(continuation from the previous blog)
I Was Convinced That Asthma Was Incurable
I’d heard his name before. I am Russian, and had lived most of my life in Moscow working as the editor-in-chief of a holistic magazine.
I remember someone submitting an article about Dr. Buteyko. The author claimed Buteyko found a cure for more than a hundred of the most common diseases. He was able to reverse them by teaching his patients how to breathe less.
I recall putting this article aside and thinking: “More than a hundred diseases? Perhaps a breathing technique could stop one or two… but more than a hundred? And if this method is so powerful, why isn’t it used by the medical establishment? No, I don’t buy this!”
Now, my husband’s disease was forcing me to reconsider my opinion about Buteyko. I carefully read Clinica Buteyko’s website. It looked promising: doctors who worked for this clinic in Moscow showed great results, especially in treating asthmatics. I called Clinica Buteyko and explained our situation. Unexpectedly, the receptionist connected me to Ludmila Buteyko, Konstantin’s widow.
By this time, I was convinced that asthma was incurable; and all I wished for was some improvement of my husband’s health, so he could suffer less.
“Is it possible to improve my husband’s condition?” I asked Ludmila without much hope.
"Of Course We Can Cure His Asthma!"
“Of course!” She replied. “We can cure his asthma!”
This did not sound good! We had just come back from a clinic in Israel that had promised us miracles, and what was this? Another snake oil clinic! Wasn’t asthma irreversible? Considering Thomas’ state of health, we had nothing to lose anyway, so I decided to investigate further.
“How much will the treatment cost?” I asked Ludmila.
“Ten thousand dollars."
Nothing to lose!? Even if we agreed, we would need to spend even more traveling to Moscow and staying there. My further conversation with Ludmila revealed that we need to transfer the required amount prior to our arrival to Moscow, and there is no guarantee or refund policy. When I translated my conversation to Thomas, he (being American) became suspicious. I (being Russian) became even more guarded.
It Was Impossible To Ignore The Genuine Sincerity And Confidence In Ludmila's Voice
And yet, it was impossible to ignore the genuine sincerity and confidence in Ludmila’s voice. In our hearts, we believed her but our minds told us we were fools. After discussing it, we decided to go. We wired ten thousand dollars, bought plane tickets and packed our suitcases. I called my mom and asked her to meet us at the Moscow airport.
We were lucky to have the funds required by the Clinica. Our financial situation was strained by Thomas’ disease. His medication, doctor’s visits, and alternative treatments drained our budget. On top of that, he had not been able to work for a long time, and my work was negatively impacted by my constant worry about his health. When our resources were gone, I decided to sell my apartment in Moscow, which I had been leasing for years. A couple of weeks prior to my conversation with Ludmila, my apartment got sold, and a big chunk of money was transferred to my bank account in Woodstock. Now, I had to wire a part of it back to Moscow. Nevertheless, I felt fortunate to have funds to pay for Thomas’ treatment in Clinica Buteyko.
Nine hours in the air and we saw red twinkling stars on the Kremlin towers. Next morning, we were at the Clinica. Ludmila Buteyko and her son Andrey Novozhilov MD, were open, intelligent and compassionate people, who instantly made us feel safe. They full-heartedly welcomed us to experience the breathing normalization method, and our daily sessions with them as our primary teachers began.
We Gradually Developed A Totally New Perspective On His Disease
Of course, Thomas was the one who was supposed to study this method; but since he did not speak Russian, I had to accompany him everywhere and translate for him. Surprisingly, our sessions with Ludmila or Andrey were mostly conversational. Every day, they revealed the knowledge passed on to them by Konstantin and facilitated our understanding of the method. They appealed to our minds and hearts, which was very different from the doctors we were familiar with. As a result, Thomas and I gradually developed a totally new perspective on his disease. We actually started feeling some appreciation towards it. Are you surprised? We were surprised too! Later you will understand why this feeling of gratitude began taking roots in our souls.
Ludmila and Andrey also showed us various breathing exercises. Unfortunately, the only time we had for doing them was in the car ride between my mother’s country house, where we were staying, and Clinica Buteyko. While Thomas was the one required to do the breathing exercises; I became interested in the method too, realizing it could positively affect my health, and decided to do the exercises as well. Every day, we would spend three or four hours in the car maneuvering dangerous Moscow traffic and getting stuck in toxic gridlocks of one of the most polluted cities in the world. During this time, Thomas would pinch his nose and stop breathing for a few seconds or so. I focused my attention on inhalation, trying to reduce it by about one forth. Both of us were working on lessening our air consumption.
In the beginning of the training, we were taught to measure our breathing. This assessment showed that Thomas was consuming twenty times more air that his body needed while I was consuming six times more. We learned that most people over-breathe. Over-breathing is dangerous since it offsets the main functions of the body. It could even be lethal, which is why the human body will do anything it can to protect itself from hyperventilation. This was Konstantin Buteyko’s most important discovery. He also found that in order to protect itself from hyperventilation, the human body creates various defense mechanisms, which doctors often refer to as ‘symptoms.’
