Can Yoga Help in Relieving Asthma?

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Can Yoga Help in Relieving Asthma?

Asthma is an incurable disease of the respiratory track and Yoga has been found to help Asthma patients in controlling the condition. Although there are scientific researches going on for finding a co-relation. We can be sure from individual experiences that Yoga helps to reduce the gravity of the condition.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is an ancient condition recognized by Greek, Egyptian and Indian physicians. Hippocrates is known to have recognized as a specific respiratory problem circa 450 BC.

It is a condition that arises due to inflammation of the respiratory track and the lungs.  It is thought to be caused due to genetic and environmental factors.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can be recurring or variable such as reversible airflow obstruction, bronchospasm, periods of wheezing, coughing, tightening of the chest, breathing shortness. The episodes also known as attacks can be mild to severe; occurring a few times in a day to few times in a week. This can get worse at night or during exercise.

Yoga and its effects on Asthma – Scientific Research

In 2010, the Ethiopian Journal of Health conducted a research experiment with the help of Doctor Demeke Mekonnen, MD and Doctor Andualem Mossie, PhD and Doctor J. Surrender. The experiment was called – “Clinical Effects of Yoga on Asthmatic Patients: A Preliminary Clinical Trial” with the help of Student Research Program (SRP) of Jimma University.

Results of the Experiment

Twenty four patients who fulfil the inclusion criteria and signed the consent randomly categorized as yoga and control group. The male to female ratio was 1:1 in each group; mean age was 30 years for yoga and 31 for control group and most of them were farmers.

  1. Socio-demographic characteristics of asthmatic patients at the Missionary of Charity Jimma Town, Ethiopia 2009.

The mean age since diagnosis was 4 years in the both groups. The yoga group had follow up for 2 years while the control group for 3 years. All subjects in both groups were diagnosed to have mild persistent asthma and were on treatment.

  1. Previous history of their asthma of asthmatic patients at the Missionary of Charity Jimma Town, 2009.

There was a significant decrement in the number of asthma attacks (day and night) and use of drugs especially to the use of puff (p = 0.044) in the yoga group during and after the 4 week exercise. Eight (66.7%) of the yoga group reduced use of salbutamol puff. In the control group the reduction was in the use of puff was only in 16.6%

  1. Effect of yoga on the use of salbutamol puff and tablet among asthmatic patients throughout the follow up time at the missionary of charity Jimma 2009.

Most of the subjects in the yoga group, showed a decreased number of day attacks per week and night attacks per month as compared to the control group (p = 0.013). Mean change in the PEFR was 10 in the yoga group whereas 2 in the control group which was statistically significant (p <0.0001). Similar pattern was also observed in the mean change of pulse rate, respiratory rate and wheezing among the two groups (P <0.001)

  1. Mean changes in the clinical features and peak expiratory flow rate before and after the yoga exercise in asthmatic patients at the Missionary of Charity, Jimma 2009.

Conclusions from the experiment

This study showed -

  1. A reduction in asthma attacks in the yoga group.
  2. This is an evidence for the effect of yoga in helping the co-ordination of breath and movement associated with good posturing for best relaxation of breath muscles.
  3. It also helps in controlling the panic attacks which aggravate individual's further deterioration and shortness of breath by letting a way to control physical body, the mind (Psycho somatic) and the autonomic nature of breath control.
  4. The decrease in the number of attacks (day and night) resulted in the reduction of use of asthma drugs especially salbutamol puff which is comparable to the study in India where it showed 69% decrement in the use of oral asthma medications for the acute attacks. 
  5. The responsiveness of air ways is noticeably increased in asthma patients so that they develop bronco-constrictions for smaller amount of physicochemical stimuli than the healthy ones.
  6. There is a complex interplay of several factors: inherent responsiveness of smooth muscles, abnormality in autonomic nervous control and breakdown in airway defences may promote bronchial hyper reactivity.
  7. So, reducing the hyper-responsiveness of the patients will benefit them to have good outcome in the control of their asthma. 
  8. Yoga seems to stabilize and reduce the excitability of nervous system.
  9. Therefore it can reduce efferent vagal reactivity, which has been recognized as the mediator of the psychosomatic factor in asthma.
  10. Yoga decreased the number of day and night asthma attacks, use of drugs especially salbutamol puff and improvement in the peak flow rate.

