History of Buteyko

In the late 1940’s, Russian medical student Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko made an observation that has changed the management and lifestyle of thousands of people with asthma, sleep apnoea, snoring and other breathing disorders. Buteyko noticed that the condition of patients in the acute respiratory ward deteriorated when their breathing rate increased. He also noticed that those who reduced or normalised their breathing rate began to recover. This fact had been noted long before, but Buteyko’s subsequent research and application of these observations allowed him to develop the breathing techniques that today bear his name.

For more than thirty years Buteyko researched dysfunctional breathing and hyperventilation and the effect it has on the human body. Buteyko linked hyperventilation to several conditions, including asthma, sleep apnoea and snoring, and set about developing techniques to normalise breathing patterns, reversing symptoms and lessening the need for medication.

Buteyko’s research describes why people hyperventilate, why it continues to self-perpetuate, and finally, how to reverse the cycle. Initially treated with a great deal of scepticism by Soviet authorities, Buteyko was unable in the early years to get his method accepted by the Soviet government.

Buteyko’s persistent research over a number of decades, and the possibility of a great reduction in medication costs for a strained Soviet health budget enabled him to have the method formally accepted as a mainstream management system for breathing disorders in the 1980’s. It is reputed that the technique has been successfully taught to over one million citizens of the states that made up the Soviet Union.

Paul O'Connell with Professor Buteyko at the first international Buteyko Conference in New Zealand, December 2000.

Paul O’Connell with Professor Buteyko at the first international Buteyko Conference in New Zealand, December 2000.

In 1990 Alexander Stalmatski (who had worked with Professor Buteyko in Russia for 14 years) introduced the Buteyko Method to Australia – the first time the method had reached the western world. Stalmatski taught a large number of Buteyko courses around Australia, and also trained a limited number of practitioners in the method. This ensured the proliferation of Buteyko around Australia throughout the 1990’s.

Paul O’Connell was trained by Alexander Stalmatski as a Buteyko Practitioner in 1994, five months after learning the method for his own asthma. He and nine of Buteyko Practitioners originally trained by Stalmatski founded the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health in 1996. Paul was further trained by Professor Buteyko in 2000 and 2001.

The BIBH now has members in several countries around the world, and is actively involved in the teaching and research of the method, as well as the training and professional development of practitioners.

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