There is one revolutionary method out there that doesn’t rely on medicine, puffers, inhalers or steroids. It’s called the Buteyko Method of Breathing Reconditioning and was created by Dr. Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, a Russian scientist, in the 1950s. One of his trained disciples is Jac Vidgen, who is teaching me how to use it at one of his periodic Hong Kong workshops. Or rather, he is calmly yelling at me: “Hold that breath... 27... 28... a few seconds more, give it all you’ve got... walk around, keep walking, hold it, hold it... OK, let go.” And I do. Almost instantly, my entire chest feels clearer. Despite the induced stress, I am calmer. Continued practice several times a day enables me to breathe better, sleep better and makes me less likely to reach for an instant hit of Ventolin. Using the method ostensibly benefits not only asthma sufferers, but also those who suffer from sinusitis, immune deficiencies, angina and, as some course attendees attest, emphysema. “We breathe too much,” Vidgen says when explaining the method. “We actually over-breathe, mainly owing to the sedentary stresses of modern life. Bronchodilators allow people to over-breathe more easily. So they do give short-term relief and suppress symptoms, but ultimately, they never address the underlying dysfunctional breathing pattern.” And so we practice in Vidgen’s supervised sessions, in which he tells his small, personalized classes that all breathing should be done through the nose. Mouths should never be open, he says. In fact, in order to maximize oxygen delivery, they should even be taped shut at night. Breathing should be soft and gentle, not pronounced. One other crucial tip is that you should never sleep on your back, but rather on the side to eliminate deep breathing and snoring. “Most doctors and so-called experts will say asthma is caused by allergies, trigger factors, inflammation of the airways and, logically, genetic predisposition,” Vidgen says. “My experience indicates that allergies only occur in the bodies of those with dysfunctional breathing patterns. I can personally testify to having suffered with allergic rhinitis for 44 years, which has been basically eliminated since I achieved more optimal breathing.” While this method has yet to be adopted by the mainstream, Russian cosmonauts are known to use it. And many of those who attend Vidgen’s classes swear by it. “This works,” one attendee tells me. “I haven’t had to have a single puff [of Ventolin], let alone have any sign of an attack, since I learned the method.” And neither have I. But not wanting to tempt the fates into dealing me yet another scary, breathless moment, I carry my canisters of Ventolin and Becotide in my back pocket, just in case.