Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Butekyo Breathing Technique

At night I tape my mouth and all day I feel like I’m suffocating just a little. When I decided to take Buteyko breathing exercises, I had no idea of the discipline involved. A technique developed in the 1950’s by its namesake Konstantin Butekyo, Butekyo involves three key ideas: nasal breathing, limiting air flow, and relaxation. The theory is that asthma is a result of there being too little CO2 in the lungs. Butekyo is the opposite of hyperventilation, which involves rapid large breaths.
My teacher, Ryan Bowie, is a Buddhist monk who took a course in Buteyko at a monastery in order to improve his breathing techniques. Butekyo and meditation have this in common and consequently go hand in hand. In fact, I do better practicing my Butekyo exercises while meditating.

Buteyko, like most alternative methods is controversial. Konstantin Butekyo’s theories were not well accepted while he was alive, and the rationale for the technique does not hold up to modern forms of measurement according to the mainstream medical establishment.

When I mentioned to my allergist, Dr. Lee, that I was investigating Buteyko, he smothered a slightly ironic smile. I do not know if he was familiar with the technique or assumed by the name that it was some new age hogwash, but when I asked Dr. Lee what I could do, he suggested changing the time I took my medication, not diet or any other sort of alternative treatment.

There are several recent studies that demonstrate Buteyko can help patients cut down on their rescue breathers, but not that Buteyko is addressing the underlying cause of asthma, which practitioners would assert is the depletion of CO2 in the lungs.
I went running today. I needed it physically, spiritually, and emotionally. After a few months of running, it’s remarkable how much your body longs to run. It was pretty glorious to be back near the Bay, and I experienced no pain in my ankle. I also realized while studying Buteyko, my routine needs to be a little different.
It’s not just an asthma breathing technique; Buteyko is a lifestyle change. It is meant to radically change the way we breathe. This is why painstaking, all day long nasal breathing is important. It’s why at night, I tape my mouth shut.

I’m a mouth breather, and it’s taken me twice as long as normal to write this post because I’m keeping firm the corners of my mouth, which struggle to open just the tiniest sliver to take a sip of the air I think I desparately need.  And yet, so far no tingling, no lightheadness, no passing out.  
This is why the 3 miles, 3 times a week is not going to work, at least at the beginning. Today I ran a mile breathing through my nose. Psychologically I felt stifled, physiologically I felt great. I wasn’t even tired. For the next couple weeks until I can get up to 3 miles, I’ll be running as far as I can nose breath.
More on Butekyo to come.

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