Asthma is a common medical condition that causes inflammation in the airways of your lungs. If you have asthma, you must know how it can make breathing difficult and trigger a dozen other symptoms, including wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest that are often debilitating.
Although certain medications can help you manage these symptoms, they cannot cure asthma completely. So is there a cure for asthma? Recent studies reveal that certain breathing exercises may boost immunity and strengthen the respiratory muscles – thus helping you gain control over asthma and improving your quality of life. Furthermore, breathing exercises for asthma encourage shallow breathing at a controlled rate, which may actually alleviate symptoms of the condition and minimize the need for preventive medications.
Which breathing exercises are recommended for asthma? If you are someone who has been struggling to cope with asthma attacks, then you should definitely try practising the following breathing exercises for asthma, as recommended by researchers and doctors.
Importance of breathing exercises for asthma patients
Breathing exercises can be beneficial for your lungs. The airways of patients with asthma can become narrow and inflamed making it difficult to breathe, so medications such as inhalers are prescribed to help open up the airways and improve breathing.
However, in addition to medication, various research has suggested that breathing exercises can be a beneficial treatment for people with asthma, helping to improve breathing and quality of life. There are various types of breathing techniques that are particularly helpful for asthmatics. Some of the exercises help with breathing retraining, some help increases the strength of respiratory muscles, whilst others improve the flexibility of the rib cage.
Breathing techniques for asthma patients are often recommended by a doctor or asthma clinic. Make sure you get the breathing exercises demonstrated by an expert before doing them at home on your own.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragmatic breathing technique strengthens your diaphragm – a dome-shaped muscular partition separating the abdomen from the thorax that helps in breathing. The simple and basic technique maximizes the distribution of air in your lungs. You can also perform this exercise while sitting straight on a chair.
Steps to Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing are –
- Lie on the back with your knees slightly bent. Place a pillow beneath your knees.
- Now position one hand flat on the chest and the other on your abdomen, as you inhale deeply through the nose.
- Make sure while breathing in, your stomach goes out, but your chest remains still.
- Now exhale slowly through pursed lips.
- Practice the technique until you can inhale and exhale with moving your chest
2. Nasal Breathing
Nasal breathing simply refers to breathing through the nose. Unlike mouth breathing, which is linked to severe asthma symptoms, this is a great breathing exercise for asthma patients. It adds humidity and warmth to the air, which in turn, can ease the discomforting signs.
Steps to Nasal Breathing are –
- Sit comfortably with legs crossed.
- Place your right hand on the right knee.
- Raise your left hand and bring it closer to your nose.
- Breathe out completely, then use your left thumb and other fingers to block the left nostril.
- Breathe in through the right nostril and then close the right nostril using the thumb and fingers.
- Open the left nostril and breathe out.
- Take a deep breath through the left nostril before closing it.
- Open the right nostril and breathe out.
- Continue this cycle for about five minutes.
- Remember to complete the cycle by finishing with an exhale on the right side.
3. Papworth Method
The Papworth method dating back to the 1960s combines many different types of breathing with relaxation techniques. The method trains you on how to breathe steadily and slowly through the nose and from the diaphragm. It also teaches you about stress management, so your breathing is not affected. Studies show that this particular technique helps improve quality of life and ease breathing symptoms in asthma patients. However, it is believed to be effective for people with mild asthma caused by mouth breathing and rapid breathing. It may not be necessarily beneficial to patients living with more severe asthma, typically triggered by allergies and cold.
Steps to Do Papworth Method are –
- Slowly inhale through the nose.
- Exhale through pursed lips as if you are blowing out a candle. Remember, the exhalation should be twice as long as the inhalation.
- Repeat this cycle 3-5 times.
4. Buteyko Breathing
This particular technique has been in practice since the 1950s. Asthma patients tend to hyperventilate, meaning that they breathe faster and more deeply than others do. Rapid breathing may trigger asthma symptoms, which is why Buteyko breathing is often recommended. With this technique, you can actually learn to slow down your breathing rate.
How is Buteyko Breathing Done –
- Sit straight on a comfortable chair.
- Relax your abdominal and chest muscles as you take a deep breath. Keep your face straight and eyes closed while doing so.
- Inhale through the nose keeping your mouth closed.
- Take a deep and shallow breath.
- Now slowly breathe out until you feel your lungs are no longer filled with air.
- Hold your breath so long as you can before returning to gentle breathing.
5. Pursed Lip Breathing
This particular breathing technique is very effective when you are having an asthma attack. Since the condition causes air to get trapped in the lungs, the technique may help you exhale more air, thus making breathing easier. It is one of the best breathing exercises for asthma patients who are short of breath.
To Perform Pursed-Lip Breathing, Follow these Steps –
- Slowly breathe in through your nose keeping your mouth closed.
- At the count of five, breathe out through pursed lips as if you were about to blow a whistle or a candle.
- You should breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.
You must be aware of the several benefits of yoga – but did you know yoga could reduce asthma flare-ups? Studies show that practising yoga regularly can ease and prevent asthma flare-ups, and reduce the need for an inhaler by 43%. There are many postures in yoga that focus on deep breathing exercises for asthma patients.
Yoga Poses to Control Asthma –
- Sitting Half Spinal Twist – It opens your chest muscles and improves oxygen supply to the lungs, thereby preventing an asthma attack.
- Bridge Pose – This yoga posture is one of the best breathing exercises for asthma patients. It balances your body by opening up your lungs and chest, improving digestion, and reducing thyroid problems.
- Cobra Pose – Also known as Bhujangasana, this is yet another beneficial exercise for people living with asthma. The cobra pose improves the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body. It also opens up the chest and clears the airway to your lungs, thus easing asthma symptoms.
- Easy Pose – This focuses on controlling your stress and breathing. It relaxes the brain, broadens your chest, and provides you with a sense of peace and calm, which may help you avoid certain circumstances that may trigger an asthma attack.
7. Progressive Relaxation Technique
The progressive relaxation technique works by relaxing all the muscles in your body. It is one of the recommended breathing exercises for asthma. In this technique, you tighten a muscle group while inhaling, and then relax them while exhaling.
Steps to Perform Progressive Relaxation Technique are –
- Lie down on your back with your eyes closed.
- Focus on breathing through the nose. You should use the technique of diaphragmatic breathing.
- Tense your muscles in the right foot, relax, and then release slowly.
- Do the same with the left foot.
- Continue staying in a relaxed position for about 10-15 seconds before returning to the starting position.
Once you learn about and start practising these breathing exercises for asthma, you may be able to gain more control over the symptoms. They may even reduce the need for you to heavily rely on your asthma medications.
Discuss with your doctor before trying out any of these breathing exercises for asthma to ensure that they are safe for you. It is desirable that you get in touch with a respiratory therapist, who can teach you the right technique and steps to perform these exercises effectively and safely.