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Yoga for asthma

Avoid attacks with exercise

You can take the fright out of an asthma attack with a remedy that's as old as the hills. Yoga, which means "united" or "joined together," is actually several disciplines united to make body and mind work in harmony.

Since its introduction to the Western world, yoga has become more user-friendly to Americans and Europeans. It's even being touted to relieve symptoms of chronic health problems, like asthma. This is great news since the World Health Organization estimates asthma afflicts more than 100 million people worldwide.

How it works

Yoga may be the ideal workout for people with asthma. Many asthmatics avoid exercise because of the fear of suffering an attack. But the slow, controlled movements and deep breathing of yoga promotes relaxation while relieving stiffness and limbering up the body.

The breathing exercises that are essential to this exercise program not only open up the lungs but may possibly reduce the inflammation that occurs with asthma.

Some researchers also think the relaxation/meditation aspect of yoga could help asthmatics by regulating breathing patterns and improving lung function. Easing your symptoms through yoga is one positive way to help manage your condition.

Science meets yoga

Researchers are still looking for answers. In one long-term study, 106 people with asthma were divided into two groups.

One group practiced yoga breathing techniques, while the other group served as the control. Researchers discovered that the people practicing yoga required less asthma medication and suffered fewer asthma attacks during the study.

Another trial tested a yoga meditation technique called Sahaja. Participants sought to reach a state of "mental silence." They were alert and aware but free of any unnecessary mental activity.

Researchers found that the people using Sahaja also succeeded in reducing their asthma medication. During the four-month test period, the average number of acute attacks for meditators was 5.8, compared to 12.9 for the control group.

Get out of your rut

People with asthma who hesitate to exercise, whose shoulders are stooped from shallow breathing, and whose general health and outlook on life have been suffocated by asthma could benefit from yoga.

It typically involves three aspects. They often overlap and complement one another.

Hatha yoga -- gradual, gentle movements and poses called asanas. Hatha yoga strengthens and invigorates your body and lungs.

Pranayama -- the exercise of controlled breathing. Prana means "breath of life."

Meditation -- exercise for the will. Meditation helps you get a handle on stress and worry and regain a hopeful outlook about your health.

If you decide to practice yoga, find a reputable instructor because doing the techniques improperly may result in injury.

To find a yoga instructor in your area, contact your local recreation department, YMCA, or fitness center.

While yoga won't eliminate your asthma, it might help you control your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about using it as a complement to traditional treatments.

     
     

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