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THE BUTEYKO METHOD

Konstantin Buteyko was born in


1923 in the Ukraine and grew up in a
farming community. After becoming
a physician, he made an important
discovery about human health, one
which would lead many seriously
afflicted individuals back to good
health. Dr. Buteyko's main discovery
focused on breathing and the
revision of breathing habits in order
to reverse the progression of an
illness.
His
holistic,
drug-free
technique became so effective and
widespread that it was named in his
honor: The Buteyko Method. His life
was fraught with peril, including the
destruction of his laboratory in
Siberia and threats on his life.
Dr. Buteyko miraculously survived the turmoil and established a clinic
in Moscow (Clinica Buteyko). He lived to see his scientific discovery
and applied practices gain worldwide recognition. He died in Moscow
in 2003.
Konstantin Buteyko's Early Life
Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko was born in 1923 in Ivanitsa, a small
farming community near Kiev. His mother, a schoolteacher, was
known to say, "I gave birth to a very odd boy," possibly referring to
her son's powerful mind and avid curiosity about every detail of the
natural world around him. He was very independent and would spend
a great deal of time alone outdoors, closely observing and examining
plants, insects, and anything else he encountered. His innate interest
in this and his aptitude laid the foundation for his keen scientific
insights in the future.
Konstantin's father was a mechanic, and his son
became adept at this skill as well. When he
encountered any kind of mechanism, Konstantin
first saw it as nothing more than an arbitrary
collection of parts, but when, upon further study,
he would see that all the parts should interacted
harmoniously as a whole in order to make it run
well, he became fascinated. This process led
Buteyko to study engineering at the Polytechnic
College in Kiev, Ukraine.

In his sophomore year of college, World War II began. This spurred


Buteyko to enlist and he volunteered to go the frontlines. During his
four years in the war zone, he worked as a driver, mechanic, and a
helper in a medical aid party. He repaired all sorts of vehicles, having
started the training for this work at the mechanics department of
engineering college. Throughout this time, he also came face to face
with another type of wartime destruction - human casualties. He was
not trained to offer any assistance for this. His frustration at not
being able to serve the maimed and wounded caused him to redirect
his studies and become a medical doctor. Viewed through his natural
analytical perspective, Buteyko beheld the human body as the most
superior of all "machines" and so, finding ways to help it operate in
the most harmonious and effective way became his new goal.
In 1946, over a year after the end of the war, Konstantin Buteyko
enrolled at First Medical Institute in Moscow, Russia. As a student
there, he was known as a handsome, young veteran with a sharp
intellect, abundant energy, and, always, the highest possible grades.
He spent most of his time at the library, or conducting clinical work.
Upon graduating from medical school with distinction, he was invited
to come on staff by an eminent doctor at one of Moscow's most elite
hospitals. His scientific and clinical supervisors, as well as his friends,
were convinced that a bright future began to unfold in front of this
very talented doctor.
While still at medical school, Dr. Buteyko had specialized in the study
of hypertension [high blood pressure]. Ironically, Dr. Buteyko himself
developed a severe form of this, in his case, lethal disease. The
hospital whose staff he had joined had the best medicine available for
the treatment of this illness. Dr. Buteyko began treating himself with
these drugs but soon recognized that his condition only worsened. In
the fall of 1952, his health had deteriorated to such a degree that it
was not likely he would live for more than a couple of months.
Konstantin Buteyko's Monumental Discovery
Dr. Buteyko was a man of great strength and
fortitude who, despite tremendous pain,
continued working. One evening during his
night shift at the hospital, he was alone in a
room, standing in front of a window looking
up at a star filled sky. His mind was occupied
with one question: What is the cause of my
disease? As many renowned doctors of the
past, Dr. Buteyko believed that it was
impossible to cure a disease without knowing
its cause. Suddenly, a blinding light flashed

