Breathing Retraining: From Sick/Victims to Superhumans

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Interview with Dr. Andrey Novozshilov, MD about Buteyko Breathing Technique (Beauty and Health)

Published in the Russian national magazine
“Krasota i zdorov'e” (Beauty and health), 2003

When we feel sick – we seek for help. The search can be long and often ineffective. Meanwhile, complete recovery from ailments is promised on every street corner: our belief in “magic pill” or in a “super-doctor” has no limits. Who is going to take care of our precious health, especially in cases of severe health ailments, such as allergy and bronchial asthma? Do we know how to breathe right? With us is the chief doctor of the Buteyko Clinic in Moscow (Tel. (095)-3041889 and (095)-1760063) Andrey Evgenievich Novozshilov.

Which breathing is dangerous?

There is a certain volume of ventilation of the lungs, which is correspondent to the norm. If ventilation is normal, the person is not sick. But if ventilation is increased, a disease can develop as a response.

Why does it increase?

There are thousands of reasons, starting from social problems and ending with pure physiology: emotional stress, poor eating habits, behavioral stereotypes, and heredity…

Ecology as well...

Ecology is not to blame. Now New Zealand is the world leader for cases of bronchial asthma – every forth child there has such a diagnosis.

But they have the purest air!

That has no influence. Bronchial asthma appears in those lungs, which are hyperventilated. But that can happen in any climate and on any geographical altitude. And vice versa, if the problem of hyperventilation is eliminated, then a person can have normal breathing even in air-polluted Moscow.

Hyperventilation: does that mean frequent breathing?

Not exactly. Hyperventilation is the increased amount of air that is moving through the lungs. The healthy person, at rest, should breathe, on average, about 5 liters of air per minute. This is the norm. But when the ventilation is 6-10 liters at rest, this is hyperventilation. As a result, there is a lack of carbon dioxide in the lungs. It is known that CO2 is the final product of metabolism. Metabolism is continuous; hence carbon dioxide is constantly produced in the cell. It travels to the blood, from there to the lungs and is expelled into the outer air. During this long route, it regulates main metabolic reactions. And since the large part of our immunity is based on the proper metabolism, then CO2 deficiency and disturbances in the metabolism unavoidably cause the first error of immunity – the allergic reaction.

Do you suggest the mechanism of eradication of these processes?

Yes, the Buteyko method allows to get rid of the whole set of diseases, which are based on hyperventilation. These are not only problems with respiratory organs, but also the problems of the cardiovascular system (hypertension), gastrointestinal diseases, varicose veins, toxicity of pregnancy, metabolic problems, and some skin diseases (eczema, psoriasis, neurodermitis). These problems are seemingly independent from breathing, but, meanwhile, they are connected with it. All of them can be cured with the Buteyko method and do not need any medical drugs. We have a video advertisement from New York, where people show the states of their skin before and after the treatment. Very impressive. Meanwhile, asthmatics represent the main group of our patients – more than 60%.

Asthma without drugs

Why so?

It is not simple. About 30 years ago, asthmatics, which were rare at those times, were demonstrated to all students and doctors as educational samples. Even before that, asthmatics were known for their longevity. Yes, a dictionary of the 19-th century has the following definition, “Bronchial asthma is a light ailment that allows long, disease-free life”. Indeed, there was medical evidence that asthmatics lived, according to those standards, very long time – 80-90 years. Now we know why.

Causing carbon dioxide deficiency, hyperventilation leads to metabolic disturbances and reduced immunity. The organism, therefore, has two options – to die or to adapt. Hence, it is possible to say that many diseases are not diseases in the direct sense. They are the mechanisms of adaptations to hyperventilation in order to defend the organism from CO2 losses.

Bronchial asthma is the clearest example. The main problem here is the periodic bronchial spasms. Bronchus is a tube for air transport. If the amount of breathing air is excessive, the bronchus starts to constrict so that to restrict the air jet. When everything is quiet, the bronchus opens again. And that happens many times. The organism is a self-regulating system!

Why are there so many medical drugs offered for treatment of asthma?

That is surprising indeed. During treatment of chronic bronchitis, which has periodic acute phases once in 3 months, antibiotics are used. That causes breathlessness and difficulties in breathing. However, these are the main symptoms for prescription of drugs for bronchial asthma. After the third acute episode of bronchitis, the child is usually diagnosed with the “light form of bronchial asthma”. Together with that he is given bronchodilators, which, can relieve from the feeling of suffocation, but make the disease more severe. So, in 3-6 months the light form of bronchial asthma is “shifted” to the moderate or severe form. Therefore, in this case, doctors, during a certain period of time, broke all defensive skills of the organism!

