The Life of Dr. Konstantin Buteyko

Dr. Konstantin Buteyko
Dr. Konstantin Buteyko

The Buteyko Breathing Technique was developed by Dr. Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko in Russia. Dr. Buteyko was born in 1923 in Ivanitsa, Ukraine. During World War II, the young Buteyko participated in the army as a mechanic, driver, and medical aid assistance. From the war, the disquisitive young Buteyko was exposed to many casualties he felt helpless to, which made him decide to pursue medicine.

After the war, Buteyko enrolled in First Medical Institute in Moscow, Russia. During Dr. Buteyko’s medical school training, as part of a curriculum he spent a great deal of time and effort monitoring patients with severe illness. He found that all of the severely ill patients had irregular and heavy breathing pattern; with a direct correlation. After weeks and months of study, Dr. Buteyko was able to accurately predict how close a patient is to death by observing up the patient’s breathing pattern. At around the same period of time, Dr. Buteyko was diagnosed with hypertension.

Dr. Buteyko and other doctors tried all treatment methods they had, but there was still no sign of improvement; in fact, his hypertension became more severe and he was announced to have no more than a year to live. Dr. Buteyko was frustrated; he wanted to know what the root cause of his hypertension was so he could address the issue from the bottom. One day as he was just looking down at his body, watching his body movement from his heavy breathing, he realized that his heavy and irregular breathing pattern is no different from all the severely ill and dying patients he had observed before.

He wondered, is the irregular and heavy breathing really a result of an unhealthy body condition?

Could the reverse be true?

Could the unhealthy breathing pattern actually a cause of the illness?

With less than a year to live, anything was worth a try at that point for Dr. Buteyko. He then tried temporary keeping down the amount of air he inhaled and exhaled, and as his breathing relaxed, his body immediately felt a difference; he felt better! He repeated the experiment on himself a couple of time, and every time his breathing increased, he felt pain in his body and heartache; as his breathing reduced, he felt better. With this outcome, Dr. Buteyko was excited and quickly went to the pulmonological department of the hospital to try his finding on his patients. Dr. Buteyko first tried it on a man with severe asthma, he asked the man to try to breathing in a slow and reduced manner. As the man’s breathing was calmed and slowed, the man was very surprised and told Dr. Buteyko that he felt better and his chest tightness was gone. Dr. Buteyko then continued on and taught more patients how to reduced and control their breathing, and all the patients showed improvement.

Dr. Buteyko shared his discovery with the medical community with excitement, but the response was nowhere near what he expected. Not only his innovative discovery was not accepted, he was under attack by the mainstream and was warned to be quiet about it. Dr. Buteyko’s discovery and solution was just seemed too simple to be valid and contradicted the mainstream medical belief. Buteyko referred his work to be similar to that of Dr. Semmelweis’. Buteyko proposed that while many diseases may seem unique to each other, they are merely a collection of symptoms from a single cause – hyperventilation. Buteyko knew he needed more extensive clinical data and theories to back up his idea in order to persuade the medical community to accept his discovery.

In 1968, Health Minister Academician Petrovsky agreed that if Buteyko could demonstrate an effectiveness of over 80% with the breathing method in a clinical trial, then he would show support to Buteyko’s discovery. 46 patients were involved in the clinical trial, and the result showed a 100% effectiveness as all patients showed significant improvement after Buteyko’s treatment. However, due to some unknown reason the result of this trial was suppressed.

It was not until 1980 Buteyko was able to conduct another formal clinical trial at the First Moscow Institute of Pediatric Diseases; this time was led by the Soviet Ministry’s Committee for Science and Technology. And in 1983, Buteyko’s work – Buteyko Breathing Method, was formally recognized by USSR Committee on Invention and Discoveries. His method finally was able to gain acceptance by the medical community in Soviet Union.

Buteyko passed away at the age of 80, on May 2nd, 2003.