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Search Health Information    Breathing May Get a Boost From Yoga
 Asthma Center Feature Story

Breathing May Get a Boost From Yoga
Expert suggests that enhanced awareness could be the key

Breathing May Get a Boost From Yoga(HealthDay News) -- Yoga might be just what the doctor ordered for people with asthma.

"Breathing symptoms are such a big part of asthma in terms of gaining control over them," New York City allergist and immunologist Dr. Jonathan Field told HealthDay. "Yoga enhances awareness of breathing, and you may be able to recognize early on when breathing is not at a level it should be, which would promote earlier care," Field said.

"Also, it's been recognized that deep breathing in athletes -- swimmers or runners -- actually improves asthma," he added. "When you have more functional use of lungs, it protects against asthma."

A number of studies have examined the effect of yoga on asthma, including one by Amy Bidwell and her colleagues in the department of exercise science at Syracuse University. Their study included 20 people with asthma, aged 20 to 65, who completed a questionnaire that asked them about the frequency and severity of symptoms, activities that caused breathlessness, and social and psychological functioning.

The participants were randomly assigned to a group that practiced Hatha yoga 2 hours a week for 10 weeks or to group that did no yoga.

"We hold poses up to a minute and focus on deep breathing, which is critical to asthmatics," Bidwell told HealthDay. Bidwell, the senior author of the study, is a yoga instructor.

The yoga participants' oxygen consumption, ventilation and heart rate variability were assessed while they performed each of two tasks -- an upright tilt for five minutes and a hand-grip for three minutes. In addition, the study assessed how often the participants had symptoms and how severe they were, any breathlessness they experienced as well as their daily functioning, socially and psychologically.

Overall, the scores of those in the yoga group improved an average of almost 43 percent, and some of them reported that they were able to reduce their use of asthma medication.

On tests of oxygen consumption, ventilation and heart rate variability, however, the study found few or no differences between the yoga group and the non-yoga group. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

"There's not much of a downside to yoga unless you have a major orthopedic problem," Bidwell said. She recommends yoga for asthmatics -- but only, she said, after they've received proper instruction.

Other alternative therapies for asthma include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, hypnosis, herbal medicine and relaxation techniques, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The foundation recommends that people with asthma who are considering an alternative therapy should first talk with a doctor. Though alternative therapies may be perfectly acceptable, the foundation advises, they generally should be used in addition to, not instead of, regular medications or treatments.

On the Web

To learn more about asthma, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Jonathan Field, M.D., allergist and immunologist, New York City; Amy Bidwell, M.S., doctoral candidate, department of exercise science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.; May 27, 2009, presentation, American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, Seattle; Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (www.aafa.org)
Author: Robert Preidt
Publication Date: May 31, 2010
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