The following is an excerpt from the brand new book, THE BREATHING CURE: Develop New Habits for a Healthier, Happier, and Longer Life Hardcover by Patrick McKeown. Available to purchase here.
In 1998, my life changed forever when I discovered how the poor breathing habits I had developed in early childhood were affecting my body and my quality of life. I was constantly tired, suffering from sleep disorders and respiratory problems, and taking ever-increasing quantities of medication to try to control my asthma.
Then I stumbled across the work of the Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko, and after I made a few changes to my breathing, my symptoms dramatically improved in just a few short weeks.
I learned firsthand how effective breathing reeducation can be. Over the past 18 years, after becoming accredited by Doctor Buteyko to teach his method and working to develop my own program of training, I have witnessed life-changing improvements to the health of thousands of women, men, and children.
My story starts when I was a boy, growing up in the small village of Dunboyne on the east coast of Ireland. From a young age, I suffered from asthma, a persistent wheezing and tightness of the chest.
My nose was always blocked, so I got into the habit of breathing through my mouth, causing me to snore at night. Sometimes, I even held my breath during my sleep, a potentially dangerous condition known as obstructive sleep apnea.
From the age of 14 until my early twenties, I felt constantly exhausted, with little energy to apply in school or university.
In 1994, I had an operation on my nose to relieve 15 years of nasal issues. However, I received no postsurgery advice on the benefits of breathing through my nose or how I might make the change.
And so I continued to experience the same problems I’d had before the procedure, including moderate to severe asthma, sleep-disordered breathing, breathlessness, poor concentration, and high stress levels.
My dysfunctional breathing patterns were agitating my mind, resulting in excessive overthinking, tension, and fatigue. Despite the countless hours I spent studying, my grades remained just about average.
As my conditions became worse, my asthma medications were increased to the point of hospitalization. By my twenties, I was desperate for help.
As chance would have it, my solution was right around the corner. In 1998, I happened to read an article in an Irish newspaper about the work of Doctor Buteyko.
At the time, his discovery (later known as the Buteyko method) was relatively new to the Western world. I tried an exercise meant to decongest my nose just by holding my breath.
I was so amazed that this simple method worked that I switched to nasal breathing full time. I also worked to slow my breathing to help normalize the volume of air I was taking into my lungs.
Within a day or two of paying just a little more attention to how I was breathing, my energy improved, the tension in my head eased, and for the first time in my life, my breathing was easier.
During that first week, I experienced what it was like to have a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling energized. For the first time in years, I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed in the morning and spend hours trying to come round.
The huge improvements to my health, energy, and well-being that I felt in such a short time compelled me to learn more about the method, change my career, and train to teach the Buteyko method to others. In 2002, I received accreditation from Dr. Konstantin Buteyko.
Since then, my life has changed for the better in countless ways.
I am now 48 years old. My well-being, focus, and quality of life are immeasurably superior to those of my 16-year-old self. I have brought about massive positive changes in my life simply by learning how to reverse the poor breathing habits I had developed unwittingly in earlier years.
Now I hope to share the same information with you.
A New Approach
The practice of breath control for health and spiritual progression has been around for millennia in Eastern cultures.
For instance, the yogic practice of Pranayama is an ancient method of exercising the breath, primarily to vary its speed. It involves things like alternate nostril breathing, abdominal breathing, forceful breathing, and chanting. However, even among yoga practitioners, it is considered, in some of its manifestations, to be an advanced technique.
The methods in this book, which do have a few things in common with yogic breathing, are backed up by decades of scientific research that will help you understand why they work and how to use them.
These methods are immediately accessible, take a short time to learn, incorporate easily into your daily routine, whatever your current level of fitness, and will provide you with the tools to continue improving your health for the rest of your life.
The Two Pillars
The Oxygen Advantage consists of two pillars of breathing—functional breathing pattern training, designed to improve day-to-day breathing, and powerful breath-hold exercises that simulate high-altitude training.
Functional Breathing Pattern Training
Functional breathing helps improve your quality of focus, concentration, posture, and sleep; support the spine; reduce anxiety; and take the hard work out of breathing. It can help you move better, with less risk of injury in sports and day-to-day tasks such as lifting and carrying your child.
It can also reduce the onset and duration of breathlessness and exercise-induced asthma (bronchoconstriction). Physiologically, it results in long-term improvements to blood circulation, dilation of the upper airways (nose) and lungs, and oxygen delivery to the cells, optimizing important connections between the respiratory system, heart, and blood pressure.
What we’re talking about here is retraining functional breathing habits for daily life. You may have learned breathing exercises in a yoga class, with a personal trainer, or on YouTube.
You may have experienced good results, then promptly forgotten about your breathing the minute you stepped outside the studio or gym.
Sometimes, we aren’t given the context to carry on those exercises as part of a daily routine.
In this book, we’ll look at that context—how your breathing affects your health and how to use that knowledge to feel better.
Patrick McKeown is an internationally renowned breathing coach, author and speaker. He is creator of Oxygen Advantage®, founder of Buteyko Clinic International and a fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in the UK. Published works include research in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, and books including The Breathing Cure.
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