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Asthma Answers

Following an emergency visit to an intensive care unit, yoga teacher Barbara Benagh pledged to beat her asthma. After extensive research, she discovered the key to overcoming asthma is retraining the breath.

By Barbara Benagh

With each exhalation, let your belly sink away from your hands and into the back body. After a gentle pause, can you feel the belly rise effortlessly when you inhale? This relaxed action cannot be rushed, so don't force the movement in any way; an easy rhythm will settle in as your state of relaxation deepens.

Exercise 2
The Wave

I call this exercise "The Wave" because of the soothing movement that ripples up and down the spine when the body settles into your natural breath. This movement helps unlock the diaphragm and massages the abdomen, chest, and spine, releasing tension that can interfere with healthy breathing.

After Deep Relaxation, place your arms on the floor alongside your torso. Close your eyes and turn your attention to the belly and the way it melts into the pelvis each time you exhale. Begin The Wave by gently relaxing the lower back into the floor as you exhale, and then lift it a couple of inches as you inhale. The hips stay on the floor as the lower back rises and falls. This need not be a big movement, and the pace of breathing should be slow and easy. Allow yourself to settle into and slightly amplify this rhythmic wave, and notice if you can feel movement all the way up and down the spine. Repeat this exercise 10 or 15 times before continuing to the next technique.

Poor breathing habits may confuse you and cause you to reverse the coordination of movement and breath, so pay close attention. If you find yourself feeling tense, take a few normal relaxing breaths between cycles.

Exercise 3
Softening the Inhalation

In this exercise you will try to soften the effort you use to inhale, and to decrease the length of your inhalation until it is shorter than the exhalation by as much as half. When you first try this exercise, you may feel an urgent desire to breathe in more. Instead, remember that overbreathing is a habit that perpetuates your asthma.

To identify your basic relaxed breathing rate, begin by counting the length of your exhalation, the pause afterward, and the following inhalation. After several minutes, start to modify your breath rhythm to emphasize the exhalation. Use the baseline length of your exhalation as the gauge for any modifications you make: In other words, don't struggle to lengthen your exhalation; instead, shorten your inhalation. With practice, this will become easier. In the meantime, take several of your baseline breaths between cycles if you feel anxious or strained.

Exercise 4
Complete Diaphragmatic Exhalations

An inability to exhale fully is a defining symptom of asthma. I practice this exercise frequently whenever I feel short of breath.

Lie on your back with your eyes closed and arms stretched out along your sides. Beginning with an exhalation, purse your lips and blow the breath out in a steady stream. You will feel a strong action in the belly as the abdominal muscles assist the exhalation. Your exhalation should be longer than usual, but it is important not to push this too far. If you do, it will be difficult to pause after exhaling and your subsequent inhalation will be strained.

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Reader Comments

Sam P.

Wish there was a video to show how to do these exercises more efficiently.

Retha

Thank you!! I developed asthma later in life and have been aware that my breathing patterns tend to be forced. I will start these breathing exercises NOW. I appreciate B.K.S.Iyengar's yoga and feel immensely fortunate to have found your article! Thank you so much!

rahul kumar

Thanks a lot for for sharing your valuable experience. I'm going to start these exercises from today as I have developed asthma symptoms a couple of months ago and am really very disturbed by them. I know I was anxious and had disordered breathing earlier. Now I'm sure and I'll cure my breathing with these exercises.

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