For some asthmatics tired of traditional drug-based treatments, a breathing technique developed by a Russian doctor in 1952 provides new hope for managing the condition while reducing dependency on medications, according to a New York Times article.

The first-person article by Jane Brody, part of the Times’s personal health column, detailed the experience of her friend David Wiebe, who suffered from severe asthma for 48 years. During that time, docs treated his condition with a combo of bronchodilators and steroids.

Eventually, the steroids caused an incurable eye disease called macular degeneration (which is the leading cause of blindness for Americans 55 and older). The situation became so severe, Brody writes, that two leading retina specialists told him to stop using the drugs if he wanted to preserve his sight.

Wiebe tried a host of other treatments, but nothing worked. After suffering both at home and work for several years, he was prepared to lose his eyesight and return to the steroids just so he could breathe better.

Then Wiebe heard about a shallow-breathing technique called the Buteyko method. He watched a video demonstration of the method on YouTube and followed those instructions.

He immediately felt his airways relax and open. After Wiebe took a three-month series of lessons and refresher sessions in shallow breathing, he only needed to use one puff of his inhaler each day.

Wiebe’s pulmonologist (a doc who specializes in diseases of the lungs and the respiratory tract), Marie C. Lingat, DO, MD, agreed that his breathing had improved, Brody reports. But the physician also cautioned that just because the Buteyko method worked for Wiebe didn’t mean it would work for everyone with asthma.

According to the article, Buteyko specialists stress that they do not tell their clients to stop taking their asthma meds. But in a British study of 384 patients, researchers found that, on average, asthma patients who used the method consistently and correctly could expect a 90 percent reduction in the use of inhalers and a 50 percent drop in their need for steroids.

Brody ended her article with a suggestion to America’s medical community: “Explore this nondrug technique.”

Find out about asthma rates among African Americans here.