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 quality of life. I was constantly tired, suffered from sleep disorders and respiratory problems, and was taking ever-increasing quantities of medication to try to control my asthma. Then I stumbled across the work of Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko, and after making a few minor changes to my breathing, my symptoms dramatically improved within just a few short weeks. I learned first-hand how effective the Buteyko method can be, and over the past thirteen years, following accreditation from doctor Buteyko to teach his method to others, I have witnessed life-changing improvements to the health of thousands of women, men and children.

The Buteyko Method is more popularly known in the Western world as a proven method to help with asthma, but its roots actually stem from normalising high blood pressure. In his early twenties, Dr Buteyko was diagnosed with high blood pressure, which propelled him to extensively research the condition during his time at the 1st Moscow Medical Institute. On October 7th 1952, Dr Buteyko was on routine duty at his clinic when he made the connection between his worsening high blood pressure and his poor breathing habits, hypothesising that ‘big breathing’ might be the cause of the disease. In an interview on Russian television Dr Buteyko explained: “I decided to check right away whether that was the case. How? By reducing and slowing down my breathing. I already had a headache, my heart and right kidney were in pain, so I began cutting down on my breathing. My headache disappeared, pain in my right kidney ceased, and heart ache discontinued within less than a minute after I reduced my breathing. To prove it was a true discovery, I inhaled deeply five times and pain pierced my head, heart and kidney. I tried my method again and everything returned to normal.”

Dr Buteyko’s findings have since been confirmed by a growing weight of documented evidence gathered by eminent doctors and scientists supporting the relationship between breathing patterns and a number of health problems.

My story starts when I was a boy, growing up in a small village called Dunboyne on the East coast of Ireland. From a young age I suffered from asthma, persistent wheezing, and tightness of the chest. My nose was always blocked and 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, leading to a potentially dangerous condition known as sleep apnoea. From the age of fourteen until my early twenties I felt constantly exhausted, with little energy to apply in school or university. My dysfunctional breathing patterns were starving my brain of oxygen, resulting in excessive over-thinking, tension, fatigue, and dreadful concentration. I drove myself to achieve a decent education by spending countless hours studying, but it wasn’t easy – I had to place high demands on myself, and despite many years of hard work, my grades remained just about average. As my conditions worsened, my asthma medication intake increased to the point of hospitalisation. By the time I reached 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 Dr Buteyko. At the time his discovery (which later became known as the Buteyko Method) was relatively new to the Western world, but I followed Buteyko’s technique and tried out an exercise which was meant to decongest the nose – just by holding my breath. I was thrilled to discover that this simple method worked, and made the full time change to nasal breathing. I also practised slowing down my breathing to help bring my body into relaxation. By paying a little more attention to controlling my breathing, within a day or two my energy levels improved considerably, the tension in my head lifted, 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 energised. For the first time in years I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed and spend hours coming around. The huge improvements to my health, energy and well-being I felt within just a short period of time compelled me to learn more about the method, changing my career and training to teach the Buteyko Method to others. In 2002 I received accreditation from the founder of the method, Dr Konstantin Buteyko, and ever since, my life has changed for the better in so many ways.

I am now forty-two years of age. My health, concentration, breathing, and quality of life are immeasurably better than when I was sixteen-years-old. Had I not read that article in the newspaper, I dread to think how my health would be today. I was fortunate. I was one of the lucky ones. This massive life change was brought about simply by learning how to reverse the poor breathing habits that had developed innocuously over the years. Now, I hope to impart the same information to you.

Patrick McKeown

Ireland – November 2015

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