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Yoga Practice for Improved Lung Function

24 February 2014

A recent study has shown yoga practice to be beneficial for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), an incurable, often progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe normally. COPD can include Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, or a combination of both.

The participants in this study showed improvement in lung function, reduced shortness of breath, and a decrease in inflammation after practicing yoga for 12 weeks; this according to the “GW Center for Integrative Medicine” and a press release from the “American College of Chest Physicians.”

Study presenter Prof. Randeep Guleria, M.D. said: “We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD,”

For the study, 29 COPD patients practiced yoga twice a week for an hour. Their yoga routine included yoga asanas, pranayama, kriyas (cleansing techniques), and meditation.

COPD, affecting approximately 24 million Americans is most often caused by cigarette smoking, but controlling symptoms and slowing (or stopping) progression of the disease helps improve the quality of life for patients according to researchers.

Yoga practice is an excellent form of exercise for almost anyone with COPD. When done properly it is relatively low impact, and it helps to improve both emotional and physical health.

Yoga is described as a “mind-body practice,” by the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and although yoga’s roots are found in Eastern philosophy, it’s not necessary to hold any particular spiritual or religious beliefs to take part in classes, so it is quite possible to find classes that just focus on yoga as a way to stay fit, flexible, and relaxed.

There are many classes, including those offered for people with diagnosed health conditions, that do not focus primarily on the spiritual aspects of yoga practice. However, for anyone who feels they would benefit from the spiritual elements of yoga, that’s also okay. The main thing is to find a class and/or instructor that works best for your particular needs.

Yoga practiced as a secular exercise is made up of two essential parts. Physical postures, known as asanas, and breathing techniques, known as pranayama.

Yoga asanas are performed to help improve your balance, flexibility, range of motion and general fitness levels. They also work well to raise your energy levels, reduce stress and clear the mind from worry.

Breathing techniques (pranayama) are a vital part of yoga practice. They help you to control your breath and teach you how to use your lungs more efficiently and effectively. Pranayama can be performed while holding the asanas and/or separately as stand-alone Practice.

According to The University of Maryland Medical Center’s web-site, “Yoga improves fitness, lowers blood pressure, promotes relaxation and self-confidence, and reduces stress and anxiety. People who practice yoga tend to have good coordination, posture, flexibility, range of motion, concentration, sleep habits, and digestion. Yoga is a complementary therapy that has been used with conventional medicine to help treat a wide range of health problems.”

Specific Benefits of Yoga Practice for People With COPD

Yoga classes designed specifically for people with COPD generally offer modified forms of yoga, so there’s no need for concern that you’ll be expected to contort your body into complicated poses. They can be tailored to meet the health needs of people with COPD and should provide a gentle, easy and effective way to manage both overall physical health and emotional well-being.

Yoga asana practice can provide a variety of gentle stretching and bending exercises help to improve fitness and flexibility, improve the range of motion in the shoulders and open the chest, thus increasing overall lung capacity, while familiarizing yourself with different breathing techniques (pranayama) will give you the tools to confidently manage any attacks of Dyspnea (breathlessness). These learned techniques should be taught in a way that they’re  easy enough so that they can also be practiced at home.

Of related interest, click on: Stories the Breath Can Tell

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

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