outside and he lowered his gaze to shield his eyes. Having been
dazzled by the flash and looking downward to regain his vision, he
noticed something that immediately caught his attention. He
observed his chest and belly moving a great deal as he was
breathing. In the midst of his impending demise, and in great pain,
he, nevertheless, maintained his lifelong habit of being a keen
observer of natural phenomena.
His mind was drawn to his heavy breathing and at that moment, he
considered an idea that had seemed almost crazy before: could it be
that his heavy breathing was not the result of his disease but the
cause of it? Ever the indefatigable scientist, he immediately began
experimenting on himself. First, he increased his breathing. As a
result, his pain increased. Second, he decreased his breathing.
Remarkably, his pain began to subside! This was a pivotal moment
for Dr. Buteyko, one that would change the course of his life. He was
far from having all the answers, but he began to understand what
questions were important to ask and consider.
This event inspired Dr. Buteyko to head straight for the pulmonology
department of the hospital where he found a pale man suffocating
from an asthma attack. Buteyko tried his technique with the patient
and both were surprised by the nearly instant success. After a few
minutes of reduced breathing, the patient was able to breathe much
better and his face regained some color. The asthma attack was
gone.
Dr. Buteyko proceeded to try the method on many other patients at
his hospital. He discovered the result was consistent for people
suffering from various diseases. When they increased their breathing,
their symptoms became worse. When they reduced their breathing,
their symptoms eased and their health improved. By modifying
breathing patterns, Dr. Buteyko was able to help many patients; he
also cured his own disease and regained health.
Dr. Buteyko was very excited by his discovery and wanted to tell all
his friends and colleagues about it. In his youthful exuberance, full of
enthusiasm, he went to his academic and clinical supervisors and
explained his remarkable discovery to them. They listened and
immediately discounted what he had discovered because it went so
far against what they were taught to believe. They told him to forget
all about this "discovery" and strongly urged him to abandon his
pursuit of presenting this to medical journals or other medical
facilities. His discovery was an anathema to such an extent, that his
friends seriously feared he would be sentenced to and incarcerated in
a mental institution.

It was during this time of personal trial that Dr. Buteyko compared
the path of his discovery to that of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis of
Hungary. Dr. Semmelweis, while practicing at the General Hospital in
Vienna, Austria (1847), discovered that the spread of septicemia
could be radically reduced by the simple act of hand-washing. The
mortality rate of infants and mothers was incredibly high and the
method of washing hands with bleach and lime prior to surgery
reduced the rate by a large percentage. At that time, diseases were
attributed to many different and unique causes. Semmelweis'
hypothesis, that there was only one cause for septicemia, seemed too
simple and was therefore discredited and heavily ridiculed. After
many years of protesting this unfair treatment and many angry
letters sent to other doctors, Semmelweis was confined to a mental
asylum. Some sources say that he ran from that institution, went to
the morgue of his hospital and in front of dumbfounded students cut
his finger and put it into a corpse. Soon thereafter, he died of
septicemia. 50 years later, Louis Pasteur confirmed Semmelweis's
theories by developing the germ theory: I saw microbes, he said, but
Semmelweis was the one who discovered them.
Similar to Semmelweis, Buteyko came to the
conclusion that many health issues, which
are considered to be unique diseases by the
medical community, are a collection of
symptoms of one disease - hyperventilation.
Hyperventilation leads to the development of
asthma, hypertension, cancer 150 diseases
in all, the most common ones in today's
world. Dr.Buteyko realized that these
diseases can be cured by reducing one's
breathing. It was just too simple for other
doctors to accept!
Facing ridicule and a potential incarceration for revealing his new
method was a terrible blow to Dr. Buteyko. He realized he would have
to keep the discovery quiet in order to save himself. The only way his
work could possibly gain credibility was if he could collect substantial
data to support his theory. At this time, in 1952, a new Academy of
Science was developing in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, with
abundant funding available for scientific laboratories and clinics. It
was a bitter decision for Dr. Buteyko to leave an elite hospital in the
most culturally sophisticated city of Russia and move to Siberia, far
away from the launch of his brilliant career. However, he saw no
other way to collect and assemble the data necessary to raise
awareness for his revolutionary discovery.
Once he established himself at the Siberian clinical laboratory, Dr.
Buteyko began treating the seriously ill, especially those with asthma.

