By Arend Hoiting – L5 Buteyko Educator and Trainer
It is well known that medical intervention in the Western world consists mainly of medications, which are often prescribed in unbridled quantity. Increasingly, the numerous side effects of medication are perceived as infuriating and dangerous, and people in turn start looking for alternatives, for example in complementary medicine such as the Buteyko method. The many doctors I have had as clients have told me that they were never taught about breathing as a medical notion during their medical training. This is further supported by medical students when you ask them what they are studying. The answer is almost always: “I study medicine”. The emphasis is thus on “curing” by use of medication.
It is remarkable, and I think even unique that a large number of medical specialists from university medical centres in the Netherlands have partnered with the very well-known Dutch TNO organisation in The Hague. The TNO is the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research. The TNO connects people and knowledge to create innovations that strengthen the competitiveness of companies and the well-being of people in a sustainable way. The TNO focuses on nine main areas, among others, Construction, Infrastructure and Maritime, Environment, Energy, Information and Communication Technology, Healthy Living, Industry, Strategic Analysis and Policy.
A large group of medical specialists have united themselves in the organisation “Lifestyle4Health” and they describe the lifestyle as: “The whole package of nutrition, exercise, relaxation, sleep, reduction of exposure to toxic substances, and psychosocial support is of great importance to be and stay healthy. The fact that lifestyle interventions can be used for the recovery or treatment of disorders is less well known, even though several studies have been suggesting this for some time.” In summary, medical specialists in the Netherlands see lifestyle medicine as the research into the application of lifestyle interventions in curative healthcare as part of the medical treatment of diseases.
Personally, I believe the core idea of scientists should be curiosity and I therefore got in touch with the initiator of the Lifestyle4Health organisation Prof. Dr. Hanno Pijl, endocrinologist at the Leiden Medical Centre (lumc). I pointed out to him the application of the Buteyko method in healthcare and indicated to him that Buteyko Specialists are also advocates of an integrated approach, such as Misha Sakharoff has been doing for years in his work with people with cancer. I am also personally in favour of supporting clients with regards to the psychological components of trust and anxiety which relate to each other as two communicative vessels. A stress reduction system such as mindfulness (Misha calls this 1-p attention) should also be addressed. It is not only about normal breathing when in a rest state, or only about exercise, nor is it only about having a better diet, or just reducing stress. The guidance should be an integrated approach which deals with all facets. This is also the promising approach of the Lifestyle4Health organization. I would almost call it a revolutionary approach, a turning point in thinking among medical specialists.
Disappointing is the lack within this group when it comes to normal breathing in rest, a consistent breathing through the nose while at rest, on the move, and while speaking. Hanno Pijl’s response was disappointing and short: “I am only interested in scientific evidence for the Buteyko method”. He was also not sensitive to the argument that breathing is at the beginning of all life processes: the metabolism, the immune system, the endocrine system, and the central nervous system. Sadly, we often see that medical specialists are normative. They fully adhere to the standard of scientific research as something which is either true or false, for example by starting scientific research using an experimental and control group. I confronted him with the many clients that have been cured of heart diseases, COPD, and other disorders, and I still have the habit of calling clients after several years to find out whether they are still free of complaints and medication. I often hear from medical specialists that people like to refer this to the category of “spontaneous cures”.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that we should welcome this medical initiative in the Netherlands.
Lid Vereniging van Buteyko Therapeuten (V.B.T.)
Member of the Buteyko Breathing Educators Association (MBBEA) L5 Buteyko Educator and Trainer
Member (fellow) of the Buteyko Professionals International (BPI)