Breath Retraining in the Management of Asthma
by Barbara Benagh
A Yoga Approach
Once I understood that breaking the cycle of over-breathing is essential to overcoming asthma naturally, I could draw on all my years of experience with pranayama. I experimented with breathing techniques to see what would restore my natural breath rhythm. Over time I settled on a handful of exercises that are simple and effective in slowing the breath rate, and reducing the incidence and severity of my asthma. This program is meant to restore a natural breathing pattern and to provide a foundation from which the body can adapt well whether we are practicing other breath work, exercising, weathering a crisis, or simply going about our daily lives.
There are certain precautions to consider as you embark on this program. Please do not stop taking your medications. The program may ultimately reduce your dependence on medication or do away with it altogether, but this should not be done hastily or without the approval of a doctor. If you have diabetes, kidney disease, or chronic low blood pressure, have had recent abdominal surgery, or are pregnant, you should consult with your physician before doing these exercises. I also strongly suggest that asthmatics generally avoid additional breathing exercises which call for rapid breathing, retention of the inhalation, or tightening the throat. Asthmatics must realize that many breathing exercises which are quite beneficial for a normal breather may have a paradoxical impact on an asthmatic.
Let me stress that patience and perseverance are required in this program. The disrupted breathing patterns common among asthmatics are deeply ingrained and can take a while to change. The truth is, it can seem easier to take a pill or use an inhaler than to spend 15 minutes a day on exercises that confront these stubborn patterns and bring up the fears and emotions that often surround the disease. I know the frustrations firsthand. But I also know, from my experience, that if you make these behavioral changes a daily regimen, you'll gain valuable tools for managing your asthma.