As a long-term asthmatic & runner last year I decided to try the Buteyko breathing method to see if it is all it's cracked up to be. At the time I would have loved to have contacted other runners to ask of their experiences of Buteyko so I am posting mine now!
I had been feeling desperate because it got to the point that I could no longer run.
I paid £290 to go on a 4 day one-to-one course to learn the technique. You can buy videos and books but I'm not sure how difficult it would be to stick with it if you don't have an expert you can contact. The course will pay for itself as I no longer require a repeat prescription.
It does require dedication - I was doing 1.5hrs of breathing exercises a day (in 3 lots of 1/2 hr) for 3 months - but it really does offer a cure so that's a big incentive.
In the first few weeks I was also getting very wheezy at night which was really unpleasant - part of the treatment is that you have to tape your mouth up at night to force you to breathe through your nose but you often subconsciously rip the tape off in your sleep - and always wake up wheezy when you do that. You need perseverance to get through the difficult times.
It's taken a year but I can now run inhaler-free, and what a difference to my stamina. Also I'm not getting the lactic-acid build up and next-day stiffness after a longer run, I presume this is because I am getting a better oxygen supply to my legs.
I found that after a week of the breathing exercises I was just able to walk up my local hill (about 400ft climb) without using my inhaler (first time in my life) and after 3 months of the breathing exercises I felt comfortable backpacking and mountain biking. I kept trying my usual morning run of only 2.5 miles but it was always an uncomfortable struggle. So I stopped running hoping that my breathing would continue to improve and it was 5 months later when I felt able to start again. Last weekend I did a 9-mile run with about 500ft climbing. I know I can do more.
It's not just sport that is affected - I remember the woman who did my course saying "Eventually you'll be able to get through a cold and still breathe through your nose" and I was thinking to myself "Yeah right, she obviously doesn't get colds like me" but it's true, you can always unblock your nose.
Try this next time you are totally blocked up: breath normally in, then exhale, hold your breath and pinch your nose shut for 20 seconds or whatever you can manage. After 20 seconds your nose will have cleared - possibly only a very little if you have a bad cold, but all you need is a little...at this point you then have to start breathing only small amounts - still through your nose (Buteyko calls it 'small-volume breathing')- to keep your nasal passages open.
Buteyko teaches that deep breathing is bad because you lose too much CO2.
The theory: CO2 is not a waste gas as commonly believed. The level of CO2 is directly related to the ease at which oxygen detaches from haemoglobin - if the CO2 level drops too far then oxygen is bound so tightly to the haemoglobin that it doesn't detach where it's needed e.g. in the muscles. The Buteyko method is all about maintaining the correct CO2 level. In an asthmatic this is done by learning to breathe less, which obviously you must do gradually over time.
I am amazed by the changes in my life, I no longer rely on drugs or dread catching flu in winter, no longer wake up wheezy, I can travel to remote areas without panicking about losing an inhaler. I just wish it had been around when I was a kid.
Don't leave it until you feel desperate to give it a go. I've spent most of the last year wondering whether it was really going to ever allow me to run inhaler free as the practioner had promised. Now I can run inhaler free I just want to share it with others thinking about trying Buteyko.