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Transcript copy of Star TV’s Focus Asia segment on Buteyko’s Method with Jac Vidgen

BAD BREATH: Shakuntala Santhiran for STAR TV’s Focus Asia One would imagine that breathing is the most natural thing for any living person. But practitioners of the Buteyko method – an alternative breathing technique – believe that many people perform this basic function of life incorrectly without even knowing it. And they say incorrect breathing could be causing over 200 ailments, from asthma to impotence. Shakuntala Santhiran has the story. (Music) Thirty-eight-year-old Mohyna Srinivasan suffers from asthma, a chronic lung disease that causes breathing disorders, and can be fatal. The slightest physical activity used to make her breathless. Mohyna Srinivasan, a Market Research Manager says: “Anything that was bit physically challenging, and I mean really slightly, I would get breathless. And typically I would like to use my inhaler after that. The inhaler gives you shakiness of the limbs and generally you’re not hundred percent. If there was an infection going around, I was quite sure to catch it.” (Mohnya Srinivasan doing Buteyko) Since she learnt Buteyko’s method of breathing nine months ago, Mohyna says she’s been in the pink. Her stamina is much improved and she no longer needs medication. Mohyna Srinivasan says: “I haven’t used an inhaler or any kind of traditional medication for my condition since I took the workshop which was in June so that makes me drug free now for about 9 months and that makes me very happy because that was my goal.” (Christopher Gold) Fifty-nine-year- old Christopher Gold is another satisfied Buteyko customer. He suffers from sleep apnoea, a potentially life threatening breathing disorder. Christopher Gold, a university professor says: “Sleep apnea is a bit like snoring, but snoring too much. With sleep apnea, it’s even worse because you choke at the same time, it’s sort of (he demonstrates), and you actually stop breathing. And this means that sleep is very broken and you’re very tired the next day and you don’t know why.” For the last eight years, Chris has had to be force fed air via this machine to help him breathe while he sleeps. (Puts on mask ) Christopher Gold says: “I would put this on and try and go to sleep.” But he hasn’t needed the machine since he learnt how to breathe the Buteyko way. Christopher Gold says: “I can’t say yet that the results will be permanent, but I’ve been one to two months without using the machine, so certainly at present it’s been very effective and I’m very happy.” (Music) Russian respiratory doctor Konstantin Buteyko developed the method over 50 years ago, specifically to help people correct their breathing. According to Dr Buteyko, nine out of 10 people do not breathe correctly. You might think, as many people do, that you don’t breathe deeply enough, but Buteyko’s research indicates quite the opposite- that many people instead breathe too much. (Traffic) Over breathing according to Dr Buteyko, is a product of our modern day lives – the pollution in the air, bad diets, and stress in particular. (Jac Vidgen) Jac Vidgen, a senior Buteyko practitioner says: “In ancient times, when people were stressed they were about to engage or were engaging in fight or flight. Modern humans are sitting down when they get stressed. And so we are experiencing what I describe as sedentary stress. And sedentary stress unfortunately, provokes the same kind of physiological and biochemical reactions in the body as the stress which prepares you for fight and flight, so your breathing increases, your heart rate increases, your hormones change. And if you’re not in fight and flight your body becomes imbalanced.” Jac Vidgen, who’s been teaching Buteyko’s method for over a decade, says this imbalance can be manifested in over 200 disorders like asthma and sleep apnoea, and also more unexpected conditions like diabetes, impotence and even varicose veins! Jac Vidgen says: “The product of that can be manifested depending on your genetic predisposition. If you have a genetic predisposition for asthma, then it will be manifested as asthma. If you have a genetic predisposition for digestive disorders, it may be manifested that way.” (Jac teaching) Jac Vidgen says: “The idea is to have your breathing soft and gentle and light.” Jac and other Buteyko practitioners believe shallow breathing through the nose is the key to alleviating these conditions. Jac Vidgen says: ” As a person reduces their breathing to more normal levels, the balance of oxygen and CO2 in the body becomes more corrected, more appropriate, more optimum, which allows for effective oxygen delivery to the cells and allows for opening of air passages. In the trials that have been done on this method in relation to asthma there was like a 96% reduction in bronco-dilator use across the board in the trial group within a few weeks and sustained to the end of six months.” These results have been consistent in four different trials in Australia, Scotland and New Zealand and they’ve certainly excited some doctors. But many practitioners of mainstream medicine are more sceptical about the method. Dr. Roland Leung, Respiratory Specialist, Hong Kong Medical Association says: “To slow down your breathing, I think does have a role in alleviate the sensation of shortness of breath. But just controlling the breathing itself is not going to treat the underlying patho-physiology of asthma, which is airway inflammation, causing narrowing of the airways.” Like many conventional practitioners, Dr Leung continues to prescribe drugs to treat asthma. He refuses to consider Buteyko’s method. Dr. Leung says: “Without any proper randomised control trial between the conventional method and Buteyko breathing method, I think one cannot say for sure whether it’s scientific value is there or isn’t there.” Dr Leung has so far declined Jac’s invitations to try Buteyko breathing himself. Mohyna too was sceptical about the breathing method before she tried it, but she’s now sold on its benefits. Mohyna Srinivasan says: “The results speak for themselves, I haven’t used an inhaler, I haven’t taken medication. I’ve recommended it to lots of friends. It’s helped them as well.” (Gym) The drug-free method is being used not just to treat conditions like asthma. There are a growing number of Buteyko enthusiasts who are using the technique to lose weight. Athletes here in Hong Kong, Australia and Russia are also breathing shallow to improve their performance and stamina. Buteyko’s method promises no miracles – you have to work to get results. Jac Vidgen says: “The success rate will depend entirely upon the person’s need and willingness to practise. You’re changing the biggest habit we have and you can’t expect to change that without some work ” To convince sceptics to try Buteyko’s method, Jac offers a money back guarantee. He says out of over 5000 people that he’s taught in the last 11 years, only five have asked for a refund. That’s pretty good odds. This transcript is courtesy of the STAR TV’s Focus Asia website....