We, on the other hand, teach people how to recover these skills.

The Buteyko method can be used in 2 ways. The first one is for elimination of the symptoms: 2-3 breathing exercises and the attack is gone. That is an “ambulatory” help for the patient. The second way is prophylactic, so that to prevent the development of the disease in future.

Adenoids – also the defensive reaction to hyperventilation?

Of course. The physiological purpose of growth of the lymphoid tissue is to block with the “plugs” those holes, which make hyperventilation of the lungs possible. The surgical removal of adenoids is effective, in average, for half of the year. Later they will appear again and will stubbornly affect the defensive mechanism.

The mothers of children with adenoids are frightened with mental deficiency, speech impediments, and deafness in the near future. So, they agree to have a surgery.

These threats are real. Medical professionals are well aware that the mouth-breathing child is soon going to slow down in mental and physiological development in relation to schoolmates. Mouth breathing, in general, from physiological viewpoint, is unacceptable. What happens when we breathe through the nose? On the mucosal surface of the nose microbes and viruses die; air is cleaned, warmed to optimum temperature, humidified till the optimum level and, in this ready form, enters bronchi.

What about air gasped in by the child through the mouth? Mouth breathing immediately causes bronchitis, tracheitis, and is the main cause of chronic tonsillitis. Adenoids also favor its development since the child cannot breathe normally with them. This is a vicious circle.

What to do?

Get rid of hyperventilation. That will raise CO2 level, attacks of suffocations will come to an end, the swelling of the mucosal surface of the nose will disappear, and right nasal breathing will be restored. In due time, the adenoids will be smaller, and the necessity of the surgery will disappear.

Name and reputation

Not everybody today gets used to the stream of information. When people are asked, “Who is Buteyko?” they say they have heard something but do not remember. Let us clarify that.

With pleasure. Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, 80 years old, director of this Clinic, doctor-physiologist according to his profession. The Buteyko method is an achievement of official Soviet, at the time, health system. This method cannot be considered as folk or alternative medicine since it is the result of scientific research.

In 1960’s of the 20-th century in Academgorodok (Novosibirsk) the Institute of Experimental Biology and Medicine was created. Buteyko worked there investigating a big problem – finding relationships in the mechanisms of development of diseases related to spasms of blood vessels and bronchospasm. The relationships were found and verified. Mathematical models of development of bronchial asthma and hypertension were developed. It was proved that in 100% of cases each asthmatic, allergy-sufferer, or hypertensive has increased lung ventilation in relation to the norm. That is the starting point of these diseases. Through the investigation of CO2 deficiency, metabolic disturbances, and reduced immunity, the mechanism of development of bronchospasm was found.

And when these discoveries were made?

The Buteyko method was described in authors’ certificates and confirmed by patents in 1962. First clinical trial was conducted in 1968 in Petersburg, in the Institute of Pulmonology, where 100% success rate was demonstrated for the above-mentioned diseases. The second trial was in 1981 in the Department of Child Diseases of the First Moscow Medical Institute. The same effect. In 1985 methodical recommendations for medical professionals of various specialties and the Directive of the Health Minister about the practical use of the method in medical practice were issued.

Hence, the Buteyko method is officially used by the Soviet Health Ministry since 1985. However, it is used wider on the West, than in Russia. In Australia they have the Institute of Buteyko Breathing and Health, non-profit organization. There are clinics in Scotland and London.

If people want to get treatment using your method, where can they apply?

I think there are many places in Russia where such treatment is promised. In any case, the organization should have a license of the Health Ministry Committee. By the way, currently there is only one medical establishment in Moscow, which is officially licensed and certified to use the Buteyko method. That is our Clinic. We have been working since 1988. During these 15 years we prepared numerous practitioners, which are dispersed all over the world. All our doctors are from the First Medical Institute (Moscow). Apart from that, if a practitioner claims that he has been using the Buteyko method for a long time, he should have a Diploma personally signed by Konstantin Pavlovich. By the way, in order to train a medical doctor as a practitioner, years are required. We often see the offices for the Buteyko breathing method, however, when we visit them – they run away and do not want to meet with us. Instead they could come to us openly and ask for advice and help. We never refuse!

Thus, if somebody has doubts in the craftsmanship of some specialists, who offers to treat an ailment using this method, you can contact the Clinic for references.

Which preliminary investigations are necessary in order to start treatment in your Clinic?