Yoga Poses for Asthma

Yoga gives many poses to treat a number of ailments. Following are the yoga poses which considerably lower asthma attacks.

  1. Pranayama – It helps to regulate and control the breathing during asthma attack. Makes use of lungs to its maximum capacity and also help to learn breathing correctly.
  2. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing technique) - Begin with this pranayama (breathing technique) to calm your mind and relieving the body of accumulated stress. This breathing technique has a healing effect on many respiratory and circulatory problems.
  3. Kapal Bhati Pranayama (Skull shining breathing technique) - This breathing technique relaxes the mind and energizes the nervous system. It also clears all the nadis (energy channels) and improves blood circulation.
  4. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Sitting half spinal twist) - The Sitting half spinal twist opens the chest and improves the supply of oxygen to the lungs, thereby reducing the probability of asthma restricting you.
  5. Pavanamuktasana (Wind relieving pose) - This pose is good for people with asthma as it massages the abdominal organs and helps in digestion and release of gas.
  6. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge pose) - The Bridge pose opens up the chest, lungs and reduces thyroid problem. It also improves digestion and is very effective for asthma patients.
  7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) - The Cobra pose expands the chest, improves blood circulation and is highly recommended for people with asthma.
  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing dog pose) - This yoga for asthma helps in calming the mind, relieves stress and is good for people suffering from asthma and sinusitis.
  9. Badhakonasana (Butterfly pose) - The Butterfly pose stimulates and improves the blood circulation, relieves fatigue and has therapeutic effect on asthma.
  10. Poorvottanasana (Upward plank pose) - The Upward plank pose improves the respiratory system, stimulates the thyroid gland and also strengthens wrists, arms, back and spine.
  11. Shavasana (Corpse pose) - End your yoga practice by lying down for a few minutes in the Corpse pose. This pose brings the body in a meditative state, rejuvenates you and also helps reduce anxiety and pressure. A calm and relaxed body and mind-set is of essence to tackle asthma.
  12. Sukhasana (Easy Pose) - It focuses on your breath and controls stress. It broadens your chest, relaxes your brain, and makes you strong and steady. The pose gives you a sense of calm and peace and helps you avoid circumstances that trigger asthma attacks due to tension and stress.
  13. Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide Angle Pose) - In this pose, the upper body is stretched out. This opens up the lungs and betters the breathing. It also calms the brain and de-stresses your mind. The pose improves the body’s flexibility and, as a whole, is ideal to prevent an asthma attack.
  14. Ujayee Pranayama (Victorious Breath Pose) – In this pose, you sit in lotus position. Inhale deep and restrict throat to let the inhaled air play in your throat. The sound thus made is by moving of glottis which creates a peculiar sound which is different from the sound produced by larynx. Breathe out by alternate nostril and produce the sound “HHHHHAAAA”.
  15. Ekpada Uttanasana (One Leg Raised Pose) – In this pose, the leg is raised perpendicular to the body which allows the chest cavity to open while breathing. It increases the capacity of inhaling.
  16. Tarasana (Star Pose) – In this pose, stand straight with your both hands stretched out parallel to your head and legs apart making a shape of a giant star. Inhale and exhale long deep breaths.
  17. Yog Mudra -  In this pose, sit in the Sukhasana pose and hold both your hands behind the back with one palm holding the other hand in a locking way. While doing this inhale. Now as you bend forward exhale and let your forehead touch the ground. The whole step should create a 90 degree angle. Hold the position for few seconds.
  18. Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) – In this pose, sit on your knees. Move your hands behind your back towards the thighs, palms down. Move your head backwards and lift your chest while keeping your back straight. Hold this position for 6 seconds and release. While release, first lower chest, bring head in normal position, lift one hand at a time and bring to normal and re-sit in lotus pose.
  19. Simhasana (Lion Pose) – In this pose, sit in a lotus position. Put your hands palms down in front of you and lift your thighs without losing the leg cross. Stretch your back and head in the front. Keep your knees grounded. This creates a lion sitting image. Inhale deep and exhale with your mouth with jutting out your tongue.
  20. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose) – In this pose, lie down in the shavasana position. Lift your legs up along with your stomach and chest in the air. Keep your hands firmly on ground when you lift legs. Now as you lift your stomach, bend your hands from elbow and support your butts with both palms. Hold for a few seconds and exhale while coming to normal.
  21. Jastiasana (Stick Pose) – In this pose, lie down in shavasana. Stretch your legs and lift your hands over your head to stretch in the same plane as legs. Hold both hands with interlocking of thumbs. There is another variation where instead of interlocking the thumbs, both hands can be crawled. Hold the position for a few seconds and release.
  22. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) – In this pose, lie down on your stomach. Lift the legs and thighs and keep your hands firmly besides. As you lift your legs and thighs, lift your head and chest. Take your hands back towards the legs and hold them.

