Shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing … nobody wants to have to deal with these on a daily basis.
Yet, 25 million asthma suffers in the U.S. alone deal with these issues and more every day.
If you’re one of them, you’ve probably tried quick-relief medicine, long-term control medicine, and allergy shots to manage your symptoms. But have you tried yoga?
This article will share asthma breathing techniques and yoga asanas for asthma patients that will help relieve the symptoms of your asthma.
What Is Asthma?
First of all, what is asthma?
According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways that affects people of all ages, although it most often starts during childhood.
Our airways are tubes that carry air into and out of our lungs. When the airways are inflamed, they become sensitive and tend to react strongly to inhalation. When the airways react, this causes the muscles to tighten, narrowing airways and causing less air to flow into the lungs. Cells in these airways may also make more sticky, thick mucus than usual, narrowing the airways further.
This is what happens in the lungs of a person affected by asthma.
Asthma Breathing Exercise
One simple breathing technique I recommend for asthma sufferers is complete diaphragmatic exhalations. To practice this breathing, lay on the back with the arms stretched out to the sides. You can close your eyes if you’d like.
As you exhale, purse the lips and flow the breath out in a steady stream. As you do this, you may feel the abdominal muscles in the belly strengthen. Try to relax your throat.
Pause and relax the abdomen for a few seconds after the lungs have emptied.
Then, as you inhale through the nose, allow the throat to open. The inhale should easily move into the bottom of the lungs after your deep exhale. Aim to make the length of the exhale even with the length of the inhale, and as you continue to practice, you can work on doubling your exhale.
Continue this breath for at least 10 cycles of inhales and exhales.
To learn more about different breathing techniques that may help manage your symptoms, click here.
Yoga Poses For Asthma
There are several different yoga poses you can try for your asthma. Move through the sequence below, and make sure you check out the simple bonus office yoga for asthma poses at the end.
Pose #1: Cat-Child Variation
To begin this dynamic posture, come to the hands and knees in tabletop position. Make sure that your wrists are stacked underneath the shoulders and the knees are stacked underneath the hips. You can also be spreading the fingers and actively pressing down through each finger as you press through the tops of the feet.
As you inhale, come into cow pose by dropping the belly, lengthening the back of the neck, and opening through the chest. Your gaze should be somewhere in front of you. Broaden through the chest and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
As you exhale, come into child’s pose. Slowly move your buttocks to the heels and lengthen your back. As you do this, rest the left palm on the lower back. Feel free to separate your legs a bit wider and use a pillow or blanket under your buttocks to make this a very comfortable pose for you.
Continue to move through this dynamic posture with your own breath for 10 cycles of breaths, alternating the hand on the lower back in cow pose as you do so.
Practice it with me here!
If you have sensitive knees, you may want to place a blanket or fold the mat under the knees. If you have serious knee problems, lie down on your back and bring the legs into a rectangular position. You can put your feet up against the wall too. That makes it a bit easier. As you inhale, arch the back and lift the left arm backwards. As you exhale, flatten the back so that the spine lays flat on ground as you take the left arm back. Then, alternate. Avoid moving the legs back and forth if you can.
Pose #2: Camel Pose
From tabletop position on all fours, walk the hands back to the thighs and rise onto the knees. Again, if you have sensitive knees, place a folded blanket or fold the mat under the knees.
Your knees should be hip-width apart and your thighs perpendicular to the mat. Press the shins and tops of the feet firmly into the mat.
Bring the palms to the top of the pelvis, fingers pointing down. As you inhale, lengthen down through the tailbone and lift the heart. As you exhale, begin to lean back as you press the hips forward, bending the back gently. At this point, push your thumbs under your armpits, spreading the remaining four fingers of both hands towards the ceiling. Use your thumbs under each armpit as a lever to lift your chest even higher. If you are a beginner, please stay here and breathe.
If you would like to go deeper, move the palms first to your lower back, and then drop the palms to the heels behind you and actively press off of the heels. If you can’t comfortably touch your heels without compressing your lower back, tuck your toes under and elevate your heels.
Check in with the hips to ensure that they are still stacked over the knees. Stay in this pose for 5–10 rounds of deep breath, then bring the palms back up to the lower back, and gently release to a rounded back child’s pose. Great job!
Pose #3: Reclining Butterfly Pose
To enter this pose, come into a seat at the top of the mat. Then, bring the soles of the feet to touch. Adjust the feet closer to the hips for a more intense hip stretch, and further away for a gentler stretch.
Once your feet are in the desired position, use your palms to help you lower onto your back.
You can use a bolster, folded blanket, or pillow under the head and the back for extra support in this pose. This is a great way to elevate the chest, open up your lungs, and get more oxygen in.
Pose #4: Savasana
From reclining butterfly pose, stretch the legs out long and release the arms to your sides. As you exhale, fully release all tension in the body—including the tension in the muscles of the face and jaw. Stay here for 5 minutes, relaxing completely, to fully reap the benefits of your practice. If you have a bigger pillow or a bolster, place it under your knees. This may help you feel even more relaxed.
Simple Bonus Poses for the Office
If you’re at the office and can’t get away, you can still use yoga to find some relief for your asthma. In your chair, press both feet into the ground and place both palms on the knees. As you inhale, lift both arms overhead and open the chest. As you exhale, release the palms to the knees.
Repeat this sequence 10 times. Then, stand up and take a heavy book or file between the fingers, stretch the arms out. On your inhale, lift the arms with the book overhead. As you exhale, bring the arms and the book back down to the horizontal position. Repeat this sequence 5–10 times.
Then, get back to work!
Did you try these poses and breathing techniques? I hope they brought you some relief. Hit reply/comment below and let me know how they made you feel.
Yoga can help relieve the symptoms of your asthma. There are several different yoga poses you can try for your asthma treatment.
If you are in pain, the best therapy for your chest is to decompress. Gentle stretches and breathing techniques may help you relax and decompress the shoulders.
Has your breathing become very shallow? Do you sometimes stop breathing for more seconds than is healthy? Do you feel you want to be taught how to breathe and be more aware of your breath?
I do personalized healthy yoga. Let me help you with a healthy yoga sequence customized to you! Click here for your online quiz. What do you have to lose except your pain?
Info about Me
I’m Chi. I’ve always been passionate about healing and empowerment.
I work as a catalyst for personal transformation. I help you explore the best version of yourself, and yoga is a fantastic tool to accomplish that goal. I am a certified yoga therapist and a classically trained jazz vocalist, and I hold a Ph.D. in Communications. I look forward to practicing with you!
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Asthma. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma. [Accessed September 2018]