As he gained insight and experience, his reputation grew


exponentially. Profoundly sick people were carried into his laboratory
and then would miraculously walk out of it on their own. People who
were extremely ill traveled great distances to be treated by him and
he was besieged with hundreds of letters on a daily basis from people
requesting his help.
Dr. Buteyko tried to help anyone who needed his help without any
consideration for his own benefit. Often, when his patients were
lacking money for transportation or accommodation, Dr. Buteyko
shared his own, at that time, very modest resources with them.
Articles reporting on Dr. Buteyko's brilliant success stories appeared
in the national press and he became known far and wide for his
altruistic nature and treatments that were effective in cases where
others failed.
This attention generated envy among Buteyko's peers. One doctor
was developing a powder that eased asthma symptoms. Dr. Buteyko
was not only offering an ease, but an actual cure for asthma, and
this, of course, was more appealing.
Another example was Konstantin's main
supervisor at the Academy. He was a
surgeon whose approach to asthma had
been to remove the afflicted lung, treat it,
and then put it back into the body.
Although the effectiveness of this technique
was insignificant, he had hoped this work
would eventually earn him a Nobel Prize.
Dr. Buteyko's discovery and the simplicity of his method was a threat
for these and many other medical professionals and put their
livelihood at risk. This surgeon gathered a group of doctors and
began a campaign to sabotage Dr. Buteyko's work. Dr. Buteyko's
laboratory, along with a lot of very expensive medical equipment,
which he had acquired abroad (and some of which he designed
himself), was destroyed. His staff was dismissed. His data was
compromised.
This took place in 1968, while Konstantin was away on a business
trip. He cut the trip short and returned immediately. When he entered
the room that was once his sophisticated laboratory, his dark hair
started to turn grey. On top of all this, Dr. Buteyko received multiple
death threats, the purpose of which was to intimidate him into
stopping his work. He was once poisoned and there was also a mob
style automobile crash arranged to kill him. He survived all of these
attempts.

Dr. Buteyko's life was in serious danger and in the midst of it he,
once again, stepped back, engaged his analytical side and contrived a
means of survival. Among the hundreds of applicants who begged
and pleaded to be treated by him, there were some influential
individuals. He strategically selected to treat a few of these powerful
people, who, because of their full recovery back to health, agreed to
protect him to a certain extent. This was the sole reason Dr. Buteyko
was able to continue his work and life in Soviet Russia.
Konstantin was offered an opportunity to practice his treatment in
space medicine. At first, it seemed like a beneficial way to advance
his work but it soon became apparent that this job would drastically
limit his scope of influence. This was during the Cold War of the late
50s and with the space race between Russia and the United States,
agreeing to take this position would be like an automatic swearing to
secrecy. This job would have assured him financial security, but Dr.
Buteyko returned to his altruistic desires to help the numerous people
in need of his treatment, rather than have it sequestered for an elite
few.
For almost 20 years, Konstantin was officially unemployed and his
name was on the media black list. At that time, private practice was
not legal in the Soviet Union, but Dr. Buteyko continued helping
people privately on a donation basis. The
80s brought some relief for Buteyko. In
1981, the second official trial of his
method took place in Moscow Medical
Academy,
in
the
department
for
asthmatic children. The positive results
of the treatment were between 94 and
96 percent. In 1983, twenty one years
after his application, he received a
patent with a classification of "top
secret" for his discovery and the method of treatment. In 1985, the
Ministry of Public Health of Russia issued instructions and
recommendations to all medical professionals to treat patients with
the Buteyko breathing method; however, those instructions were
never implemented. In 1987, at the very beginning of the
Perestroika, Dr.Buteyko was finally allowed to establish his own clinic
in Moscow. Later, it became known as Clinica Buteyko.
Dr. Buteyko compared breathing to atomic energy: from his
perspective, the awesome power of breathing was capable of
destroying health very quickly as well as rebuilding it extraordinary
fast. Many people suffering from asthma, allergies, hypertension,
kidney problems, cardio, gastrological problems, immune deficiency,
cancer, and many other serious diseases were healed at Clinica
Buteyko. Konstantin Buteyko also started working with people who

were exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. An


official trial regarding this work took place in 1990 in Kiev, Ukraine,
at the National Scientific Center of Radiation Medicine. The result: 82
percent of patients significantly improved their health. In 1991,
another official trial of the Buteyko Method took place. This time,
Buteyko's team worked with AIDS patients at the Institute of
Epidemiology (Kiev). This work demonstrated positive results with no
negative side-effects. That year, the same Institute conducted
another trial with hepatitis and liver hepatocirrhosis patients. The
Buteyko Method proved to be very effective and was officially
recommended for use on patients with such problems.
The Buteyko Method and Spirituality
From the point of view of Konstantin Buteyko, a human body is "the
perfect machine." As many famous doctors and scientists have done,
he used his own body and mind to experiment with his method.
Konstantin practiced his method and followed a particular lifestyle
that promotes physical and mental health. In the final period of his
life, Buteyko came to the conclusion that a reduction of breathing
leads to clarity of mind, inner peace, and calmness. Additionally, he
found out that it promotes intuition, telepathy and other types of
extrasensory perception. Konstantin started his career as a talented,
yet regular medical doctor, but, by the end of his life, he developed
qualities of an advanced spiritual practitioner. He was known for
being able to read people's thoughts, predicting the future, and many
other extraordinary abilities. He hardly slept at all, was able to exist
without food for 50 days at a time, and was capable of holding his
breath after an exhalation for several minutes.
During the final part of his life, the first
question Buteyko would ask his
patients was, "Do you believe in God?"
He was equally accepting of the
answers "yes" and "no" but preferred
not to give his time to people who
answered "I am not sure." What
Buteyko found was that the door to an
individual's personal evolution could be
opened through his breathing. In a
way, this was not a new idea: this
principal was known and understood in many ancient cultures. One of
the goals of Indian yoga, for example Pranayama, is to breathe less.
A fundamental meditation in Tibetan Buddhism, which is called Shine
(Peace), train the meditator to switch from heavy to shallow
breathing. Japanese samurais had another interesting tradition: they
would put a feather under one's nose and breathe on it. If the feather
moved, that person would be dismissed from being a samurai.

Russian Orthodox Saints recommended to their disciples to reduce


breathing during prayer. They believed this would bring them closer
to the divine.
About our civilization
In the end of his life Buteyko also spent time studying various ancient
civilizations and trying to find the answer to one question: Why did
they fall? The reason he was occupied with this question was simple.
Buteyko's highly analytical mind was telling him that our civilization
was also dying, and he was trying to find a solution to prevent this
process.
That's how Dr. Buteyko came to this conclusion: he found out that
the majority of the population hyperventilates (to varying degrees)
continually in their daily lives. This removes the beneficial and
necessary CO2 from our system, and thus creates a less effective
bond of the Oxygen molecule with the hemoglobin in the blood.
Paradoxically, oxygen is actually reduced in many organs, including
the brain. When the brain does not receive enough oxygen, its
intellectual function gradually becomes impaired. That means that a
person loses his ability to think systematically or as K. Buteyko put it,
"in terms of cause and effect." The person's thinking becomes more
computer-like: he can accumulate a lot of information but is only
capable of processing it within a limited frame. In daily life, this is
often manifested when a person is fully engaged with his endless
tasks, but does not have time to think about the meaning of his life
or the future of our planet or civilization. As the result of
hyperventilation, on the psychological level people literally become
narrow-minded and on the physical level they become much weaker.
Dr. Buteyko believed that if our civilization does not change its
breathing, it's destined to die just as many other civilizations before it
did.
Some concepts of Dr. Buteyko
Why do people hyperventilate? In the early part of life formation on
earth, the carbon dioxide content in our atmosphere was 70 percent
and higher and the Oxygen content was less than one percent. It was
similar to the conditions inside a womb, which has a high level of
carbon dioxide and a low level of oxygen. As plant life increased and
developed, the balance of CO2 and Oxygen shifted and Oxygen
became the dominant gas in our atmosphere (Presently it is about 21
percent Oxygen and less than one percent Carbon Dioxide). Buteyko
assumed that many biological species were not able to adjust to this
change and became extinct (possibly, dinosaurs). Humans survived
by being able to adjust to these gradual changes; however, our

