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Asthma Free Naturally
Patrick McKeown

"The perfect man breathes as if he does not breathe."

For the vast majority of people, breathing is an everyday fact of life which occurs on a subconscious level. It is something that is all too often taken for granted--until there's a problem. With practice, both the rate and volume of breathing can be changed for the better and the only prerequisite is to be aware of the existing breathing pattern. Making the change to a reduced volume of breathing should be treated as simply acquiring a good habit--one that will reap untold health benefits. Ultimately the benefits can include the complete recovery of an individual with asthma.

A new beginning is emerging in the treatment of asthma, aimed at getting to the root cause of the problem. By addressing the cause rather than the symptoms that are the effect, sufferers finally have the ability to be able to take control of their own condition, naturally and permanently. This new beginning is based on the life's work of Russian scientist Professor Konstantin Buteyko. For over four decades, Professor Buteyko completed pioneering work on illnesses which develop as a result of breathing a volume of air greater than the body requires. Through his research, Dr. Buteyko devised a breathing program for his patients based on reducing the amount of air that passed through their lungs. When each patient applied reduced breathing, all their bodily functions including pulse, volume of breathing per minute, and blood pressure were monitored. The resulting data enabled him to refine and improve his method.   

Clinically, overbreathing is known as hyperventilation. The standard volume of normal breathing for a healthy adult is 3 to 6 litres of air per minute. Research conducted by Professor Buteyko over 30 years demonstrated that people with asthma breathe a volume of 10 to 20 litres per minute between attacks, and over 20 litres during an attack. Overbreathing causes a loss of carbon dioxide from the lungs. Over a period of time, breathing more air than we need will result in the day-to-day levels of carbon dioxide remaining low constantly. Our respiratory center becomes accustomed to or fixed at these lower levels of carbon dioxide and determines them to be "correct." Our respiratory center will therefore instruct us to overbreathe to maintain these low levels of carbon dioxide even though the rest of our bodily organs and tissues are suffering. Reduced breathing due to what is called the Bohr Effect leads to better oxygenation of all of the body's cells and tissues, which in turn enables all the organs to function more efficiently.

There are three basic steps towards breath retraining.

Step One

Become very aware of your breathing. Feel, watch and listen to your breathing as much as you can during the day, paying particular attention to what causes you to take big breaths. Ask yourself some questions.

Is your breathing a still, silent activity or does it involve large inhalations and body movements?
Are you going about your daily activities with your mouth open?
Do you take a big breath as you stand up from your chair or before talking?
Do you heave big sighs, yawn, or sniff regularly?
Do you wake in the night or early morning with a dry mouth?
Is your nose blocked when you wake or do you wake feeling that you have not had a good night's sleep?

Only when you have become aware of your bad breathing can you take steps to correct it. Awareness of our own incorrect breathing can also be increased by observing other people who are perhaps breathing with their mouths open, panting when shopping, or at bus stops; it is also possible to notice a person's breathing characteristics over the telephone. Even though all of these people may seem to enjoy good health, many of those who have bad breathing actions may already have or are likely to develop health problems in the future.   

Step Two

Learn to breathe through your nose. Breathing through your nose at all times is the correct and only way to breathe, accompanied by the correct volume of breathing. The nose is a smaller channel to breathe through, and therefore it helps to reduce the volume of air as there is about 50% more resistance. Some people seem to spend most of their lives with a blocked nose and many have tried, without success, every nasal spray and therapy on the market. Unblocking the nose is the first step on the road to permanent and comfortable nasal breathing.

Step Three

It has been explained how the respiratory center can accept a low level of carbon dioxide as the norm, despite the stress it may place on various organs. All the breathing exercises I recommend involve breathing less air than the body has become accustomed to. Over time this helps reset the respiratory system to accept the higher levels of carbon dioxide that it really should have. Remember, when the volume of air breathed in is reduced, the carbon dioxide in the lungs accumulates and this in turn will readjust the carbon dioxide threshold. When asked for a simple definition of his theory, Professor Buteyko said it is this: the reduction of the depth of breathing by the relaxation of the respiratory muscles to create a little air shortage. He directed his patients to "breathe less." This is the very essence of Buteyko breathing. Remember that overbreathing will trigger asthma and the intention is to learn to breathe a more correct volume by relaxation. Breathing can primarily be reduced by relaxing all the muscles because increased tension leads to overbreathing, reduces blood flow, and therefore oxygenation. A quote from sixth century BC philosopher Lao Tzu states, "The perfect man breathes as if he does not breathe." Through the Buteyko Method the individual learns to breathe in a calm, silent, and still manner.

Excerpted with permission from Asthma-Free Naturally 2003 by Patrick McKeown, published by Conari Press. Available in stores or visit www.redwheelweiser.com


Related Articles:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Herbal Remedies for Asthma
Combatting Indoor Allergies
Conscious Breathing by Gay Hendricks

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