This series of yoga breathing exercises and asanas is shown to improve adult asthma as a complementary therapy, according to a study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.
The prescribed yoga class included both yoga poses and yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama. If you have asthma, get permission from your doctor before trying to help yourself with yoga.
The Asthmatic Participants
This yoga therapy study examined the results from 60 patients with mild to moderate adult asthma between the ages of 18 and 60. Researchers randomized the patients into two groups 1) a yoga training group and 2) a control group. The yoga training group completed the prescribed yoga program (scroll down to view the sequence) and the control group had no treatment. The patients continued to take their asthma medications throughout the study.
The Yoga Training Group
The yoga training group enjoyed five to six days of guidance from a yoga expert on how to do the yoga sequence to improve adult asthma and then practiced at home, 40 to 50 minutes per day for two months. The yoga therapy for asthma class included:
- 30 to 35 minutes of yoga breathing exercises (pranayama)
- 10 minutes of yoga poses
- 10 minutes of meditation
The researchers also asked participants to modify their lifestyle by eating more fruits and vegetables and sleeping seven to eight hours per night. The participants kept a diary detailing medication use, asthma symptom severity and activity limitations due to their condition.
Yoga Breathing Exercises for Adult Asthma
Here are the pranayama exercises of the yoga breathing component prescribed for adult asthma in the study. They appear here in the correct order, so you can try the sequence yourself.
- 2 minutes of slow, deep breathing called Bellows Breath or Bhastrika
- 15 minutes of Alternate Nostril breathing in the cross-legged position Sukhasana
- 10 minutes of forced exhalation called Frontal Brain Cleansing Breath or Kapalpbhati
- 4 repetitions of deep breathing with retention for 10 seconds called Bahaya Pranayama
- 5 repetitions of Humming Bee Breath called Bhramari
- 5 Om chants
Yoga Poses for Adult Asthma
Here is the 10-minute yoga pose sequence the participants completed after the breathing exercises. Unfortunately, the study’s report did not detail the number of repetitions or how long to hold each pose. Considering you would have to finish all four of them in 10 minutes, I would guess two rounds of Sun Salutation; 3 repetitions of Palm Tree Pose as described in Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha; Seated Forward Bend for 1 minute and Frog Pose for 1 minute.
- Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar
- Palm Tree Pose – Tadasana
- Seated Forward Bend – Paschimottanasana
- Frog Pose – Mandukasana
Yoga Increases Quality of Life for Adult Asthmatics
The researchers found the yoga sequence to improve adult asthma resulted in a significant increase in quality of life. The yoga group had a statistically significant improvement, in comparison to the control group, in:
- transfer factor of the lung for carbon monoxide (TLCO)
- forced vital capacity (FVC)
- forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1)
- peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR)
- maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV)
- slow vital capacity (SVC)
How Does Yoga Therapy Improve Adult Asthma?
Why does yoga pranayama improve adult asthma? The researchers think the yoga breathing exercises and yoga poses improve adult asthma by:
- increasing respiratory stamina
- relaxing the chest muscles
- expanding the lungs
- raising energy levels
- calming the body
Yoga Breathing Exercises to Improve Adult Asthma
Singh, S., Soni, R., Singh, K., & Tandon, O. (2012). Effect of yoga practices on pulmonary function tests including transfer factor of lung for carbon monoxide (TLCO) in asthma patients. Indian journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 56(1), 63-68.