Respiratory Disorders: New Hope in Yoga

by Shaun Damon


The importance of breathing is something that can not be overstated and yet it is something we always tend to overlook and take for granted. It is only when faced with respiratory disorders that we realize the importance of maintenance and care for our respiratory system. Today's urban population is more afflicted with respiratory disorders than ever before on account of the phenomenal increase in levels of pollution and because of our modern urban lifestyle. Our eating habits, lifestyle, daily routines, activities, and urban environment have all contributed to the dramatic rise in juvenile asthma, adult asthma, bronchitis, and a variety of other respiratory disorders. Conventional treatments have so far offered limited success for most patients and tend to cause reactions and effects in most, with prolonged usage.

This may make any patient's quest for a cure or some relief seem futile, but there is hope for those suffering from chronic respiratory disorders. Many alternative treatments like aromatherapy and acupressure have been found to be helpful, but the most promising is yoga. Most of us are familiar with yoga as an ancient Indian discipline of physical fitness that endows it's practitioners with a contortionist like flexibility and as a spiritual discipline. This however is just the surface and there is a lot more to yoga than meets the eye. Yoga combines physical fitness postures with breath exercises, called pranayamas to create a perfect blend. The discipline is not restrictive and can be practiced by anyone, physical limitations not withstanding. The practice is adaptable and can be molded to meet the peculiar needs of each practitioner. While the physical aspects help enhance flexibility, muscle tone and circulation, the breath exercises help strengthen the lungs, improve circulation, cleanse the system and promote deep relaxation. All of these features offer benefits to asthmatics.

Here are some findings from researchers investigating the impact of yoga on asthmatics:

According to researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine the symptoms of asthma may be reduced by as much as forty percent, within just ten weeks of yoga practice. According to lead researcher Amy Bidwell, "Yoga is an excellent way to relieve symptoms because there are no side-effects, unlike modern medicine such as corticosteroids." Regular yoga practice can reduce dependence on and the need for such medications. It is believed that some of the breath control exercises enable patients to simulate conditions similar to an attack, but controlled, enabling the patient to handle and control the condition a lot more effectively in case of an actual attack.

In another controlled study with two groups of test subjects, one practicing yoga, and the other non-yoga, weekly spirometry observations of each subject showed that yoga practitioners displayed a significantly higher level of relaxation, better tolerance, and a positive attitude. Yoga practitioners displayed less reliance on beta adrenergic inhalers and it can be assumed that yoga techniques could be beneficial as an adjunct to the medical management of asthma.

References:

  1. Goyeche JR, Abo Y, Ikemi Y. Asthma: the yoga perspective. Part II: Yoga therapy in the treatment of asthma. J Asthma. 1982;19(3):189-201.
  2. McFadden ER., Jr Pathogenesis of asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1984 Apr;73(4):413-428.
  3. Patel C. 12-month follow-up of yoga and bio-feedback in the management of hypertension. Lancet. 1975 Jan 11;1(7898):62-64.

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