7 Breathing Exercises to Control Asthma

by John Bottrell Health Professional

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 sense that breathing exercises that encourage shallow breathing at a controlled rate may actually reduce asthma symptoms and the need for rescue and preventative medicine.

Diaphragmatic breathing

This is 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

Buteyko breathing

This is a breathing technique that teaches asthmatics to consciously reduce either breathing rate or breathing volume. Sit upright, relax. Relax chest and belly muscles while breathing. Focus, close your eyes and look up. Breathe through your nose gently (keep mouth closed). Breath slowly and shallow. Exhale 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.

Physical movement exercises

This type of breathing exercise combines physical elements and breathing elements. Focus on good posture. Relax (tense all muscles, and then relax, paying particular attention to muscles in shoulders and belly). 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.


Studies 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.

Papworth method

This type is similar to diaphragmatic breathing and Buteyko method. These breathing exercises are believed to be beneficial to patients with mild asthma that is caused by rapid breathing and mouth breathing, and may not necessarily benefit those with more severe asthma, or those asthma episodes caused by other asthma triggers, such as colds and allergies.

Pursed lip breathing

This can be used when you are having an asthma attack. Since asthma causes air to become trapped in your lungs, this may help you get more air out and may make breathing easier. This is where you inhale slowly through your nose and then exhale through pursed lips, or exhale slowly as though you were going to whistle. You should exhale twice as long as you inhale. This should be done while using diaphragmatic breathing as described above.

Progressive relaxation technique

This technique helps to relax all the muscles in your body. Lie down and close your eyes. Concentrate on breathing through your nose. Use diaphragmatic breathing. Tighten muscles of right foot, relax, feel tension, release. Do same for other limbs. When done your body should feel weightless. Stay in relaxed state for as long as you want or need.

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).