Breathe Easy (from South China Morning Post, Hong Kong)

South China Morning Post // Friday December 16 2005 Do you inhale using your mouth or your nose? Karen Pittar and Tara Jenkins speak to a Buteyko practitioner who says proper techniques for life’s simplest task can have numerous benefits AT 34, AMANDA was the picture of health. She was fit and healthy, wasn’t overweight, exercised regularly, and ate well. So it was an unwelcome surprise when – in early 2003 – she started experiencing chronic fatigue, unrelenting sore throats and distressing respiratory problems. ‘Initially, the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was constantly on antibiotics and had to undergo a battery of tests,’ she says. ‘I was eventually diagnosed with a depleted immune system and severe adult-onset asthma. The doctors told me I’d have to learn to live with the condition and be on high doses of medication for the rest of my life. I felt totally out of control and I hated taking the drugs.’ It’s a story that Buteyko practitioner Jac Vidgen hears on a daily basis – and one he believes he has the answer to. Discovered by Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko in the 1950s, the Buteyko technique is drug-free and is believed to reverse a wide range of chronic health problems – most notably asthma, allergies, and sleep and anxiety disorders. It’s based on the premise that people ‘over-breathe’ and breathe through our mouths when we should use our noses. ‘The nose is a temperature control, a filter and a dehumidifier for the breath coming in and a regulator for the breath coming in and out. None of these roles are effectively fulfilled by the mouth,’ says Vidgen. ‘The mouth is designed for talking, eating and drinking and not for regular breathing.’ According to Buteyko practitioners such as Vidgen, over-breathing has a poisonous effect on the body – impeding oxygenation, overexciting the nervous system and upsetting metabolic processes. Advocates of the Buteyko method believe so strongly in the importance of breathing through the nose that they tape their mouth closed at night. Amanda says that initially, taping her mouth at night was unnerving. ‘To begin with, I didn’t like it, but now I would feel uncomfortable not doing it,’ she says. ‘When I started practising Buteyko, I was sceptical. But within a few months, I was drug-free and I haven’t looked back.’ She says her medication is still in the bathroom cupboard, but she hasn’t used it since. According to Vidgen, the bottom line is that everyone who practises Buteyko sees benefits. ‘The person needs to make slight modifications to their lifestyle, practise some exercises, develop an understanding of their own breathing and learn to breathe through their nose.’ He says anyone who’s willing to develop more optimal breathing patterns will see improvements in some areas of their wellbeing, as evidenced by four clinical trials carried out in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. The trial results show that three months after adopting the Buteyko method, there was a dramatic reduction in asthma symptoms, as well as a 96 per cent reduction in bronchodilator use and a 49 per cent reduction in anti-inflammatory preventer medication. However, Kenneth Tsang, professor of respiratory medicine at Hong Kong University, says that while he’s not opposed to the technique, there are a number of important considerations people should take into account. ‘The Buteyko trials are not stringent when you look at the current gold standard. The number of patients tested is very small, some involve only a handful – about 30 or 40 cases,’ Tsang says. ‘Additionally, some of the studies test a lot of variables, from lung function to quality of life to symptoms; it’s very worrying when you have a small number of subjects and test a large number of variables as, undoubtedly, you’ll have problems in incidental findings. When you invest your health in something, it has to be stringent.’ Tsang goes on to say that, because the Buteyko technique requires the patient to make significant changes in so many different areas of their life, it’s impossible to know exactly which aspect of the treatment is making the difference. ‘It covers a lot of issues, such as advice on lifestyle, education on medication, exercise, nutrition and general relaxation techniques,’ says Tsang. ‘These components are all individually very important to any illness. When you change so many aspects of a person’s life, they do alter. ‘Whether or not it’s because of the exercise or the relaxation that you use less asthma medication, it’s hard to judge.’ He also says the practice does place a lot of demands on people’s personal lives – nutrition, exercise and relaxation rules. Many people in Hong Kong don’t have the time for that. Vidgen acknowledges you have to put in the groundwork to see results. ‘ The average person is lazy. They’re not interested in their wellbeing,’ he says. ‘For some people, it’s hard but it’s also very hard for some people to have the problem they’ve got. If you’ve emphysema and you’re using a nebuliser and oxygen every day just to get around, it’s worth sitting down and doing half an hour three or four times a day, just practising breathing exercises.’ The result, Vidgen says, is that such people use much less oxygen, don’t need the nebuliser as much and get around more effectively. He says people using long-acting bronchodilators are weaned off them within a few sessions of working with him. ‘Once they’re off those, they may take their inhaled steroid, of course, and then use Ventolin as they need it. ‘A few days later, they don’t need it – they’ve removed half their combination drug and it just works, over and over, and over again. All you have to do is teach a mild asthmatic how to use breath control and the symptoms reduce. This is not about ‘don’t take medicine’, it’s about how can we take less and how can we address the underlying problem and not just manage the symptoms.’ While Tsang understands that some of his patients want to come off medication, he stresses this must be done only under strict medical supervision as it may interfere with the treatment Vidgen nose the best way to beat stress According to Buteyko practitioner Jac Vidgen, it’s fundamental that children are taught to breathe through their noses instead of their mouths to alleviate a range of conditions including respiratory problems. ‘Look at children today and see the way they’re breathing,’ he says. ‘They all have their mouths open. I teach people of 25 who have never breathed through their nose. Their passages are all closed up, but within three days they are breathing through their nose 70 per cent of the time.’ Vidgen says children as young as three can learn the technique and it’s not just for treating respiratory problems. ‘In Australia today, many orthodontists are sending children to Buteyko because we teach children to breathe through their nose and consequently, the teeth form much more naturally and healthily,’ he says. Vidgen also believes intense stimulation and stress from birth are the root cause of over-breathing. ‘When we experience intense stress, our body doesn’t distinguish between threatening and non-life threatening situations. ‘It always reacts the same way – increasing heart rate, adrenaline and the body tells you to breathe more.’ He says children today are intensely stimulated from birth. ‘Busy mothers-to-be in Hong Kong run around and over-breathe and when the child’s born they want an intelligent child so they put mobiles in the cots, play videos and so on. Stimulation like that is interpreted by the brain as a kind of stress, so the baby over-breathes.’...

Breathe through your Nose (from Breathe magazine, Manila)

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