bodies were not ideally created for the type of the atmosphere that
surrounds our planet.
Coming back to the present, Dr.
Buteyko believed that the modern
lifestyle, specifically the sedentary
lifestyle, protein rich foods, and the
gradual loss of spiritual practices
compromised our breathing further
and, by extension, our physical and
mental health. In today's world, on
average people consume five to ten
times more air than their bodies need.
Ongoing research at Clinica Buteyko
indicates that people's breathing on the
whole is worsening.
The end of his life
In 2003, an average lifespan for men in Russia was between fifty and
sixty years. Konstantin was eighty years old and active despite the
damage caused to his life force by the many attempts to kill him. In
1998, he became a victim of a street assault, which seriously
impacted his health. In Novosibirsk, when Konstantin was walking in
the city at night, he was surrounded by three men who brutally
attacked the elderly doctor. They used heavy metal bars and directed
them at his head. When they thought that Konstantin was dead, they
threw his body away on the snow (it was a cold Siberian night). When
he was found, doctors were astonished that he survived; however,
they thought that there were very little chance he would live. He lived
and worked for another four years.
During this time, he traveled a great deal because his method
gradually began to spread around the world. He was invited to
England to treat Prince Charles who was suffering from allergies.
Konstantin and his wife Ludmila Buteyko successfully cured the
Prince's problem. They also visited Germany, New Zealand, and other
countries educating people about his method.
A day before Konstantin passed away, he asked his wife Ludmila to
take him to a hospital. She was surprised given that he was feeling
well but followed her husband's request. Doctors at the hospital
examined Konstantin and came to the conclusion that there was
nothing wrong with him, in fact, they happily announced to Ludmila
that she should expect him to live another ten or twenty years.
And yet he passed away the next day. Why? Ludmila's answer is this:
"By that time, he did everything he could to offer the people of this

planet a very valuable knowledge that could


have saved the lives of many as well as the
life of the whole civilization. Unfortunately,
his offer was not fully accepted due to the
unwillingness to change, to go beyond the
comfort of habitual thinking. He respected
this choice; however, he felt that his mission
or his life on Earth was completed. On May
2nd 2003, on a very auspicious day in
Orthodox Christianity, Konstantin looked at
Ludmila, his wife and his kindred spirit,
smiled, and then turned to his right side and
effortlessly and painlessly left his body.

Letter About Asthma (Written by Dr. K.P. Buteyko)


Two hundred years ago asthma was considered a mild ailment.
Having asthma generally meant having a long life free of other
diseases. However, no one could explain how asthma prevented other
ailments or why asthmatics lived longer than others. Today, we know
that asthma is not an ordinary disease. Bronchospasm, the main
component of asthma, acts as a protective mechanism, helping to
maintain biological constants and important functions at near normal
levels.
We have also learned that asthma or
bronchospasm cannot exist unless the Carbon
Dioxide (CO2) level in the lungs is abnormally
low. Since the metabolic and immune systems
can function correctly only if the CO2 level is
normal, the limit of the asthmatics CO2 level
protects him or her and allows for a long and
healthy life. It is this powerful defense
mechanism that provides the asthmatic with an
improved
biological
system.
Evidently,
bronchospasm is one way the organism has
adapted to its environment.
Modern drug treatment for asthma is aimed at neutralizing this
protective mechanism. The organism then fights back again and
again with more intensive bronchospasms leading to a rapid
deterioration of the asthma from drug treatment. It is not possible to
cure asthma by removing a protective mechanism like broncospasm.