Triggers of Asthma Attack

  1. Allergic reaction.
  2. Exposure to cold, dry and polluted weather.
  3. Exposure to tobacco, dust, moulds or wood smoke.
  4. Close contact with pets, pollens.
  5. Inhaling respiratory irritants such as perfumes, deodorants, room fresheners or cleaning products.
  6. URTI, such as a cold, flu, sinusitis, or bronchitis.
  7. Emotional excitement or stress.
  8. Physical exertion or exercise.
  9. Reflux of stomach acid known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  10. Sulphites, an additive to some foods and wine.

Risk Factors for developing Asthma

  1. Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and other allergies.
  2. Eczema: another type of allergy affecting the skin.
  3. Genetic predisposition: a parent, brother, or sister also has asthma.
  4. Violent body reactions to certain smells.

Benefits

  1. It helps in calming down the stressed muscles in your chest.
  2. It allows you to breathe more effortlessly.
  3. It helps to lessen the strains on your heart and lungs.
  4. Lessens the allergic reaction in your lungs.
  5. People suffering from asthma who practice yoga are able to control their breathing more effectively. This enables them to breathe through the diaphragm which helps them to relax.
  6. Yoga helps to control nervous reflexes in the event of an asthma attack. It helps to decrease the movement of parasympathetic nerves.
  7. Yoga helps to unblock energy blocks in asthma patients. Overturned asanas help to remove the mucus from the lungs.
  8. Yoga improves the flexibility of body which helps to prevent an asthma attack.
  9. Yoga helps to ease the muscular tension and abnormal contraction in the lungs and rib cage in an event of asthma attack.
  10. Yoga helps to boost the intercostal muscles which help to breathe easily when normal breathing is hampered during an asthma attack.
  11. Yoga helps to restore disturbed breathing patterns which can be a reason for clinical asthma.
  12. Yoga can considerably reduce the dependence on rescue inhalers (Salbutamol) up to 50 percent.
  13. Yoga stimulates the release of endorphins in brain which help to reduce respiratory rate in an event of asthma attack.
  14. Yoga increases adreno-cortical functions; which mean that; yoga develops various levels of stress competence and modulates immune inflammatory process. This helps in the increase of the enzyme corticosteroid which helps in the marked decrease of asthmatic attacks.
  15. Yoga decreases efferent vagal reactivity. Stress causes sympathetic over activity which causes bronco-constriction and increases airway resistance. Yoga decreases this sympathetic tone and also decreases adrenaline and non-adrenaline rushes and increases opioid neuropeptides, an enzyme which modulates the tone bronchial smooth muscles and reverse asthma symptoms.
  16. Yoga decreases metabolic rate. Yoga helps to decrease the sympathetic function and catecholamine secretion; which reduces the metabolic rate in asthma.
  17. Yoga decreases ventilation volume. Breathing is automatic and regulated by respiratory centres. The practice of Pranayama modifies the respiratory centre activity by slowing down the rhythm by voluntary prolonging of the inhalation and exhalation phase. This has a positive bronco-protective and bronco-relaxing effect and significantly reduces the work of breathing.
  18. Yoga helps you to become aware of your condition which prevents a panic attack when the situation is worse.

Things to remember

Yoga and Pranayama significantly help to relieve the symptoms of asthma but in doing so, one should not neglect the medication associated with the treatment of asthma.

Medication helps to manage those aspects of asthma which Yoga and Pranayama are unable to influence.

Over to you…

Tell us your experience and stories. We shall include them in our blogs.


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