Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Golf Gypsy Hyperventilates

"Next on the tee the foursome of ......  A ten minute call for the following ladies...."

How many times as a teenager did I hear that announcement before a round of golf. Whenever my name rang across the loudspeaker at a golf course for a ten minute call to the tee, I immediately ran to the bathroom with knots in my stomach.  When I didn't pass out, I ventured out to the first tee. However, my breathing came in gulps of air with shoulders pulled upwards toward my ears in tension. Once I hit that first tee shot, the shoulders usually began to relax and my breathing pattern became quiet, instead of yawning, gasping, and sucking for air.

Decades passed and I learned that I hyperventilate when dealing with stress or tension.  I tried every trick I read to stop the labored gasping. Meditation and yoga worked best, but I didn't know how to incorporate them into my everyday life when suddenly I couldn't breathe normally. 

This spring I began to hyperventilate on the golf course. It has been decades since I couldn't breath on the golf course, because golf has become my solace, my retreat from the tensions of everyday life. Again and again this spring I found myself nearly fainting from dizziness. In fear of something serious, I consulted a doctor, and we decided it might be depression, which is nothing new to me.

After one week on my medication, I woke up and said, No this is not my problem. I stopped the pills and began a lengthy internet search, where I found a natural way to treat my difficulty in breathing. It is called the Buteyko Breathing Method.

Since May I have applied every breathing method that Buteyko shares for those of us who struggle with chronic "over breathing" which includes mouth breathing, upper chest breathing, sighing (yawning), and taking large breaths prior to talking. I am not asthmatic, but I have created a very unhealthy response to stress.

The first step is to use the control pause concept to evaluate your relative breathing volume.  This website explains it best and provides videos: Buteyko Breathing Method  

Because these methods are new to me, and my stress and tension has not gone away, I've discovered that I must be conscious of my breathing at all times. The exercise to reverse mouth breathing is one I use nearly every morning, and it clears my nasal passages without medication.

The other lifesaving technique I learned quells panic attacks and anxiety. When I catch myself gasping for air, I take a small breath through my nose; a small breath out; I hold my nose for five seconds in order to hold my breath, and then release it to resume breathing. I breathe normally for ten seconds and repeat the sequence.  Sometimes, after three repetitions I am breathing normally again, other times it takes four to five repetitions.  This works in any location; home, driving, eating, playing golf, walking. 

The science and story behind Buteyko's Breathing Method is amazing yet simple.  By breathing calmly, using more shallow breathing I have better oxygenation to help my tissues and organs, especially my brain. If I over breath then I have too much oxygen in my system and not enough CO2. Lack of CO2 (carbon dioxide) causes the blood vessels to constrict. By over breathing we lose carbon dioxide, and the smooth muscles surrounding the airways and the blood vessels constrict. As the airway constricts, there is a natural reaction to breathe more intensely. However, this causes even greater loss of carbon dioxide, and cooling of the airway causes it to close even more. For me, this created a vicious cycle of gasping for air, dizziness, and a foggy brain that kept me from enjoying healthy thinking and living.

This is perhaps the healthiest lifesaving activity I've ever discovered, and I truly wish I'd known it decades ago.  To read more about how to calm yourself and breath properly please follow up with the above mentioned site or the one shown below. 

The Buteyko Clinic  


  1. Thank you for the information. I am sorry you are going through this. jc, phd

  2. The natural way is always the best. Good for you to go that route. asd

  3. Very interesting. cm

  4. So sorry you've had such distress. However, thankful you've found a breathing exercise to bring you peace. vk

  5. I have taught children as young as 5 these breathing methods. They are very helpful. Yes, evn preschoolers can have anxiety! bww