Only when the condition responsible for the bronchospasm is


removed, can asthma be reversed.
Theory of the Buteyko Method (Written by Dr. K.P. Buteyko)
Thirty-eight years ago, I announced that a great number of
widespread diseases triggered by the lifestyle of our civilization (i.e.,
bronchial and vasomotor spasms, allergic reactions, etc) have a
common cause: hyperventilation (excessive breathing). I realized
that decreasing and thus normalizing the air intake can lead to an
individuals recovery. Scientific studies, as well as the basic laws of
physiology, biochemistry, and biology have confirmed this hypothesis.
Here are the general postulates of my theory:
When an excessive amount of air is consumed, a large amount of
carbon dioxide is removed from the organism, consequently reducing
the CO2 content of the lungs, blood, and tissue cells. A
hyperventilation caused CO2 deficiency produces pH alkaline shifts in
the blood and tissue cells. The pH shifts interfere with all protein
(about 1000 in all) and vitamin (about 20) activity, altering the
metabolic processes. Therefore, when the pH level reaches the value
of 8, the metabolic disorders can cause death.
A CO2 deficiency also causes spasms in the smooth muscles of the
bronchi, cerebral and circulatory vessels, intestines, biliary ducts, and
other organs. In the late 19th century, Bronislav Verigo, a Russian
scientist from Perm, discovered a peculiar relationship: when CO2
diminishes from the blood, oxygen binds with hemoglobin and impairs
the transport of oxygen to the brain, heart, kidneys, and other
organs. In other words, the deeper the breathing, the less oxygen
reaches vital organs in the body. This statement forms the basis of
my discovery, one that has gone underappreciated until now. This
dependency, presented by Verigo, was suppressed and ignored. At
the same time, Christian Bohr, a Swedish scientist, made a similar
discovery. Later on, this became known as the Bohr effect.
Hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) in the brain caused by deep breathing
triggers intense bronchial and cardiac spasms. Hypoxia in vital organs
is counter-balanced by the rise in arterial tension (artery
hypertension), enhances blood circulation and provides the organs
with blood. Oxygen starvation, when combined with hyperventilation,
causes a false feeling of air deficiency, excites the respiratory center,
intensifies breathing, and contributes to the progression of disease.
A CO2 deficiency in the nerve cells excites all of the structures in the
nervous system, thus making the process of breathing even more
intense. As a result, oxygen starvation in nerve cells, in combination
with metabolic malfunctions and an over-excited nervous system,

brings about mental disorders, destroys the nervous system


(sclerosis of cerebral vessels) and, finally, causes a deterioration of
an individuals physical and mental health.
Disorders brought about by deep breathing are aggravated by factors
such as environmental pollution, pesticides and other chemicals that
are found in nutritional products. If we assume this, then the basic
principles of Western medicine, the remedial and preventative
measures that commonly use deep-breathing methods just add to the
development of diseases. Strenuous exercise and drugs, which relax
the bronchi and blood vessels (thus increasing the removal of CO2
from the body), do not improve a patients condition, but only worsen
it.
This is precisely why diseases triggered by the modern environment
go untreated and are so widespread. The discovery of the fact that
the main cause of such diseases is hyperventilation proves (through
experiments) the fallacy of the existing remedial methods and
principles.
A hyperventilation test serves as decisive evidence that this method
is effective. For example, a patient is offered to deepen his breathing
and evaluate the result of the well know command, Take a deep
breath. Within a few seconds or minutes, this deep breathing test
will trigger or increase pathological symptoms. Meanwhile, a
reduction of the depth of respiration will remove the symptoms
almost at the same rate. Thus, the only effective principle for
prevention and treatment is to reduce the depth of breathing, thus
allowing normal respiratory function to be restored.
This is the basis for the development of volitional control of
hyperventilation. The essence of the technique is for a patient,
through willfulness and diligence, to lessen his depth of breathing by
relaxing the respiratory muscles until he feels a slight air deficit.
Adults and children over three years old can use this method. The
method can also be used in obstetrics for expecting mothers and their
newborns to teach children healthy physiological principles.
This theory is also directly applicable to space medicine, surgery
(preparation for surgical intervention), pedagogy, training of singers
and athletes and more. Medicine, just like other branches of science,
requires a comprehensive restructuring. The author considers his
ideas, along with other progressive approaches, which have been
ignored, as a foundation for the medicine of the future. The top
priority is to provide people with information about this method in
order to stop the propaganda of deep breathing in the mass media
and to remove deep breathing exercises from health care. The
method developed by the author will succeed when every human

being realizes that his inborn greediness (which applies to breathing)


is the cause of diseases and disasters.
Written by Dr. K.P. Buteyko