We all know about Hong Kong’s terrible air pollution – we’ve signed the petitions and read all the latest news articles. But did you know there’s something else that you can do to take action? With one in ten of Hong Kong’s children now suffer from breathing difficulties, and friends suddenly getting diagnosed with asthma in their thirties, the time is right to educate ourselves about the Buteyko breathing technique, which promises to allow symptoms to to be reversed for those currently reliant on medications and inhalers. The Buteyko method is based on the idea that although we are taught that long, deep breaths are the most healthy to allow oxygen into our body, actually this way of breathing is often actually low-grade hyperventilation and is harmful to our bodies. Buteyko teaches people to focus on short, shallow, gentle breaths. Jac Vidgen is a Buteyko practitioner who has been teaching the method for over 15 years, and he will be in Hong Kong from the 17th May to the 12th June to hold free information talks and public workshops.
We asked Jac a few questions to learn more about the Buteyko method and how it can fit into everyday life.
Sassy: Can Buteyko help to cure breathing difficulties? Or is it more of a coping method?
Jac: It provides significant relief within days for most people with breathing difficulties – although the process may be slower if there is major damage in the lungs or the body. So it is certainly a great tool for coping more effectively. But as the person improves their breathing, the systemic disorder behind the symptoms starts to be addressed, and then conditions can be reversed over time with a diligent approach and effective management.
Sassy: Do you have any opinion as to whether having an air purifier in one’s home helps with breathing difficulties or the effects of pollution?
Jac: It must certainly lessen the challenge if the air in the home (and office) is in better shape. But usage of the breathing 24/7 – wherever one is, whatever one is doing – is the major issue here. HK’s unfortunate air pollution is just one of the many triggers we all face in contemporary life. And more optimal breathing certainly lessens the effects of pollution.
Sassy: How does the Buteyko method fit into sports practice, or yoga practice where we’re taught to breathe deeply?
Jac: Buteyko’s method provides an excellent complement to exercise and yoga practice. It is never beneficial to breathe more than the metabolic requirements of the body for the activity one is engaging in. Over-breathing results in reduced oxygen supply to cells, disturbance to pH and metabolism, and constriction of vessels, so will always compromise the health. Breathing naturally increases during physical activity – so one never needs to increase it forcefully. All physical exercise should always be done with exclusive nasal breathing (in and out!) except in specific activities such as snorkeling, scuba or freestyle swimming. Although some yoga exercises involve deeper breathing, if effectively practised (and taught), this will be very carefully managed (and will be slow). Over my 17 years of teaching Buteyko’s method, I have worked with many yoga teachers, as well as numerous people who practice high level physical activities – and they all report great value and benefits from applying the method.
If you are interested in learning more about the Buteyko method while Jac is in Hong Kong, take a look at his schedule on the Buteyko Asia site. You can also contact him directly if you’re interested in arranging a free private class for a group of five or more people at [email protected]