As a ruler, people bring with them such bundles of documents, that any other additional investigations are not required. Asthma is asthma. Especially if the diagnosis was determined in the Institute of Pulmonology or in other respectful establishments. In addition, asthma has a clear clinical picture, so that everything is visible. Or rhinitis. Imagine a person who has water streaming from the nose! There are no two opinions here.

Of course, we have our own diagnostic methods. Its essence is simple – if CO2 level in the lungs is known and it can be measured at any moment, then it is possible to predict and prevent upcoming asthma attack. The CO2 level dropped – expect an attack. Buteyko offered an elementary scheme to measure this level; it is called the Control Pause. After normal expiration, stop breathing and count how many seconds you can tolerate without breathing. This number tells a lot. The Control Pause of asthmatics is always below 20 seconds. If they manage to have more than 20 – attacks are gone; if it is above 60 seconds – asthma can be forgotten. The disease leaves forever, and people return to us so that to say thank you.

The interview was conducted by Tatiana Punans

The end of the interview is in the next issue

On the pages of the previous issue the chief doctor of the Buteyko Clinic Andrey Evgenievich Novozshilov told our reporter about the principles of right breathing, which were discovered in 1960’s by physiologist K.P. Buteyko, and also about diseases that the Buteyko method can defeat. Among them are bronchial asthma, chronic tonsillitis, other respiratory diseases, and also hypertension, varicose of veins, toxicosis of pregnancy, metabolic problems, gastrointestinal diseases, and some skin diseases.

Today is the continuation of the conversation. It will be devoted to application of the Buteyko method for adults and children.


Andrey Evgenievich, last time you mentioned the exercises. After learning them the person can get rid of many diseases. What are the exercises about?

All exercises are directed to restrict, in a slightest degree, the volume of inspiration, or decrease the volume of the incoming air. Within 10-15 seconds of these exercises, the gas composition of the blood is changed. That causes reactions in other organs and systems – for example, the mucosal surface of the nose. It follows that the problem with the blocked nose, swelling of the mucosal surface, can be solved literally in 10 seconds – one just needs to listen own breathing.

How is it possible to listen?

For example, you, how do you feel your breathing? What do you hear about inhalation and exhalation?


And that is right, because you do not have any problems. However, an unhealthy person can perfectly hear own breathing. That is the first exercise: I ask the patient to listen how he breathes through the nose, which movements of the chest, stomach, and air jet in the nose appear. I ask him to inform me about his observations.

By the way, I am telling you all these things, while I also practice one of the exercises of the Buteyko method. Did you notice anything?


Absolutely right, because this exercise is borrowed from the arsenal of preparation of samurais: breathing should be done in such a way that, if one has feather under his nose, its displacements are not noticed! One can also keep a finger near the nose: if air the air jet is felt, that means the breathing should be readjusted so that not to feel it. Breathing of the healthy person at rest must be invisible and inaudible. If not, that is hyperventilation, which triggers the mechanism of many diseases.

But that is an intentional technique. There is no way here without control and discipline!

Yes, the Buteyko method is the method of treatment, which demand efforts of the patient. One should realize how he breathes, complete the course with a practitioner, and later regularly exercise. The man should realize the necessity of this step.

There are two things that help here. First, the Buteyko method allows the patient to see an immediate effect of the treatment. That is very inspiring. And second, during the treatment the necessity to use drugs disappears. We do not abolish them. The patient himself feels that he can leave without them. All our patients remain satisfied. No improvement at all is never a case. Even if the person stops at the level when he can prevent the symptoms and only exchange tablets and inhalers for breathing exercises; that is already good! During the following year we monitor each patient, consult him, and support for free…


What do you do with children? Do you also press on conscience?

Believe me, any child wants to eliminate discomfort from his life. When the toddler coughs till vomiting during the first session, but arrives for the second session without cough, what do you think, would he practice? Which other stimulus do you need? Who else would refuse to live freely and without diseases? Many previous restrictions could be removed: to go swimming, to have a dog pet, to exercise without suffocation.

Consider dieting. Asthmatics cannot eat many tasty things. Only low-calorie ascetic meals, often remaining half-hungry. If such a person ate, for example, sausage (protein), large amounts of energy, for digestion, is required. Hyperventilation intensifies and the attack is unavoidable! Is this life?

Meanwhile, a 2-year old toddler cannot understand all that…

Of course, with children up to 5 years old we work only through their parents. The parent learns the method and, as a game, teaches the exercises to the toddler. Even with a child below 12 years one of the parents should complete the whole course – this is our condition. Until the performance of exercises reached automatism, constant self-control is required, but due to their age, children lack it.

