Performing yogic asanas or postures can improve mild to moderate asthma, says a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Yoga can help to improve air flow through the lungs and raise muscle efficiency, so less oxygen is used for the same amount of work. Over time, this reduces demands on the lungs, possibly making asthma attacks less frequent and less severe.
Postures that require bending backwards open the chest and improve the condition of the heart and lungs. Forward and lower back bends help with inhaling. Inverted postures flush out mucus. Some major asanas for asthma are:
1. Bhujangasana (cobra pose): Lie flat on the stomach, legs straight, feet together. Place the palms of your hands flat on the floor slightly below the shoulders and slowly raise your head. This asana improves and deepens breathing.
2. Ustrasana (camel pose): Sit in vajrasana on your heels with calves beneath the thighs. Rise up on to your knees with your arms at the sides. Slowly bend backwards to first hold your right heel with your right hand, and then the left heel with the left hand. This asana opens the chest and improves respiration.
3. Matasyasana (fish pose): This asana expends lung capacity and encourages deep respiration. Sit cross-legged in padmasana. Then carefully bend backwards supporting the body with the arms and elbows, lifting your chest slightly and taking your head back until it touches the ground.
Asthmatics breathe two or three times faster than normal, robbing cells of fuel. Pranayama or yogic breathing helps patients take control of their breath. Three starter exercises are:
1. Abdominal breathing: This improves consciousness and enhances the action of the diaphragm. Lie flat on the back. Place the right hand on the abdomen above the navel and the left hand over the centre of the chest. Inhale, expanding the abdomen and exhale.
2. Ujjayi Pranayama: This slows down the heart rate. Sit in a comfortable meditation asana. Slowly transfer your awareness to the throat and focus on your breath as it passes in and out of the throat.
3. Kapalbhati Pranayam: This exercise has a cleansing effect on the lungs and reduces mucus congestion. Sit in any comfortable meditation asana. Close your eyes and exhale through both nostrils while forcefully contracting the abdominal muscles.
— The writer is Founder and Director of Lifestyle Yoga