A scientist in Russia by the name of K P Buteyko has spent his life showing that breathing can alter the acid/alkaline levels in the bloodstream by adjusting the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. In principle, hyperventilation causes a depletion of carbon dioxide . Low levels of C02 cause blood vessels to spasm and tissues to be deprived of oxygen. This can, in theory, create any disease process ranging from arthritis to ulcerative colitis. The body’s metabolism will often slow down in response to this decreased C02 level. By counteracting this, the Buteyko breathing technique can be very beneficial in increasing energy and reducing weight.

Buteyko therapy aims to retrain breathing patterns to increase the oxygenation of the blood and tissues. Asthma is particularly susceptible to Buteyko breathing methods. Research carried out in Australia, showing a remarkable response in asthmatics using drugs to control their problem, is soon due to be published. There has been some delay and I wonder if this is a block by the orthodox medical world, who would lose millions of dollars if a breathing technique were found to be more effective.

The Buteyko method needs to be taught over a number of sessions, generally given on a daily basis over a few days. Buteyko teachers have been fed information suggesting that this method of breathing may affect many different maladies and those that I know have been, in my opinion, overzealous in suggesting that patients ‘throw away their crutches’ sooner rather than later. It is best to follow a Buteyko method under the guidance of an independent physician or complementary medical practitioner.

The Buteyko method is based on training an individual to breathe less deeply than most Eastern breathing philosophies, and this creates a direct confrontation. I think that the answer lies in following the advice of yoga, Qi Gong, or meditation teachers whilst relaxing, exercising or meditating, but perhaps incorporating the Buteyko concepts into regular life.