What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that narrows and swells the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma patients may even experience tension in their bodies because they have to put extra effort into breathing. The chest walls can become rigid and not move as easily to allow the flow of air into the lower chest and diaphragm area. The muscles of respiration (basically the muscles that contribute to inhalation and exhalation) will remain tense even when there is no critical breathing problem.
Symptoms of this chronic lung disease include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Asthma can be triggered by anything from allergies, cold air, respiratory infections (i.e. the common cold), stress, and medications.
Common Risk Factors
- Family history
- Gender and age (asthma is more common in children although the risks are relatively equal for both males and females)
- Smoking (cigarette smoke irritates the airways)
- Air pollution (smog exposure increases the risk of asthma)
- Asthma can interfere with daily activities and eventually lead to life-threatening asthma attacks. The good news is that controlled breathing exercises can help!
Researchers believe that asthmatics breathe faster than those with normal lungs. Many asthma sufferers also have a tendency to breathe through their mouths, exposing the lungs to cooler and drier air (an asthma trigger). Breathing exercises that encourage shallow, controlled breathing might reduce asthma symptoms and the need for medication.
Breathing Exercises for Asthma Patients
1. Buteyko breathing
This breathing technique teaches asthmatics how to consciously reduce their breathing rate or breathing volume.
- Sit upright and relax your chest and belly muscles while breathing.
- To keep focused, close your eyes and look up toward the ceiling.
- Gently breathe slowly through your nose (keep your mouth shut).
- Exhale slowly until you feel like there is no more air left in your lungs.
- Hold your breath for as long as you can and then return to gentle breathing.
2. Physical movement exercises
This breathing exercise combines both physical and breathing elements. Good posture is key.
- Close your eyes; relax and concentrate on your breathing while sitting in a resting position.
- First, focus on breathing with doing shoulder rotations.
- Next, focus on breathing while performing arm raises.
3. Diaphragmatic breathing
This is a simple technique that will maximize air distribution in your lungs.
- You can either sit or lie down for this exercise.
- Focus on breathing slowly through your nose.
- When you inhale, make sure your abdomen moves out.
- Next, exhale slowly, with your abdomen moving inward.
- The exhaling phase should be twice as long as inhaling.
4. Progressive relaxation technique
This technique will help you relax the muscles in your body.
- Lie down, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing through your nose.
- Tighten the muscles on your right foot and hold for 20-30 seconds, relax and feel the tension release.
- Repeat with your other limbs.
When you’re finished, your body should feel weightless.
5. Pursed lip breathing
This type of breathing method is beneficial if you are suffering from an asthma attack.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through pursed lips;
- Exhale as if you are trying to whistle.
This breathing exercise should be done while using the diaphragmatic breathing technique.