I remember the first time a respiratory therapist talked to me about the importance of breathing exercises to control my breathing. I was 11, and the year was 1981. Several years later, 2006 to be exact, a study was completed to confirm that breathing exercises really do help us asthmatics.
In fact, the study was completed in Australia and first reported inThorax, and showed that asthmatics who used their rescue inhalers regularly for mild asthma, and who performed breathing exercises on a regular basis, reduced their need for rescue inhaler use by 86 percent. Also, inhaled corticosteroid use dropped by 50 percent.
Likewise, the study confirmed that it does not matter what breathing exercises you do, all that matters is you do one or the other. Other evidence already confirmed, as the RT back in 1981 already knew, that breathing exercises during asthma episodes can help make breathing better.
How does the way we breath affect our asthma?
Experts now believe that asthmatics tend to breath faster than people with normal lungs, and many also have a tendency to be mouth breathers. This exposes the lung to cooler and drier air which is an asthma trigger. This results in increased need for rescue medicine.
So it only makes sence that breathing exercises that encourage shallow breathing at a controlled rate may actually reduce asthma symptoms and the need for rescue and preventative medicine.
What are good breathing exercises for asthmatics?
1. Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing): (Click here for video) This is what I was taught back in 1981, and what I was encouraged to teach in RT school. It's a basic and simple breathing technique that maximizes air distribution in your lungs.
- You can lie down or sit.
- Concentrate on your breathing
- Preferably you should breathe in slowly through your nose
- When you inhale your abdomen should go out (not your chest)
- Exhale slowly with your abdomen going inward
- Ideally exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation
2. Reduced breathing exercises: (Click here for video)
- Sit upright, relax, focus on posture feet on floor with legs uncrossed
- Relax chest and belly muscles while breathing
- Focus, close your eyes and look up
- Breath through your nose gently (keep mouth closed)
- Breath slowly and shallow
- After exhaling slowly until you feel their is no air left in your lungs
- Hold your breath as long as you can and then return to gentle breathing (do not hold breath so long that you feel urge to inhale through mouth)
3. Physical movement exercises: (Click here for video)
- Focus on good posture (sitting in firm chair with feet on floor, legs uncrossed with your back straight)
- Relax (Tense all muscles, and then relax, paying particular attention to muscles in shoulders and belly. This should release all tension) This makes breathing easier. This is rest position
- Concentrate on breathing (close eyes)
- Focus on breathing while relaxed in rest position
- Focus on breathing with shoulder rotation
- Focus on breathing with Forward curl
- Focus on breathing with arm raises
- Rest position with focus breathing can be done anywhere
4. Yoga: One study showed that regular yoga participation reduced asthma symptoms and rescue inhaler use by 43 percent. In doing yoga you hold poses and concentrate on your breathing. Click here to learn more and to see if Yoga classes are held in your area.