Yoga for Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition effecting over 20 million Americans that causes acute attacks of coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. Modern medicine has no cure for this disease and 90 percent of asthmatics rely upon pharmaceuticals to prevent and relieve symptoms. The symptoms of asthma are created by a narrowing of the lung’s airways that become further constricted by an increase of mucus and inflammation in their lining. Asthma can be triggered by allergies, exercise, cold air, pollution and stress.

Several studies have shown yoga to be a powerful adjunct therapy to reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks as well as to decrease medication use. Consistent practice of yoga postures and pranayama (breathing exercises) increases the lung’s airflow, air capacity, stamina and efficiency. Back bending postures open the chest improving both lung and heart functioning. Practice upper back bends and chest opening postures if it is harder to exhale during asthma attacks. Practice forward bends and lower back bending poses if it is more difficult to inhale. Inverted postures drain excess mucus from the lungs and balance the immune system. A general yoga practice reduces stress, physical tension, and muscle tightness and increases overall feelings of well being by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Pranayama cultivates the ability to maintain a relaxed and controlled breath that can prevent or reduce asthma attacks. Pranayama exercises should be practiced according to what usually triggers the asthma attacks. Dirga pranayama is for all conditions and will encourage slow deep breathing patterns. For stress and emotional upsets use Nadi Sodhana, for asthma triggered by cold air practice Ujjayi pranayama, and for allergic arthritis use Sit Cari or Shitali pranayamas. To help strengthen the lungs and reduce mucus congestion use Kapalabhati pranayama, practicing it very slowly and gently in short durations.

Yoga is not a substitute for conventional western medication; please consult your medical professional before starting a yoga practice.

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