The official blog of the Lung Institute.
If you are having difficulties breathing or catching your breath, your first instinct may be to avoid exercise and exertion. But did you know? It’s actually good for you to get some exercise. It sounds counterintuitive. If you’re having trouble breathing, you think you should rest. But exercise can be very beneficial for you, especially if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exercise helps your body use oxygen better. The key is not to overdo it. Your doctor may have suggested yoga as a gentle workout, or maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of it. So true or false: how can yoga help COPD?
How Can Yoga Help COPD?
There have been many studies regarding yoga, the ancient practice of physical poses, deep breathing and meditation. Yoga can be adjusted for anyone from beginners to experts, and poses can be modified for varying skill levels. It is thought to be beneficial for stress, back pain, anxiety, arthritis and more. One study followed COPD patients who had never done yoga, and were on minimal medication. Meditative breathing during yoga has been reported to improve gas exchange in patients with chronic heart failure and in participants exposed to high-altitude hypoxia (oxygen deprivation). The study investigated the effect of yoga breathing on oxygenation in patients with COPD. Researchers found that short-term training in yoga is well-tolerated and induced favorable respiratory changes in patients with COPD. Another study found that 3 months of yoga classes could help people with COPD. Twenty-nine people with COPD practiced yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques consistently for 12 weeks. Their lung function, inflammation, quality of life and breathing were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at the end. All parameters showed significant improvement.
The above studies note that their results are preliminary and more research is needed and will be done. There was improvement in COPD symptoms for patients in the studies, but it’s possible that just slowing down and doing some meditation helped calm their mind and made them feel better. At this point, yoga is seen by medical professionals as a low-risk, but potentially high-yield way to try and improve quality of life. If you want to get started doing yoga, check with your doctor first. He or she can recommend an exercise routine that is appropriate for you. There are local yoga studios, classes at YMCAs, DVDs, online videos, and more that you can try. It is important to start small and not overdo it.