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Breathing is an essential part of being alive and is controlled by involuntary muscles, which makes it an action most of us don't think about in our day to day lives. But when someone suffers from Asthma, this can be a traumatic experience on a daily basis. Breathing is an important aspect to a yoga practice and good breathing is an essential part of calming in the mind and body. Yoga can help people suffering from asthma to learn how to control breath and breathe better with the body.
HOW THE BODY IS AFFECTED?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. Coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning, affecting the quality of sleep.
Asthma may be triggered by smoking, respiratory infection, allergies, exercise, pollution, toxins, cold weather, drugs and stress. Stress can create a vicious cycle of asthma and adds further to the already felt stress, increasing the frequency and degree of the asthma attack.
HOW CAN YOGA HELP?
Yoga improves the strength of respiratory muscles and organs through asanas and pranayama. By correcting postures and strengthening the respiratory system, it relieves asthma. Through cleansing practice, you can remove excess mucus which creates blockages in the airways of your lungs.
(i) Asana - Asanas improve the strength of respiratory muscles through expansion of the chest. When the asana is maintained for a certain period by relaxation, practice body awareness by visualizing the respiratory system. The following poses can help, Bhujangasana (Cobra), Shalabasana (Locust), Dhanurasana (Bow), Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of fish), Akarna Dhanurasana (Shooting bow), Ustrasana (Camel), Chakrasana (Wheel), Trikonasana (Triangle) and Veerasana (Warrior 1) etc.
(ii) Pranayama - Pranayama increases the tidal capacity of the lungs by reducing respiratory breath and thus reducing the metabolism. Breath retention (Kumbhaka) uses up residual oxygen and eliminates external blockages by activating smaller air tubes and air sacs. Try the following: Nadi Shodhan (alternate nostril breathing), Bhastrika (fast breathing) or Ujjayi.
(iii) Cleansing - Practice Jala Neti (nasal cleansing with water) by pouring salt water into one nostril to remove mucus and by Danda Neti (nasal cleansing with tube), which removes all the dirt and bacteria within the nose. This will decrease the risk of asthma and prevent worsening asthma attacks.
(iv) Contraindications - Avoid Sheetali, Sitakari or left nostril breathing pranayama. These practices could induce asthma rather than relieve it.
Breathing consciously is an essential part to any yoga practice, it helps calm the mind and body. Different breathing practices during yoga will enable you to breath deeper and more relaxed in your body. Everything in our body is connected, yoga brings your whole body, soul and mind into alignment with each other. If you suffer from asthma, a perfect way for calming the stress and difficulty with your breathing is to become more familiar with your yoga practice.