Of the many alternative natural remedies that can be used to minimize asthma symptoms, yoga has gained considerable popularity and emerged as a promising complementary treatment for asthma, which afflicts both adults and children.
About 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention.
Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which the airways become narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This leads to breathing difficulties and triggers symptoms like coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.
These symptoms vary from person to person and range from minor to serious and even life-threatening in severity.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma. However, there are many effective treatments that can reduce asthma symptoms and improve your quality of life. When it comes to alternative therapies, the age-old science of yoga has proven to be quite effective in mitigating the debilitating effects of asthma. This is no surprise, given the fact that yoga derives much of its therapeutic efficacy from the facilitation of proper breathing and building the capacity of the lungs.
Several studies stand to attest the numerous respiratory benefits of yoga. For instance, a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Yoga reports that breathing exercises (pranayama), mainly expiratory exercises, help improve lung functioning and should be a regular part of asthma treatment.
In the same vein, another 2010 study published in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Science reports that yoga exercise among asthmatic patients resulted in a reduced frequency of daytime and nightly attacks as well as a decreased use of drugs. It also shows significant improvement in the peak expiratory flow rate. However, the study also pointed to the need for further large-scale research to conclusively establish these effects.
Furthermore, a 2016 study published in the Cochrane Library suggests that yoga may have a beneficial effect on the symptoms and quality of life of people with asthma, but the effects on lung functioning and medication use are still uncertain.
Thus, yoga has emerged as a cost-effective, convenient, and completely safe technique for the management and alleviation of asthma symptoms as it helps de-stress your chest muscles, facilitates mucus depletion from your lungs, promotes centered breathing, and helps you gain better control over your nervous reflexes. It is, however, important to bear in mind that asthma medication is indispensable for the treatment of this life-jeopardizing condition, and thus yoga alone cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of combating this problem.
Here are some of the yoga poses you can do for asthma relief.
1. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
This simple yoga pose is best suited for meditation for both beginners as well as advanced practitioners. By focusing on breathing and stress control, this relaxing pose works to provide natural asthma relief and improve lung function.
- Sit up straight with your feet stretched out in front of you.
- Cross your legs, keeping your knees wide, shins crossed, and each foot placed under the corresponding knee.
- Keep your feet relaxed, allowing the outer edges of your feet to rest on the floor. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position.
- Place your palms facing up on your lap.
- Elongate your tailbone, and relax your shoulders.
- Now, take deep breaths.
For optimal results, practice this yoga pose in the morning.
2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Beautiful to look at, this particular pose requires the body to form a bridge-like structure. The bridge pose is also very effective for asthma patients as it helps open up the chest and lungs. It is further credited with a number of merits, including keeping a check on your thyroid gland, improving your digestion, strengthening your bones, and boosting your immunity. If these weren’t enough, the bridge pose also builds up and relieves tired muscles, thus inducing a feeling of relaxation throughout the body.
- Lie flat on your back, with your arms parallel to your body and your palms facing down.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
- Inhale and raise your hips off the floor, pressing your feet firmly on the floor.
- Slowly raise your torso along with your hips, shifting your weight onto your shoulders and feet.
- Hold the position for 5 to 8 deep breaths.
- Exhale as you gently lower your back to the ground.
- Take a few deep breaths before standing up.
3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This stimulating backbend pose got its name from its resemblance with the raised head of a cobra. Often recommended for asthma patients, this pose also figures as part of the sequence of yoga postures in Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation.
The cobra pose helps ease asthma symptoms by improving oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body, as well as by expanding the chest and lungs.
- Lie down on your belly and keep your legs stretched out.
- Place your palms underneath your shoulders, keeping your elbows bent.
- Your toes should be touching the floor.
- Inhale and slowly raise your head and chest up as you push down through your hands.
- Keep your hips on the floor, and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Exhale and slowly return to the starting position.
- Relax and take a few deep breaths.
- Repeat this at least 5 times, relaxing for 15 seconds between each round.
4. Butterfly Pose (BaddhaKonasana)
This is another very relaxing yoga pose that will stretch your body and bring asthma relief. It works by stimulating the heart and thereby improving circulation in the entire body, including the lungs. Furthermore, the butterfly pose is an excellent fatigue reliever as well.
- Sit up straight with your legs straight out and your back straight.
- Bend your knees and bring your feet inward.
- Place the soles of your feet together, about 6 inches away from your pelvis.
- Hold your feet with your hands.
- Inhale deeply, releasing the thighs and knees down toward the floor.
- Taking normal breaths, start flapping both legs up and down.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the speed, continuing for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Slow down and then stop.
- Take a few long, deep breaths, and slowly straighten your legs out in front of you.
5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Practice this pose to culminate your yoga session. It is recommended for asthma relief because of the breath and stress management it provides. This pose brings the body into a meditative state, helps reduce anxiety and stress, and thus rejuvenates the entire body. A calm and relaxed body is one of the keys to preventing asthma attacks.
- Lie down on your back, stretching your legs out in front of you.
- Place your arms alongside your body, palms facing up.
- Close your eyes and relax.
- Breathe slowly, making each breath deep and rhythmic.
- Focus on your breathing while staying in this position for at least 10 minutes.
- To come out, roll over to one side and slowly rise into a sitting position.
Some other yoga poses suitable for asthma patients are:
- Seated Wide Angle Pose (Upavistha Konasana)
- Sitting Half Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Upward Facing Plank Pose (Purvottanasana)
- Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)
- Staff Pose (Dandasana)
- Alternate nostril breathing technique (Nadi Shodhana pranayama)
- Skull-shining breathing technique (KapalaBhati pranayama)
- Vital Signs. Centers for Disease Control and Backention. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/asthma/index.html. Published May 3, 2011.
- Saxena T, Saxena M. The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity. International Journal of Yoga. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017963/. Published 2009.
- Mekonnen D, Mossie DA. Clinical Effects of Yoga on Asthmatic Patients: A Preliminary Clinical Trial. Ethiopian Journal of Health Science. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275836/. Published 2010.
- Yoga may have health benefits for people with asthma. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160426215441.htm. Published April 26, 2016.