Breathing is a fundamental aspect of our existence, yet for those grappling with asthma, each breath can become a monumental effort. Amid the hum of inhalers and the shuffle of medications, there’s a holistic avenue that’s gaining more attention – Pranayama.
Pranayama is collection of controlled breathing techniques, and some of these might just be the missing piece in your asthma puzzle, offering relief and calm.
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This article will highlight some of the best pranayama techniques for asthma relief.
The Benefits of Pranayama for Asthma
In a world often overrun by quick fixes, pranayama presents a refreshing alternative. It’s not about miraculous transformations; rather, it’s a way to deeply connect with your body’s natural rhythms. For those suffering with asthma, this could mean the difference between a difficult breath and a calm one.
Pranayama techniques are wide and varied. Those that are helpful for asthma relief encourage a slowing down of the breath, promoting a deliberate inhalation and exhalation process. This can have a profound impact on the nervous system. When the nervous system is in a heightened state – as it often is during stress – it can trigger an inflammatory response, exacerbating asthma symptoms.
By practicing pranayama, you can dial down this response, providing a gentler environment for the airways. And, at the same time, you can develop stronger lungs and better breathing habits.
Essential Pranayama Techniques for Asthma Relief
Here are five pranayama techniques that you can use to find relief from your asthma symptoms. I urge you to find a teacher that can instruct you on the intricacies of these practices as the subtleties are not obvious.
Deep Abdominal Breathing (Diaphragmatic Breathing)
Inhale through your nose, allowing your belly to expand as if it were a balloon being filled with air. Then, exhale slowly through pursed lips (or through your nose), allowing your belly to relax.
This technique is like a mini-massage for your lungs. As you engage your diaphragm, the primary muscle of breathing, you encourage deeper breathing. This not only brings in more oxygen but also triggers a relaxation response, potentially soothing the tension that often accompanies asthma.
Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Exhale fully and naturally, block your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril, then release your left nostril and block your right nostril, exhale and then inhale again, before changing sides and repeating. In this way you alternate which nostril you breathing through
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By inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other, we aim to balance the energy flowing through our body. Stress and emotional turmoil often contribute to asthma symptoms. This technique, with its calming influence, could potentially help in alleviating these triggers.
This technique is sometimes called Nadi shodhana.
Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)
Close your mouth and gently breathe in through your nose, then as you exhale through your nose make a humming sound.
This technique seems basic but its effects are many. By exhaling with a humming sound, you activate the vagus nerve – a key player in the relaxation response – and you also create nitric oxide which helps with more efficient and effective respiration.
Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath)
We often underestimate the power of a simple sound. Ujjayi Pranayama, with its soft ocean-like sound created by slightly constricting the back of the throat, has a tranquilising effect on the mind. It can make your breath sound like a lullaby to your nervous system, potentially helping in reducing anxiety-related asthma symptoms
The sound is created by gently constricting the throat space. It sounds like this wouldn’t work for an asthmatic but surprisingly it is quite calming.
Shitali Pranayama (Cooling)
Imagine sipping on a cool drink on a hot day – that’s the sensation Shitali Pranayama aims to recreate. By inhaling through a rolled tongue, you draw in cool air, which is then exhaled through the nose. This technique, known for its cooling effect, can be beneficial in regulating the body and the mind.
This may sound strange but you need to stick your tongue out a little and curl up the sides to do this technique. Drawing the air in this way feels cooling. Test it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
Adding Meditation to the Mix
Pranayama’s journey is elevated when practiced in connection with meditation. Meditation is often seen as a distant, esoteric practice, but it’s fundamentally about cultivating mindfulness and calm. With asthma, stress is a common antagonist, and meditation help. It encourages you to be present, observing the rise and fall of your breath. This act alone, this simple act of paying attention, can alleviate stress and potentially interrupt the onset of asthma symptoms.
Creating Your Own Pranayama Routine
As with any new practice, starting small is key. Dedicate some time each day to learn just one technique. Our bodies are unique, and what resonates with someone else might not work as well for you. Listen to your body, observe how it responds, and gradually build a routine that complements your lifestyle. Consistency is essential. The more your practice, the greater the rewards.
Inhale the Possibilities, Exhale the Struggle
It’s essential to remember that while Pranayama has shown promise in managing asthma symptoms, it’s not a standalone solution. Consulting your healthcare team before introducing any new practice into your asthma management routine is a sensible step. Pranayama can’t necessarily replace your prescribed medications, but it can be a significant supplement.
As you dive deeper into the world of Pranayama, embrace the process. With each deliberate inhale and measured exhale, you’re not just addressing asthma – you’re fostering a deeper connection with your body and breath.
The beauty of this practice is that it works on so many levels. As you work to improve your asthma symptoms you’ll likely develop a calmed state that flows into the rest of your life.
As always, I recommend professional instruction when the breath is involved, if you feel that you need help, I am here for you. Please book a call to learn how we can work together to help you learn the best pranayama techniques for asthma.
The below studies investigated the effects of pranayama techniques on asthma. If you’re a Breath Geek like me, you might enjoy digging a little deeper.
- The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity (study)
- Effect of pranayama breathing technique on asthma control, pulmonary function, and quality of life: A single-blind, randomized, controlled trial
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