Buteyko breathing trainer (self-employed)
about 40 to 50 hours a week.
"My income would be about $50,000 to $70,000. A one-hour consultation is $140 and the breathing training programme of six sessions over six weeks is $540."
BSc and MSc (University of Auckland), BIBH (Practitioner Diploma from the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health, UK).
Describe your job?
I am a breathing coach, a marketing manager, an administration manager, an advertising executive, accountant and cleaner. Being self-employed, I need to cover all of those bases.
As for the job itself, Buteyko treats sleep apnoea, snoring, asthma, allergies, panic attacks and many other breathing-related disorders.
I offer consultations for small groups of adults and children at the Freemans Bay clinic and I also do courses outside of Auckland. Another part of my job is running regular workshops for health professionals and members of the public.
With the Buteyko course, I see people for a private consultation which includes a breathing assessment and some basic guidelines for getting started. At those consultations, I determine whether they need to follow through with a full course. The six-week course involves four 90-minute sessions in a week and there will be two or more follow-up sessions.
Generally, symptoms start to improve in the first week but it is essential that people continue the practice of the breathing exercises for a full six weeks to get optimum results.
I spent 20 years running gold exploration projects in New Zealand, the South Pacific, Indonesia and PNG. It was Indiana Jones stuff; I spent most of my time in tropical rainforests with terrible asthma. I often think if only I had learnt Buteyko 40 years ago, the job would have been more pleasant.
Doing a Buteyko Practitioner course in the UK for my own health in 2000 led me to train as a Buteyko practitioner and come back to set up the clinic in Freemans Bay.
What is Buteyko?
Buteyko is based on the understanding that many sleep, respiratory and cardiac disorders are a result of a faulty breathing pattern. The programme includes a way to self-assess your breathing and it is very much about self-empowerment, and breathing exercises and lifestyle guidelines to help overcome symptoms on faulty breathing.
I often say to people if you want to see a good breathing pattern, just look at a baby. They Nasal breathe and they belly breathe and that's the way we should breathe.
What training is needed?
Buteyko practitioner training includes six months of practical and theoretical training and the institute provides annual professional development programmes. One of these I did was a six-week stint in Havana, Cuba, in 2004. I also attend regular medical seminars provided by an organisation called the Australasian Integrated Medicine Association.
Who do you work with?
I work with children as young as 3 through to adults of all ages. Ninety per cent of my clients come from referrals from their GPs, dental or other health practitioners.
A lot of people wouldn't appreciate the relationship between dental health, development of facial structure and breathing. But dentists have long recognised that link. Children with the most difficult dental problems are also mouth breathers.
Why is the job important?
For me, it's a mission to raise awareness faulty breathing can have on health. It made such a difference to my health. I overcame 40 years of asthma literally in a week by changing my breathing.
New Zealand has an estimated 600,000 sufferers. And that asthma costs about $800 million a year - and is a leading cause of hospital admissions for children. I was shocked to read that, in 2006, 130 New Zealanders died from asthma.
The job's main challenges?
The integrated challenge is to get breathing training incorporated into general health practice. Things in the pipeline are a busy Auckland medical clinic that is working at establishing in-house breathing training for patients, and a busy dental practice is also looking at bringing in-house breathing training for children into the practice.
I continue to provide workshops to tertiary institutions, physiotherapists, at North Shore hospital, Middlemore, AUT, doctors' groups and the main health colleges.
The best part of your job?
Every week I see asthma symptoms relieved, noses unblocked, people calmer, less stressed , sleeping better. One of the most rewarding things is having people come back, couples who have been driven to sleep apart for years because of snoring can actually sleep together again. That's a big one.
... Any negatives?
The slow pace of acceptance even though there are now eight published studies showing its effectiveness and safety for asthma. I often say that if Buteyko were a drug, it would be the most widely prescribed medicine in the world today.
What skills/make for a good Buteyko practitioner?
A background in a medical field would be an advantage but it's not essential. The training covers aspects of physiology and knowledge of medication. A background in science has been a big advantage for me in working with doctors and other health professionals. You must enjoy working with people. Also, empathy and compassion are key aspects.
Advice to those interested in a similar role?
There will be increased demand for trained breathing practitioners as the importance of healthy breathing is recognised. If you like people and like making a positive difference to their health, I can't think of a better career.