There’s help for Asthma in Yoga

Perhaps it was predestined that I should have had asthma as a kid, discover Yoga as an adult, correct my respiratory health with it and now be blessed to write about my experiences with using Yoga (amongst other things) to control my asthma symptoms.

If this is the case, then I am honored. Either way it goes, I can say with much confidence that based on my experiences, one helpful exercise for alleviating Asthma symptoms and dealing with its many inconveniences is Yoga.

Owing to its gentle poses and stretches and the deep breathing involved in Yoga, certain poses-when used correctly-can be very helpful for smoothening the chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways) that causes swelling and narrowing (constriction) of the airways as is the case in Asthma patients.

Furthermore, when using Yoga as an exercise for asthma control, one need not worry about the common exercise-induced asthma attacks that may come as a result of vigorous activity as these poses are very calm and involve very little motion…hey, it’s Yoga after all.

Now, friends, based on my experiences and several studies that support these facts, the following poses can be a powerful add-on therapy to reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks as well as to decrease medication use.

The Shoulder Stand & It’s Counter Poses for Asthma.

Inversion poses in yoga drain excess mucus from the lungs and balance the immune system. Now, let me introduce you to perhaps the simplest of these poses, the shoulder stand pose.

Although the Shoulder-Stand has been coined by several Yoga sages as a near panacea or cure-all, as far as Asthma is concerned, it is indeed very helpful in regards to relieving excess encumbrances in the respiratory organs and owing to its deep breathing, it increases the lung’s airflow, capacity, stamina and efficiency.

Here comes the best part, its counter poses. You see, some yoga poses, owing to the execution of them that is, have to be offset by a pose in an opposite spinal direction (another subject, but hopefully you get the gist).

Now friends, this Shoulder-stand pose has 2 main counter-poses: the Bridge and the Fish Poses. (No worries they are very simple to perform.) Both of these poses are back bending postures that open up the chest improving both lung and heart functioning.

As a matter of fact, the very last pose (the fish pose) is one of the specific poses mentioned by Sri Swami Devananda and IBS Iyengar (two of the most authoritative figures in modern day yoga) as being specifically useful for removing spasms from the bronchial tubes and thus relieving Asthma.

Other Helpful Poses:

There are other poses such as the forward bends which you can practice specifically if it is more difficult to inhale. These include the Head-knee Pose (Passchimothanasa) and it basically involves grabbing your toes, ankles or feet with the head lowered as far as possible to touch the knees.

Now, friends, remember I mentioned counter-poses right? Well, for this particular pose, its counter-poses basically are backward bending poses that include the Incline Pose and Bow Pose.

Both of these (especially the latter) open up the chest and should be practiced to aid with exhaling during asthma attacks.

Last, but not least is the simple, yet extremely effective Relaxation Pose.

Yes, you guessed it right, just simply lie flat on your back and breathe in a controlled and rhythmic pattern. By practicing rhythmic, controlled breathing techniques daily, the respiratory muscles and lungs develop the ability to breathe more slowly all the time, meaning less stress on the airways in general.

In addition to these poses, let me briefly mention the ‘Bellow’s breath exercise’ (a yoga breathing exercise) as this helps tremendously. As the name may suggest, it involves purposely pumping the stomach in an inward motion and exhaling through the nose simultaneously in controlled movements. This removes spasms and tones up the respiratory system significantly.

At this point, it must be mentioned that Yoga does call for a healthy diet in its use and
as a physical and spiritual system; it does call for a mostly vegetarian diet.

Friends, for asthma problems, you may want to strongly consider this as giving up all processed foods and animal products such as meat, milk, eggs and the like from your diet is a must and a fact that has been in effect in several programs aimed at correcting respiratory health such as the “Breath Retaining Program For Asthmatics” developed by the Russian, Dr. Buteyko. Within weeks of adhering to this advice, many a chronic asthmatic has been able to give up the use of ventolin inhalers.

So the next time asthma sends you to the doctor, you may do well to ask for a new prescription for asthma treatment-Yoga. I believe it won’t hurt and possibly could help you immensely.

The Power of Stretching

Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite normal and is part of the process. Stretching has seemingly been with us and particular with athletes since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few years back. She said that any stretch under 17 seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity Bikram’s yoga where stretches are held for about 30 seconds. Don’t forget the high level of heat that is used in Bikram’s to extract that last little bit of stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But, it can’t hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from stretching? That’s an easy one. Have you ever seen the movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that played him was quite elastic as well.

Great elasticity is also something you might see in well trained Spetsnaz(Russian)agents. They often work out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic shocks.

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to have explosive power available at one’s fingertips without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are not martial artists or agents. But, you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in the full lotus position for long periods of time, my ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it’s normal position.

Amazingly, this didn’t even hurt, not one bit. If my ankle hadn’t been so flexible, I may have suffered a sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt for days.

Key point: stretching helps us to avoid injuries. Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically speaking.

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over time.

Check with your physician before undertaking any type of exercise, including stretching.