Breathing Exercises for Asthma

Asthma is a complicated chronic respiratory condition of the airways characterized by attacks that cause difficult breathing.

Asthma doesn’t just affect the patient’s lungs; it also has a huge effect on both the psychological and emotional aspects of a person’s life. Though medical science has mostly controlled the symptoms of asthma through pharmacotherapy, the sad truth is that it only gives patients an excuse to rely on bronchodilators and anti-asthma medication which further reduces quality of life.

Are there any non-pharmacological solutions out there? Patients suffering from asthma are very interested in holistic methods on how they can gain greater control over their debilitating conditions, notably in the breathing department.

Before, holistic breathing exercises were not considered as an effective way to treat asthma, partly because some claims were exaggerated and there wasn’t any way to prove its efficacy. Today, research claims that sound breathing techniques may add to overall treatment of asthma.

The change of heart was mostly due to the fact that asthma patients were observed without any pharmacological involvement. There was a question that needed answering- why were some asthma patients dealing with their conditions better than others despite having more serious lung conditions and poorer breathing function? As researchers plumbed through the depths, it became apparent that anxiety was the determinant factor in the unpleasantness of being breathless in various degrees of bronchoconstriction.

Why is this? Let’s take a look at the brain processes behind it. In samples of brain images, it was shown that the act of breathlessness was akin to experiencing strong emotions, and changes in emotional state affected immunological responses, i.e., reaction to aero-allergens. Furthermore, anxiety is often linked to worsening behavior in self-management.

In simple words, your emotional state affects how you breathe. Those who are suffering from asthma must be able to control how they breathe by managing their emotions. Remember that excessive anxiety leads to abnormal breathing and hyperventilation, to which breathing exercises are the decisive answer.

It’s understandable how people who have asthma tend to breathe faster than those who don’t. So they try to breathe through their mouths, which triggers the asthma attack and therefore, the need for a bronchodilator. Breathing exercises help avoid the trigger, reduce symptoms of asthma and foregoes the need for preventive medication.

Here’s 4 easy steps on how you can ease asthma symptoms:

Step 1: Exercise deep breathing that comes from the abdomen instead of the chest.

Step 2: Don’t forget to continue breathing through your nose.

Step 3: Practice deep breathing exercises at least twice a day. Start small and breathe for 5 minutes, then expand the time as you go along.

Step 4: Take preventive medication as normal.

Here are some deep breathing techniques to get you started. Keep in mind that there isn’t any special breathing technique for combating asthma. Natural breathing is great because it gives you relief from asthma, among other things. Here, on this website you can find my deep breathing app to help you in developing good breathing habits.

Remember, your emotional state affects how you breathe. Anxiety is often linked to worsening asthma attacks.

Abdominal Breathing

This deep breathing exercise maximizes your lung capacity and distribution of air.
Start by standing or sitting down in a comfortable position. Block out the noise and pay attention to your breathing. Inhale exclusively through the nose; your abdomen should expand instead of your chest. Consciously delay your breaths during each inhale and exhale for about 3 seconds to improve ventilation and allow the oxygen to get to the small secretions. Then, exhale slowly and feel your abdomen pulling inward. Time your exhalation to be about 6 seconds if you inhaled for 3 seconds.

After this one, if you want, you can relax with Cleansing Breath Exercise which is also described on this blog.

Buteyko Breathing

Individuals who have asthma can benefit from this breathing technique as it effectively reduces breathing volume and rate. For starters, relax your abdominal muscles and your chest as you breathe. Focus on your breathing, close your eyes and fix your gaze upwards. Continue breathing through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. The key here is to do slow, shallow breaths and exhaling fully. The exhale should expel all the possible air from your lungs. Then, hold it for as long as you can before returning to starting position.

Pursed Lip Breathing

Patients can try this the next time they’re having an asthma attack. In the event of an asthma the air becomes trapped inside the lungs, unable to escape. To fix this, inhale slowly through the nose, then form a pursed lip (like you’re trying to whistle), and exhale just as slowly. Like the abdominal breathing exercise, the amount of air on the exhale should be twice as long as the inhale.