therapy” and also the patent for “Detection of CO2 in Alveolar Air”.   You can read more about their work here: http://www.buteyko.ru/eng/

©Buteyko South Africa



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