The Oxygen Advantage - Buteyko beathing method

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 Karen Adler, Dr. Patrick McKeown, Dr. Michael Adler, LVI 

Dr. Adler and I attended Patrick McKeown’s 3-day workshop “The Oxygen Advantage” at LVI on Feb. 3-5, 2016.

I decided to take the course with my husband for a variety of reasons: to have a mini vacation as my children’s personal taxi driver, to spend some time together for our 15th wedding anniversary, and the course seemed like something I’d enjoy personally. As a new part-time member of his team, I was also hoping to find something meaningful to contribute to his dental practice.

As it turned out, Patrick’s course was right up my alley. I don’t have a dental background, but an education in journalism, art, and cultural anthropology. I worked 20 years as a flight attendant, and bellydance and practice yoga for exercise.

Well, Patrick’s background isn’t medical either, but in economics. His strength is that he sees the world from an interdisciplinary perspective. He’s not afraid to embrace scientific research from different disciplines, and he’s brilliant at combining research to make sense of real life issues.

What Patrick teaches is a breathing method called Buteyko - a type of light or shallow breathing through your nose. It is counter intuitive to everything I’ve ever learned about breathing - which is deep breathing for yoga, for relaxation, for childbirth. I read his book “The Oxygen Advantage” before the course, but I still found it unbelievable that he was teaching a breathing method polar opposite to deep breathing.

As the course went on, we learned a series of breathing exercises specifically to breathe less. Breathing less, he says, is key to relieving symptoms for, and even resolving, a wide range of “over-breathing” problems, such as: asthma, ADHD, Rhinitis/Hayfever, anxiety, panic attacks, dental health, stress, snoring, and sleep apnea. Other benefits, he says, include better concentration, greater energy, better sleep, and even a competitive advantage in sports. OK, I thought,“if this is true, who wouldn’t benefit from this!”

After this course, there’s so much I’d like to share about what I learned about the Buteyko breathing method. Intuitively, I know there’s truth to it. I also see value in teaching the breathing exercises to our guests at the dental practice, especially those we are helping with sleep apnea and snoring.

But, first things first. Before I can genuinely help others, I need to help myself. Like Patrick, I’ve been a habitual mouth breather my entire life. I had enlarged tonsils and adenoids as a child, and even after they were removed, I learned and continued to breathe through my mouth. My daughter, who recently had her tonsils and adenoids removed, also often breathes out of her mouth. (I’m leaving the blog on the physiology of nasal breathing to Dr. Adler or you can read about it online at buteykoclinic.com). The key is by managing your nitric oxide and carbon dioxide levels, you are able to open up your airway and blood vessels, and get more oxygen into your blood.

On Superbowl Sunday (Yay Broncos!) I started doing some of the breathing exercises and consciously started breathing through my nose (which means you have to shut your mouth which can be strange for someone who likes to talk.). You are supposed to do the exercises for an hour a day - the beautiful thing is you can break it up into 10 or 20-minute segments, and you can do some of them when you’re driving, watching TV, or sitting at the computer. Other breathing exercises you can simply incorporate into your normal physical exercise. If you don’t exercise, you can always walk your dog for 20 minutes and apply the techniques.

The way I started was to sit for 10 minutes upon waking with one hand on my chest and one hand on my stomach, and breathe slowly in taking in a lesser breath than normal, letting a slow breath out, pausing slightly in between breaths. After only a few breaths, you start to create a feeling of air shortage. As you continue, you release the thoughts in your head - just following your cool breath in, warm breath out. Can’t hurt, right?

Then, I decided to walk everyday for 20 minutes, while creating a shortage of air. You can do this by breathing through one nostril, or pinching your nose for 10 steps to start (adding 5 steps each time) and normalizing your breathing in between. None of this should be painful, in fact, I’m finding it to be quite enjoyable. Just the mere activity of following your breath and getting inside your body is a welcome change to my everyday life.

Another exercise is to listen to a relaxation tape (you can download) for about 20 minutes, preferably before bed, while breathing shorter and slower breaths than normal. We did this each day after lunch, and I felt a definite calming down into my body and out of my head. The tape, Patrick told us, helps to take your nervous system out of sympathetic (fight or flight) to the para-sympathetc state.

So, after only a few days, I’m finding myself consciously breathing slowly through my nose off and on all day long. Last night, I decided to use the breathing techniques at my belly dancing class. Interestingly, my dance was suddenly more fluid and I was more out of my head and into my body than I’ve ever been. However, I also noticed after class that my body felt “rubbery” and a little shaky.

The last thing to do as a habitual mouth breather is to learn how to breathe through your nose at night. The way to do that is to simply tape your mouth with paper tape. I had been putting that off because the thought of it was almost repulsive. But, I did it last night for the first time. And, I have to say, I slept for the entire night for the first time in a long time. I didn’t wake up to use the bathroom. I even had a few pleasant dreams, which I have also not had in a while.

Again, today my body feels “rubbery.” I need to find out what that’s all about physiologically. (Patrick asked if anybody felt rubbery after some of the exercises, and a few people said they did)

I’m definitely going into this with an open mind and see where it goes. I hope you take the time to check out the links in this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts - [email protected]

I’ll keep you posted!

Karen

   Dr. Michael and Karen Adler, Echo & Rig, Las Vegas, celebrating 15-year Anniversary