The parents are taught the elements of the theory, which are necessary to understand the sense of exercises. How else can we explain to the mother why the child should at some moment stop breathing, pinch the nose and make 20 steps, and, after all that, not to breathe deeply? Besides, only after assimilation of the method can the parent definitely decide, if it is good or bad, and later make sure if the child is exercising or not.

Which other methods of influence on children, in particular, do you practice?

Yes, we issued a special booklet. Something like the Buteyko method in pictures. Imagine a picture: there is a child asthmatic with an open mouth, there is the disease creeping towards him from behind…

You are not afraid that after such a book children can have nightmares?

Their life is not happy now anyway, so they do not need to get used to. However, that is comprehensible. It becomes clear why to breathe through the nose.

So that “nasty asthma” would not go in the mouth…

Exactly. She chooses whom to eat according to breathing. Children, who breathe through the mouth, have noisy breathing. Asthma recognizes them immediately. Children, who breathe right (through the nose), cannot be noticed by the disease. She cannot hear them. To penetrate in the body is possible for the disease only through the open mouth.

That is like a movie with nightmares …

Not so, children like it! Every asthmatic knows what is emphysema – that is replacement of the lungs’ tissue with scars, or physical destruction of the lungs due to development of the disease. Scary… Hence, we do not exaggerate in these pictures. The child should timely recall the breathing of the mouse – shallow and only through the nose. I say to the parents of asthmatics, if you manage to keep the mouth of your child shut and to breathe through the nose – that is already 50% of success in treatment of asthma.

What can be done, if the nose does not breathe at all?

There are exercises that allow decreasing the volume of lungs’ ventilation through the mouth. The effect takes place within 1 minute – the swelling of the mucosal surfaces decreases and the nasal breathing begins.

How many exercises are required for a 5-year old child with, for example, adenoids?

They are always accompanied with swelling of the inner nasal surface, which can be eliminated after 1-2 sessions. In order to decrease adenoids, longer time is required. The basic course should have at least 5 sessions, so that the child completely absorbs the exercises, and his parents learn to control him. Every session in the Clinic takes about 1 hour.

But the main goal of home exercises is to learn how to eliminate any symptom using the breathing exercises. This is very convenient: if you noticed that the child is watching TV cartoons with his mouth open, it is time to practice, to prevent the incoming problems with blocked nose in their beginning and to resume nasal breathing. That takes from one to three minutes, several times during the day. And no nasal drops! Just concentration and some persistence.

Such self-service…Armed with your teaching, the man, likely, would not allow to get sick, himself or his family!

Yes, because the health of the child is not in the hands of the doctors, but in the hands of his parents! And here we see just such parents – self-sacrificial and wise. Many of them, visited many doctors’ offices, and finally decided to take responsibility themselves. For them it is the main delight to see how their toddler, previously suffocated from breathlessness and being sick, starts to run around and jump.

Do the local children’ doctors know about your Clinic?

Yes, not all, but from 40 to 60% people come here due to advice or recommendations of family physicians. However, there are other 10-15% patients who was told by their family physicians,” If you learn the Buteyko method – you die!” People, while literally having fear of death, decide to try the last chance, nothing else helped! Here we bring relief. Why to gossip?

And once more about asthma

Which other methods for prevention or treatment of asthma you accept?

For example, I know one medical centre, where bronchial asthma is effectively treated using singing.

What about swimming?

Excellent, universal physical exercise, especially for city dwellers. People are constructed by Nature in such a way that, without exercise, they decay, loose their form, and get diseases. For example, one of the main causes of hyperventilation, that is CO2 deficiency in the lungs and blood, is lack of physical exercise. This lack of exercise is now considered by doctors as the cause of hypertension in teenagers. Exercise is necessary!

Is it right, that in Sweden there is a medical centre, where asthma is treated using vegetarian diets?

Yes, that is true since vegetarian diets reduce ventilation of the lungs automatically. We observe the same process from the opposite direction – after the second-third session the person starts to eat less, many have tendency to vegetarian diets.


Physiology starts to work. The man breathes right; the metabolism normalizes. He eats as much as required, no binge eating as before. Almost everybody says, “I have different attitude to foods”. Many loose weight. Meanwhile, there is no self-restraining. A natural process…

But are changes in attitudes required?

Attitudes change automatically too. Professor Buteyko told, “If the cause of hyperventilation is in the wrong lifestyle, that means you are bound to change your lifestyle or to fight with the symptoms all the time”.


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