Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko propounded the principles of the Buteyko breathing technique in the 1950’s; a technique to retain breathing that is supposed to help improve lung function and also control ailments such as asthma and others.
How the Buteyko breathing technique is thought to work
The Buteyko technique of breathing consists of a certain breathing exercises that involve reduced breathing, breathing through the nose, holding the breath and relaxation. In theory, this breathing technique is supposed to help people who may have certain ailments due to undiagnosed hyperventilation (chronically increased respiratory rate).
This hyperventilation is thought to lead to decrease in levels of carbon dioxide in the blood (hypocapnea) that in turn leads to other problems.
Proponents of the breathing technique opine that hyperventilation is more widely occurring than we think, and that it leads to problems we don’t normally associate with it.
The aim of the Buteyko breathing technique is to ‘retrain the body to breathe’ to correct the chronic hyperventilation and the many ills that it causes.
It is claimed that this breathing technique could address a range of health conditions such as asthma, allergies or hay fever, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, snoring or sleep apnea, panic attacks, nasal polyps, stress related breathing disorders, and even problems relating to crooked teeth and bad breath. It is also claimed that Buteyko breathing can help people control their diabetes, psychological disorders and even some reproductive disorders.
Asthmatics in particular are thought to receive benefit as a result of using the Buteyko breathing techniques by reducing their dependence upon medications and other asthma rescue and control devices.
The main constituents of the Buteyko technique of breathing
Nasal breathing or breathing through the nose is central to this system of belief. Breathing through the nose works to heat and moisten the air before it reaches the lungs, unlike breathing through the mouth. Practitioners of the technique are trained to breathe only through the nose during the day and may recommend taping of the mouth to prevent mouth breathing at night. Certain devices to control sleep apnea such as the full face positive airway pressure device may also be used to this end.
The third constituent of the Buteyko breathing technique is relaxation: asthmatics, will typically feel agitation which can exacerbate their symptoms causing them to “over-breathe”. The Buteyko relaxation technique helps a person calm down to reduce symptoms or even avert an attack.
Does the Buteyko technique really work?
There is anecdotal evidence of near miraculous transformations brought about by using the Buteyko breathing system, which have healed and cured people’s afflictions. However the efficacy of the Buteyko technique is not borne out by clinical studies.
The Buteyko breathing technique is thought to be a non mainstream or alternative treatment and many in the medical community question is efficacy or that there is any scientific basis for thinking that it can cure the ailments that it claims to so it is recommended that if it is to be used, it should be used not as a standalone treatment, but as a complementary treatment in addition to mainstream treatments.