Asthma Symptoms Serve A Vital Purpose
In the case of breathing difficulties, the compensatory mechanisms are straightforward. To make us breathe less, the body will either narrow or constrict air channels by producing excessive mucus, so the nose and throat become partially blocked; or by creating a bronchial spasm, coughing fits and suffocation attacks. All this just to reduce our breathing! Two hundred years ago, as we learned at the Clinica, asthma was not considered a serious disease, but only a rare and mild ailment. Asthmatics were also known to live a long time without any additional health problems. This all changed when asthma symptoms began being treated by modern drugs. The removal of defense mechanisms was a green light for hyperventilation deteriorating people’s health. As a result, asthma became deadly and epidemic.
Konstantin Buteyko believed that people with breathing difficulties, particularly, asthmatics, are lucky because their bodies are capable of stopping hyperventilation right at the respiratory system level. If hyperventilation is not stopped there, it will penetrate the body on deeper levels and cause more problems. The body will still react by creating compensatory mechanisms; however, they will be more complex and, possibly, less effective than constricted breathing. The mechanisms could include low or high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, and many other disorders.
When defense mechanisms are removed by symptom-alleviating drugs, hyperventilation spreads, further offsetting functions of the body and gradually rendering them dysfunctional. It creates more than one hundred diseases related to the metabolic, immune, nervous, respiratory, endocrinal, cardiovascular, digestive, and urinary systems. Buteyko created a list of disorders that can be reversed through breathing normalization. There, you will find asthma, hypertension, tachycardia, atherosclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, impotence and many other widespread diseases. Konstantin did not consider these afflictions ‘diseases’ and referred to them instead as ‘symptoms of hyperventilation,’ believing that the main and most dangerous disease of our civilization is over-breathing.
The Buteyko Breathing Method In Practice
The only way to become healthy is to stop over-breathing. Taming hyperventilation lessens the body’s need to create protective mechanisms against it. As a result, symptoms are naturally reduced. When hyperventilation is fully eliminated, one becomes symptom-free and healthy. People also stop wasting their vital energy to constantly fighting hyperventilation. Consequently, they become energetic, happier and more efficient in all areas of life. Their body and mind need less sleep and food for its well-being. Their immune system becomes strong and more reliable; it is able to better protect a person from many health issues, including seasonal colds and flu.
All of this did sound appealing but we wanted to see Buteyko’s theory in practice. Ludmila brought our attention to the fact that Thomas was constantly breathing through his mouth, which made the air flow entering his body greater than if he was breathing through his nose. His breathing was deep, heavy and often loud. Healthy breathing, as we found out, should be unnoticeable. Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, said: “Perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing at all.” Ludmila and Andrey taught us how to switch to quiet, nasal breathing. For me it was not difficult but Thomas had to make a great effort to constantly pay attention to his breathing. He needed a lot of help and direction from specialists, which Andrey, Ludmila and doctors at the clinic were generously offering to him. Every day, he was practicing his breathing exercises to train his body to breathe less and even to be comfortable without air for short moments.
The Buteyko Approach: Like A Natural Asthma Cure
The results became obvious soon. Within a few days, his asthma attacks diminished and in just a couple of weeks, his suffocation attacks almost entirely stopped. He felt as if his health finally began improving: his energy and strength were coming back and he needed small dosages of medication only occasionally. Of course, I cannot say that he became healthy right away. It took him a few years to fully restore his health. Now, in 2013, he is actually stronger and healthier than he was before he got sick in 2007. But in 2009, after his treatment in Clinica Buteyko, he was not at that state yet. He was still rather weak, and sometimes he would have coughing fits. However, at his age of 55 he became functional in life, and stopped being an invalid. The Buteyko approach definitely felt like a cure for him!
It felt the same for me, observing his changes as well as my own. I was not as ill as Thomas was. In fact, I used to consider myself healthy – I never had a serious disease or surgery, was athletic and maintained a healthy diet. However, approaching my forties, I became less energetic and started feeling occasional aches. “Is getting older supposed to feel this way?” I asked myself, “This must be normal!” I concluded. By age 43, my kidneys and joints were almost in constant pain, which most of the time was not acute but rather bothersome. Compared to Thomas’ health issues it was nothing and I tried to view at it as an inevitable result of aging. Within one month of breathing normalization training, these two issues disappeared and never came back again. In fact, now at the age of 49, when I recall the constant pain I was in, it seems unreal – like a bad dream. Aside from these two major issues and sleep apnea, I had many mild ailments, which are common to such a degree that many people consider them normal: headaches, constipation, burping, PMS, hemorrhoids, fatigue, seasonal colds, allergies, and even small breast lumps and blood pressure issues. They are not present in my life anymore.
While Thomas belonged to the category of severely ill people, I belonged to another: the category of the nearly ill. The Buteyko™ Buteyko Breathing Method helped us both achieve optimal health, a state we had not experienced before then. We were like fish swimming in dirty water, having no clue what clean water felt like. Unfortunately, most modern people over-breathe, and we did too. Konstantin’s work brought this new level of awareness to our life and greatly improved its quality. Ever since leaving Moscow that winter, we have felt eternally grateful for Buteyko’s teachings. Was it worth ten grand? You bet!