Asthma attacks can be terrifying for people who suffer from them. They can feel like drowning and require immediate medical attention. If you have this condition, you might shy away from physical activity out of fear of triggering your next episode.
However, avoiding exercise can be hazardous for your health – your body needs activity to function as intended. Furthermore, some forms of movement could reduce your symptoms.
Here are 5 ways yoga can help people with asthma.
1. Yoga Improves Your Posture
There’s an unspoken epidemic in America: poor posture. The problem isn’t the sole province of cubicle dwellers, either. Research suggests many spinal issues start early, with over 60% of children and adolescents evidencing incorrect body alignment. Back pain alone is debilitating but can exacerbate asthma symptoms by compressing the chest cavity, leaving even less room for oxygen to enter your airways.
Asthma is the most common respiratory condition in the developed world, affecting over 300 million people worldwide. As more people adopt sedentary work lives, combining poor posture with this respiratory condition could leave countless folks gasping for air. Their suffering hurts everyone through decreased productivity and missed opportunities due to illness.
Yoga is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your posture. From the moment you take to the mat in Tadasana or Mountain Pose, you focus on correcting your alignment, keeping your shoulders back, your neck long, and your chest proud. The right guide helps you with proper positioning on more complex moves, further benefiting your spine.
2. Yoga Opens Your Chest
Yoga also helps you open your chest, which is vital for people with asthma. One person with the condition reports that attacks make her feel like she can’t even yawn because the inflammation and tightness in her chest prohibit air from entering.
Certain yoga postures, like Cobra and Upward-Facing Dog, stretch your intercostals, the muscles lining your ribs that expand when you breathe. You’ll increase the stretch even more if you can manage Urdhva Dhanurasana, or a Full Wheel.
3. Yoga Helps You Manage Stress
Stress affects millions of people every minute of every day. Unfortunately, stress is an asthma trigger. It can bring on an attack or make the symptoms of one seem much worse than they are, which can lead to panic, creating a negative feedback loop. Your stress levels rise, triggering an attack, which in turn ramps up your adrenaline and cortisol production even more, making you feel greater tension.
Fortunately, yoga — which combines introspection, deep breathing, and the endorphin rush from gentle movement — is one of the best practices for stress management. In fact, deep breathing alone is effective for mitigating your body’s stress response, with elongated exhales activating your body’s parasympathetic nervous system. Add the brain chemicals from physical activity, and you almost can’t help leaving a session feeling like a new person.
4. Yoga Emphasizes Breath Control
Asthma makes you feel like you can’t breathe. You may feel as if you’re sucking air through a straw or trying to inhale through a thick woolen blanket. The panic that follows can increase your respiration and heart rate, worsening your condition.
Conversely, yoga emphasizes breath control. While it may seem like your practice on the mat won’t help when attacks strike, evidence suggests differently. One preliminary study of 24 asthmatic patients found a 67% reduction in salbutamol puffs and a 58% reduction in tablet use after participants practiced daily yoga for 50 minutes a day over four weeks.
5. Yoga Facilitates Oxygen Transfer
You breathe because your body’s cells require an ongoing oxygen supply to survive. When you struggle to get air, your cells starve for this vital nutrient, causing damage.
However, one study from the International Journal of Yoga found that patients with COPD, a similar respiratory condition, had a better transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream. Improved oxygen transfer could prevent cellular damage from a lack of oxygen during attacks.
It may also explain one of the reasons why other preliminary studies have found a mild beneficial effect from a yoga practice on asthmatic patients, although not enough to recommend it as more than complementary therapy.
Yoga Helps Asthmatic Individuals
If you have asthma, you may resist physical activity for fear of triggering an attack. However, getting your body in motion may benefit your condition if you choose the right routine. Evidence suggests the ancient practice of yoga helps asthmatic individuals in all the above ways. Why not invest in a mat and check out a class today? Join us at Sewall House in northern Maine, and we’ll get you on the right track.