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Breathing Eexercises for Asthma Patients

Asthma is a breathing disorder of the respiratory system, so poor breathing techniques can aggravate the symptoms of asthma. Breathing exercises involve manipulation of the breathing pattern and include deep breathing, relaxation sessions and other exercises. If done regularly and properly, it would provide a simple self control by asthmatics.

The importance of breathing exercises is not well practised in the treatment of asthma. These exercises the patient can easily do for himself, and with a minimal amount of perseverance and energy, he can acquire the necessary control of the respiratory muscles, and thereby improve his condition to quite a large extent.

Why are breathing exercises to be followed by asthma patients?

The aims of breathing exercises are:

  • to get back the natural and automatic diaphragmatic breathing, and not the thoracic type of breathing
  • to concentrate on exhalation especially at the commencement of an attack.
  • increasing the flexibility of the chest wall and to relax the accompanying muscles of the respiratory system and
  • to correct other problems commonly associated with chronic asthma.

What are the main types of breathing exercises?

  • Pranayama (breathing exercises in yoga)
  • Buteyko (Russian method of breathing exercise followed in asthma)

What makes yoga breathing exercise (pranayama) a widely followed practice?

Studies have shown that yoga is a powerful therapy widely used to reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks as well as decrease medication use. Consistent practice of yoga postures and pranayama (breathing exercises) increase the lung’s airflow, air capacity, stamina and efficiency.

Pranayama develops the ability to maintain a relaxed and controlled breath that can prevent as well as reduce asthma attacks. If proper Asana(posture) is practiced, there is enormous profit from pranayama.

PRANAYAMA:

Pranayam is an effective breathing technique followed in yoga.

Pranayama is derived from 2 Sanskrit words – Prana (life force) and Ayama (control or mastery). Prana is taken in through the air we breathe, and since the Pranayama exercises increase the amount of air we take in, they also increase our intake of Prana Therefore, in a wide sense, Prananyama is used to control, cultivate and modify the flow of life force in the body.

Control of the body through posture is the first step, control of the breath is the second, which eventually leads to the control of the prana or life force.


What is the basis of pranayama?

True pranayama exercises consist of three phases: puraka, kumbhaka and rechaka. During breathing for Pranayama, inhalation (puraka) stimulates the system and fills the lungs with fresh air; retention (kumbhaka) raises the internal temperature and increases the absorption of oxygen while exhalation (rechaka) causes the diaphragm to return to the original position, while air full of toxins and impurities is forced out by the contraction of inter-costal muscles.

These are the main components of Pranayama which massage the abdominal muscles and tone up the working of various organs of the body.

The success of Pranayama depends on proper ratios being maintained between inhalation, exhalation and retention  An asthma patient is not supposed to do such practices independently.

However, many preliminary pranayama breathing exercises have developed to enable one get relief from breathing problems and other allied diseases. For all Pranayama exercises (except Kapalabhati), the breath is slow and steady. Always sit with a straight spine and a relaxed body. While practicing Pranayama, keep mind free of any thoughts by only focusing on the breathing involved.


Which pranayama exercises to be followed in asthma?

There are eight types of pranayamas according to Patanjali sutras of yoga, and they are only do be done under proper guidance of a qualified yoga therapist.

Pranayama exercises should be practiced depending on what usually triggers the asthma attack.

  • Dirga pranayama is for all conditions and will encourage slow deep breathing patterns. It is a cyclic breath where, with each inhalation, the lower abdomen, ribcage, and upper chest are filled in turn with air. This is meant to fill the lungs to capacity.
  • Naadi Shodhana is for stress and asthma triggered by emotional upsets.
  • Ujjayi pranayama is for asthma triggered by cold air. This consists of breathing through the nose with the throat tightened so that an "ahh" sound or hissing sound is produced. This is sometimes described as "sipping air through a straw.”
  • Sit Cari or Shitali pranayama is for allergic asthma.
  • Kapalabhati pranayama is to help strengthen the lungs and reduce mucus congestion. The procedure is to exhale forcefully with a powerful contraction of the abdomen muscles. The subsequent relaxation allows for inhalation; and the process is repeated rapidly.

Naadi Shodhan (without retention) – this is the preliminary process to pranayama.

  • exhale simply without any over strain through the left nostril by blocking the right nostril by keeping thumb of the right hand lightly and pressing on right nostril.
  • inhale through left nostril by keeping your mind and breath calm. Keep the position of right hand as it is.
  • exhale simply without any over strain through right nostril by unblocking the right nostril. While doing this, block your left nostril by keeping two mid fingers of your right hand lightly and pressing on left nostril.
  • inhale through right nostril keeping mind and breath calm. Keeping the position of right hand as it is.

This completes one cycle.  

Yoga is not a substitute for conventional medication. Everything has to be done under proper medical supervision.

BUTEYKO:

Buteyko links hyperventilation to asthma, and is based on techniques to normalise breathing patterns, reversing symptoms and lessening the need for medication. This programme is simple and easy to follow as well as extremely effective.

Buteyko is about self-care. It enables one to take an active role in managing his condition. Buteyko has no negative side-effects and it does not require increasing doses of medication to stay in control. It removes almost entirely the symptoms of asthma.


What are the benefits of Buteyko?

  • Prevent asthma attacks
  • Breathe easily and sleep well
  • To live without dependency on asthma drugs
  • Reduce allergy symptoms
  • Unblock nose without nasal sprays.
To remain active without use of asthma inhalers