Asthma & Yoga: a 30 min Practice with Meditation

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Asthma today

The incidence and death rates for asthma have been rising dramatically in recent years; Air pollution and rising stress levels have been suggested as possible reasons.
The rising incidence of fatal asthma attacks may also be linked with bronchodilating medications which may mask an impending asthmatic crisis, causing a delay in getting emergency treatments.

Due to these problems and the increasing understanding of the role that inflammation plays in asthma (which beta-agonist bronchodilating medications do nothing to reverse), anti-inflammatory cortisone drugs (steroids) have become the standard for conventional treatment in all but the mildest cases.

Alternatives may be found in natural compounds, and the bronchodilating & anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis & terpenes such as b-caryophyllene & pinene seem promising for prevention & treatment of asthma. [1, 2]

Yoga practice for asthmatic people

Yoga promotes a conscious, slow, deep and regular breathing which calms the nervous system by increasing oxygen supply to the tissues, lowering stress levels and inducing muscular relaxation.

This yoga sequence for asthma places great emphasis on connecting us with our breathing pattern through concentration and meditative exercises, putting us in touch with subconscious feelings and thoughts that could be affecting the way we breathe. In addition, the student is brought through a wide range of movements and asanas (physical postures) coordinated with the breath aimed to improve posture and with it, favouring a calm and deep breath.

In this practice you will work on abdominal muscles and diaphragm in order to stimulate its full excursion up & down , favouring slower and deeper exhalations.
The student’s attention is kept to its breath throughout almost the entire class.

In this way, we can increase our concentration capacity and counteract the tendency to hold the breath, which is a quite common behaviour in both asthmatics and stressed people.

Is science supporting the claims?

Yoga is a powerful medicine but it is slow medicine. Overviewing the scientific evidences on the effectiveness of yoga for asthma seems that a constant practice over time is key in reducing asthma effects. 
Dr. Bohle et al. investigated the effects of a 2-month yoga program on 55 asthmatic patients. They found that 40% had a “good response” (no attacks in the subsequent 6 months and no use of asthma medications for at least 2 months; 33% a “fair response” (50% reduction in attacks with use of medications); 16% a “slight response” (the rate of attacks was reduced by 25%). [3]

At the India’s central Research Institute of Yoga, 46 asthmatics took part to another study to verify the efficacy of yoga in treating asthma. The training was associated with significant increases FREV1 (peak flow rates during exhalation), the amount of oxygen present in the blood and exercise capacity. Follow-up one year later was reported on the 31 participants who continued to practice yoga daily. Of these 31, 18 whose asthma has initially rated moderate to severe remained asymptomatic without medication. [4]

However, not all yoga studies on asthma have shown clear benefits, mainly due to the difficulty on setting the “control group” in clinical trials. [5]

More research on this topic is definitely needed but there’s already enough evidence to consider yoga as a safe and non-invasive support applicable to asthmatic’s lives.

 

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References:

[1] McCall, T. (2007). Yoga as medicine. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. 170-171

[2] D. P. Tashkin, B. J. Shapiro, Y. E. Lee, C. E. Harper. (1975) Effects of smoked marijuana in experimentally induced asthma. Am Rev Respir Dis. 112(3): 377–386.

[3] Bhagwat, J. M., Soman, A. M., & Bhole, M. V. (1981). Yogic treatment of bronchial asthma—A medical report. Yoga Mimamsa, 20(3), 1-12.

[4] Jain, S. C., & Talukdar, B. (1993). Evaluation of yoga therapy programme for patients of bronchial asthma. Singapore medical journal, 34, 306-306.

[5] Huntley A, White AR, Ernst E Relaxation therapies for asthma: a systematic review Thorax 2002;57:127-131.

Andrea Cristofoletto

Andrea Cristofoletto is a certified Yoga Teacher and has been studying the ancient science of yoga in India under the guidance of Sri Yogacharya Lalit Kumar from the Himalayan Tradition.
He has deepened his knowledge on the therapeutic use of asana, pranayama, chanting, meditation and kriya techniques under the wise guidance of Ratheesh Kumar Atmaram.
He has a BSc in Foreign Languages – Business Communication Specialist and graduated with a thesis on the socio-economic importance of the hemp fibre throughout history. Andrea has gained his experience through direct training in hemp fields practising organic agriculture.

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