Yoga is about control of our bodies, including control of breathing. So it should not be surprising that medical studies have found that Yoga can help control Asthma. Breathing. Breathing is something that most of us take for granted. Not so for those with asthma. An “asthma attack” can quickly escalate to a fatal outcome, and those who struggle with asthma describe an attack as being like suffocation. Every DAY in the US, eleven people die from asthma. The numbers are truly staggering (see list below), and the statistics are worsening every year. It is predicted that 100 Million of us will have asthma by the year 2025. I reviewed these asthma statistics in an earlier article (13 Startling Facts About Asthma). And yet, clinical studies tell us that regular practice of YOGA can help reduce asthma severity. This article is about the benefits, and suggestions for where to start.
- Thirty-four Million of us will be diagnosed with asthma during our lifetimes.
- There are 20 Million diagnosed with asthma right now in the US, predicted to be 100 Million by 2025.
- At least 9 Million of those are children with asthma, right now.
- Asthma causes 500,000 hospitalizations per year in the US.
- Estimated cost? More than $20 Billion per year!!
Things to Ask Your Pediatrician
Well, if you are told that your child is diagnosed with asthma, ask your pediatrician whether reflux might be causing asthma, or ask what role allergies might be playing in your child’s reactive airway.
Asthma Treatment Alternatives
So, besides more steroids, is there anything that you can do to reduce the severity of your asthma? Your child’s asthma?
Yoga for Asthma?
Yes, Yoga. You know – that Eastern posture-exercise thing. Clinical studies have found that regular yoga can help reduce frequency and severity of asthma.
These are just some of the benefits of Yoga for anyone with asthma:
- yoga, through correct posture, optimizes movement of your rib-cage, improving respiration
- yoga, through simple stretching exercises, helps increase flexibility of thoracic respiration
- yoga breathing exercises (Pranayama Yoga) help increase lung capacity
- Pranayama yoga helps reduce and manage the anxiety associated with an asthma attack
- yoga meditation will help you manage stress and cope more effectively with asthma
How to Start?
To start simply, here is a video on Yoga and Asthma:
The following are some yoga asanas (poses; the photo here shows a stylized Natya Yoga dancer performing one of the transitional poses) and techniques that can benefit asthma include. Don’t be put off by the foreign-sounding names. You can simply call them by the English names in parentheses:
- Dandasana (staff pose)
- Upavistha Konasana (wide seated forward bend)
- Virasana (hero pose)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog)
- Ustrasana (camel pose)
- Bhujangasana (snake pose)
- Dhanurasana (bow pose)
- Ujjayee Pranayama (victorious Pranayama)
- Anuloma Viloma (balanced breathing)
- Jhanurasana (head to knee pose) – intermediate difficulty
- Suryanamaskara A (sun salutation) advanced difficulty
If you have an iPhone or iPad, take a look at some of the free Apps on the Apple Store. Some are pretty decent, and can demonstrate how to do some of these poses.
So what is it about yoga that helps reduce asthma?
Frankly, “Western” medicine does not yet fully understand how yoga achieves its effects. And yet, the benefits are clearly demonstrated by clinical studies. The underlying mechanisms do not easily fit within our science constructs. And yet, many medical, scientifically conducted, clinical studies have demonstrated a strong positive benefit for asthmatics who regularly practice yoga. Some of the known benefits – despite our poor understanding of the mechanisms – include improved immunity: those who practice yoga have increased tolerance to infection; improved relaxation and concentration: yoga is a great stress reducer; improved physical condition: regular practice of yoga is great exercise.
Some of the benefit from yoga seems to come from the mind-body connection to control asthma. Studies suggest that your child can control their asthma exacerbations through thought! Meditation. Yoga. Mind-body control. How cool is that?
The other thing that you might consider is Acupuncture. Seriously, according to medical studies, your kiddo with asthma might benefit from needles. Take a look at an earlier article by Robin Green (Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as License in Acupuncture), Ask the Expert: Breath Easier with Acupuncture. Robin practices acupunture for children with asthma. Yes, really. Take a look at the photo in that article!
Do YOU have experience with yoga and asthma?
Has yoga helped your asthma? Your child’s asthma?
How about acupunture for asthma? Or sinusitis? Or other respiratory illness?
Please share your thoughts below in comments so that we can all learn.
Image Credit: www.SriDeviNrithyalaya.org, used under Creative Commons License (wikimedia.org).
Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.
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