Patient Blogs | Asthma
Yoga and Asthma
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I was diagnosed with asthma more than 15 years ago, and since then I’ve learned a lot.

Asthma impacts your breathing. Yoga can help your breathing. As simple as those two concepts sound, it was a while before I made the connection.

For one, I felt asthma was a condition that you “fixed” in the moment versus one you could address in a preventative way. In my mind, as long as I had my rescue inhaler (I knew nothing about a daily inhaler at the time), then I figured I’d be fine. I’d stay away from marathons and cookouts during pollen season. That should do it!

Well, it didn’t take long for me to find myself in the doctor’s office after one too many breathing scares.

My treatment plan now includes a daily inhaler and a rescue inhaler as needed. However, I’ve been pleased to learn that there are several steps I can take in my daily life to improve my symptoms – including adding some yoga to the mix.

Asthma can impact your entire body, but it attacks the lungs and breathing mostly. Because of this, I’ve found myself drawn to things that strengthen those two areas of my body.

One of those things has been yoga.

I started doing yoga a few years back for overall flexibility and to reduce stress. It wasn’t originally my type of workout as it didn’t involve enough sweat and high-energy music. In time, however, I begin to see the benefits.

Here are some of the ways yoga has been a gift for me:

  • Got me to open up. While my personality cannot really be more open, my chest and diaphragm definitely needed some help! I noticed a direct connection between how crunched over I might be sitting or standing and my breathing on any particular day. Grandma told me to sit up straight for years. Yoga helped me perfect it.
  • Taught me to breathe deep. If you’ve ever taken one yoga class, you know it’s about breathing deeply … in … and out. Yoga has helped me understand how shallow my breathing can be – especially when stressed – if I’m not careful. I try to take some time throughout the day to practice some deep breathing, whether at a stop light or watching TV. I’m much more aware of my breathing and I know I can thank what I’ve learned from yoga for that.
  • Builds my confidence. I underestimated yoga when I first started. I thought it was too wimpy and I fancied myself some type of gladiator. On the other hand, I thought asthma was a beast that would destroy me. I worried about my quality of life with asthma. I’ve since learned that yoga (while gentle and slow) can build my strength and confidence. There are moves I never thought I’d be able to do that I can do now. Practicing yoga has allowed me to see that I can still have a strong body and that asthma can be tamed.
  • Supports a low-stress life. There’s a lot to be stressed about in the world today – not to mention our own personal lives. If I’m not careful, the worries of the day will take over my mind and body. I’ve experienced an increase in asthma symptoms when I’m stressed. The longer I ignore the fact, the deeper the damage until I notice more symptoms and a greater need for my rescue inhaler. This is not how I want to live my life – on edge and worried about my next breath. The difference in my stress level before and after a yoga session is amazing.
  • Reminds me to focus on my health. To do any kind of yoga – whether at a studio or from a YouTube video at home – I have to stop whatever else I’m doing to just do yoga. That means all meetings, appointments and anything else that has been important that day takes a back seat and it’s about doing something to improve my health. Yoga felt very selfish at first when I began doing it. Now it feels like the ultimate in self-care.

These days, my asthma attacks are few and far between. I may have symptoms when the pollen is high or I have a cold, but in general, I do quite well. I believe a lot of my improvement has come from understanding how to breathe, slow down, and be open – all techniques learned on my yoga mat.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Hiraman / E+ via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 2005

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with asthma in 2005. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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