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Breathing Exercises Easing Asthma Symptoms


The role of complementary and alternative medicine in asthma management is unclear but growing in popularity.  We encourage yoga for all our patients and looked into the role of breathing techniques in helping improve asthma symptoms. There is a paucity of medical studies evaluating breathing techniques in reducing the severity of asthma as measured by frequency of use of the asthma inhlaer (bronchodilator). Encouraging support comes from a recent review of existing scientific literature that looked at several studies and found evidence of benefit from yoga, Buteyko breathing technique and physiotherapist-led breathing training in improving the quality of life for asthmatics. Based on this, we feel it is reasonable for clinicians to offer qualified support to patients with asthma undertaking these breathing retraining techniques.

A recent article published by the New York Times suggested that a variety of breathing exercises can aid in relieving asthma. The article discusses techniques such as the Buteyko method and yoga breathing exercises and how they work to reduce the hyperventilation that asthmatics tend to experience.

How do they work? Buteyko is a treatment that was developed in Russia during the 1950’s. The method focuses on training yourself to breath slow and shallow through your nose in times of respiratory distress. In a study carried out by Manipal College of Allied Health Sciences in India, compared the effects of Buteyko with Pranayama, a form of yoga breathing exercises.

Following a series of questionnaires and training in the two techniques, individuals were studied for three months. After the study was conducted, the groups were compared against their controls and both the Pranayama and Buteyko methods revealed significant improvements in quality of life when compared to those individuals that did not carry out any of these techniques.

Another manner used to mitigate asthma symptoms is the Alexander technique. It aims to better posture and align the body naturally. We also searched for data on the Alexander technique in mitigating asthma symptoms.  At this time, more trials are needed to study the role and effectiveness of the Alexander technique in reducing asthma symptoms.


-N. Tanvir

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