Breathing Exercises

Breathing Exercises for Asthma That You Must Try

While many people can benefit from gaining better control over their breathing, this is doubly the case for asthma sufferers, for quite a few reasons. Modern experts have found that asthma sufferers have a tendency to breathe more quickly than non-sufferers. They are also far more likely to breathe through the mouth which can expose delicate lung tissue to greater amounts of drier, cooler air than average. (Most asthma sufferers will already know that exposure to this type of air is a potential trigger). When this is the case for a given person, they are many times more likely to need rescue inhalers or emergency treatment.

Breathing Techniques

Breathing Techniques for Asthma: Why They Work

Breathing exercises for asthma help patients avoid and minimize potential attacks by encouraging shallower, more controlled breathing. They also help one become more mindful of the way they breathe at all times.

The following exercises have all been found to reduce the symptoms of asthma, as well as lower the number of times a patient needed to resort to rescue inhalants or seek emergency medical treatment:

1. The Buteyko Method

According to asthma experts at various clinical research centers, the Buteyko breathing method helps to control asthma symptoms by providing asthmatics with the tools to consciously reduce their rate of breathing, as well as increase the overall volume of air they take in with each breath, increasing lung capacity:

  • Sit upright in a comfortable chair and relax. Focus specifically on the relaxation of your belly and chest muscles.
  • Close your eyes and tilt your head slightly upward.
  • Gently, shallowly, and slowly breathe through your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
  • Exhale slowly until you feel your lungs have been emptied of air.
  • Hold your breath as long as possible and then repeat from the beginning.

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique is effective because it works to maximize air distribution within the lung structure. It is also quite popular for its simplicity. Diaphragmatic breathing is also often referred to as "belly breathing".

It can be performed lying down just as well as sitting up straight:

  • Decide whether you will be sitting up or lying down for the exercise. What's most important is that you feel comfortable and relaxed.
  • Make a conscious effort to focus on your breathing.
  • Breathe in very slowly and deliberately through your nose. If done properly, your abdomen should go out as you inhale, as opposed to your chest.
  • Exhale just as slowly. Your abdomen should now be moving in as you do so.
  • If performed ideally, the exhalation process should be roughly twice as long as the inhalation.

3. The Papworth Method

This method is quite similar to both the Buteyko method and the diaphragmatic breathing method with a few slight differences. It has been found to be most effective for asthma patients whose attacks are related to mouth breathing. It also works well for those that experience episodes triggered by rapid breathing. However, those with very severe asthma or asthma related to allergies, colds, or other illnesses may not benefit as thoroughly.

The full method involves diaphragm-based, shallow, conscious breathing through the nose as with the diaphragmatic method detailed above. However, additional emphasis should be placed on tailoring your breathing pattern to the activity at hand. This method can be used to help sufferers gain greater control over their breathing in association with a wide variety of situations, including but not limited to physical exercise and sports. The key here is to try and stay as conscious as possible to the breathing technique you use while performing any type of strenuous activity.

4. Pursed Lip Technique

The pursed lip approach to controlled breathing is recommended for those that find themselves in the middle of an attack and wish to avoid using rescue medication if possible.

It works by helping to release air that may have been trapped in the lungs and return one's breathing to a normal, healthy rhythm:

  • Sit or lie calmly and focus.
  • Inhale slowly and deliberately through your nose.
  • Exhale slowly through lips that are pursed as if you were about to begin whistling.
  • As with diaphragmatic breathing, you should be breathing from your belly, as opposed to your chest.
  • Also as with belly breathing, the exhalation process should take twice as long as the inhalation process, ideally speaking.

5. Progressive Relaxation Technique

As with some of the above breathing techniques for asthma, this method is based on the same basic principles as diaphragmatic breathing. It too aims to help an asthmatic regain control over their breathing by taking shallow, conscious breaths through the nose as opposed to the mouth.

  • Lie down and make sure you are comfortable. Close your eyes and attempt to relax.
  • Concentrate on your breathing and make sure you are breathing through your nose using the diaphragmatic, belly-based technique above.
  • Gently flex the muscles of your right foot and hold the position for up to 30 seconds. As you release the muscle, focus on the feeling of tension release.
  • Repeat this process systematically for each part of your body. Start with your right upper leg and then the muscles of your left foot and upper leg. Continue with your arms (one at a time), your hands, and your shoulders. Finish with the muscles in your jaw, chin, and forehead.
  • The entire time you are flexing and subsequently relaxing muscle groups, continue to focus on your breathing.
  • Upon completion, your entire body should be enjoying a warm, weightless feeling. Remain lying down in this relaxed state for as long as you feel you need to.

6. Yoga-Based Breathing Techniques

A 2009 study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine found that taking up yoga and engaging in it regularly helped asthmatics reduce their use of rescue inhalants by a whopping 43%. The reason for this is that yoga teaches and develops consciousness and control when it comes to one's breathing. Plus, it's excellent for both fitness and the release of stress, the improvement of which can assist with asthma management.

Consider signing up for beginner's yoga classes at your local gym. Alternatively, you can easily learn some basic techniques on your own and add them to your daily routine with ease. You may also wish to ask your doctor if he or she has any recommendations as to particular disciplines to look into or instructors to approach.

When combined with proper medical care and the use of rescue medications, breathing exercises for asthma can drastically improve your ability to maintain the control you're looking for. Explore the possibilities today!