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Effective Breathing Exercises for Asthma

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Table of Contents
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Living with a chronic illness can make day-to-day tasks quite challenging, especially if it’s a respiratory condition like asthma. When dealing with the severe symptoms of asthma, you have to remain aware. According to some studies, medicines and breathing exercises for asthma can help lessen symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath. Let’s first review asthma and its consequences, though.

Understanding Asthma and Breathing

Asthma is a chronic condition that occurs due to inflammation and narrowing of the airways in your lungs. These reasons often cause the complications of asthma:

  • Inflammation of airways and swelling in its lining. 
  • Bronchoconstriction(tightening of the muscles around the airways).
  • Excess mucus production.

Triggers that affect your asthma

These triggers are certain environmental and physiological factors which exposure can affect your condition, which include:

  • Allergic reactions can be caused by allergens, including pollen, mites, pet dander, and mold, which can inflame your airways.
  • Some irritants such as smoke, strong odors, pollution, and chemical fumes can irritate the airways of your lungs.
  • Other respiratory infections can also worsen your condition. And cause more cough production. 
  • Exercising in cold or dry air can also trigger the condition of asthma. 
  • Sudden excitement or anxiety leads to rapid breathing, which can be a trigger, too.

Benefits of Breathing Exercises for Asthma

Heavy exercises are generally advised to avoid breathing problems but it’s not the case with breathing exercises. As breathing exercises are found to be very helpful in controlling the symptoms of asthma. They improve your lung capacity by enhancing its efficiency. Some of the benefits you can observe by practicing deep breathing exercises include:

  • By practicing regular breathing exercises, you can strengthen your respiratory muscles, such as the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. This helps you breathe more efficiently and effortlessly.
  • Some breathing exercises, like the Buteyko method, can help reduce hyperventilation and eventually the symptoms of asthma.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing techniques can even help loosen and expel mucus from the airways. This can prevent blockages and reduce the risk of infections. 
  • You must have experienced rapid and shallow breathing during an asthma flare-up, which is quite common because you panic. But you can stay calm in these conditions by regular practice of breathing exercises. Pursed-lip breathing is one such technique that helps you slow down your breathing, which can prevent hyperventilation and ease breathing difficulties during an attack.
  • Along with the physical, there are several ways in which breathing exercises help you mentally. You may experience reduced triggered asthma symptoms by regular breathing exercises. Plus proper breathing can enhance mental clarity, focus, and cognitive function by better oxygenation of the brain.

Precautions you should take Before Starting Breathing Exercises

Even though breathing exercises benefit you, you should take precautions to avoid any complications.

Consult with a healthcare professional

The first and foremost thing you should consider before starting breathing exercises is consulting with your doctor. They can help you and guide you by:

  • Identifying the severity of your condition, and providing you with any measures to follow for that.
  • Providing specific advice for your condition and recommendations as to which exercise to avoid.
  • Providing progress records and changes needed in your routine. 

Listen to your body and start slowly

It’s crucial to start breathing slowly to avoid any problem you can face with overexertion. So you can follow this:

  • Begin with easy-to-follow techniques and increase their difficulty gradually as you get comfortable with them.
  • Stay mindful of any discomfort, dizziness, or shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop the exercise immediately and consult your healthcare provider.
  • Increase your duration of exercise gradually for better results. 

Avoid exercises during asthma attacks

Breathing exercises are not an alternative to medications. And it can’t provide you relief during asthma attacks. So, it is better to use your prescribed inhaler or some other quick-relief medications to deal with acute asthma symptoms.

Keep rescue medication handy

As an asthma patient, you should always keep your rescue medications within easy reach. This precaution ensures that you quickly address any sudden asthma symptoms that may arise. 

What is the best breathing exercise for Asthma?

As you are well aware how breathing exercises help you with asthma and reduce its symptoms.  But now let’s find out about these exercises and also how to perform them. These are:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

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Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, involves using your diaphragm to take deep breaths, allowing more air to move into your lungs. Follow these steps for performing diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Find a calm place, and sit there or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Now, put one of your hands on your abdomen and the other over your chest.
  • Then, inhale with your nose, making sure that your abdomen rises while your chest remains relatively still.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth while feeling your abdomen drop.
  • Repeat for several minutes, maintaining a slow and steady breathing rhythm.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is focused on inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your pursed lips, which, on prolonged exhalation, improves air exchange. Follow these steps to perform pursed-lip breathing:

  • Start with Inhaling slowly through your nose for two counts.
  • Now, purse your lips as if you are about to whistle.
  • Exhale slowly and gradually through lips pursed for a total of four counts.
  • Repeat this cycle several times, focusing on a relaxed, controlled breath.

Buteyko Breathing Technique

The Buteyko breathing technique is focused on reducing asthma symptoms by reducing hyperventilation.  Follow these steps to perform the Buteyko breathing technique:

  • Sit in an upright position and relax.
  • Breathe in gently through your nose for a few seconds, then out gently through your nose.
  • Retain your breath by pressing your nose and closing your lips.
  • Hold until you feel a slight discomfort, then resume normal breathing.
  • Practice this technique several times a day.

Yoga Breathing (Pranayama)

Yoga breathing, or pranayama, aims to synchronize and control your breath to reduce hyperventilation.  There are two types of pranayama in breathing exercises for asthma:

Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

It is generally helpful in balancing your nervous system, along with reducing stress and boosting lung function. Follow these steps to perform Anulom Vilom:

  • Sit in a comfortable position, and make sure to keep your spine straight.
  • Apply your right thumb to tightly close your right nostril.
  • Breathe slowly using the left nostril.
  • Cover your left nose with your right ring finger and then release it.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly from your right nostril.
  • Inhale with the right nostril, then close it and exhale through the left nostril.
  • Repeat it multiple times. 

Kapalbhati (Skull Shining Breath)

It mainly improves your lung function and promotes relaxation, hence reducing your stress levels. Follow these steps to perform Kapalbharti:

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  • Start by sitting in a comfortable position by keeping your spine straight.
  • Take a deep breath in.
  • Exhale forcefully through your nose, pulling your navel in towards your spine.
  • Inhale passively and repeat the forceful exhalation.
  • For several minutes, keep breathing in this rhythmic manner.

Papworth Method

It is an integrated breathing technique and exercises to control and manage asthma symptoms. Follow these steps to perform the Papworth method:

  • Take a seat comfortably and let your shoulders down.
  • Breathe in through your nose using your diaphragm, ensuring your abdomen rises.
  • Exhale gently through pursed lips or your nose.
  • Focus on relaxed, slow breathing.
  • Use relaxing techniques that include progressive muscle relaxation.

Creating a Breathing Exercise Routine

Take some time out of your schedule and make a separate routine for breathing exercises. You can see better improvements by following a routine. 

Tips for consistency and regular practice

You can keep some tips in mind while making a routine for breathing exercises for asthma. These are:

  • Decide a specific time of your day for breathing exercises. 
  • Always begin with a short session and slowly increase the duration as you get comfortable. 
  • Set reminders to not miss your practice. 
  • Take it into consideration, and equally important in healing your lungs like your medications do.

Integrating breathing exercises into daily life

Make these exercises a vital part of your daily life. In the long term, you can expect a better breathing pattern and calmness even during critical times. Mindfulness and meditation can help you relax and reduce your stress. You can even practice it in different environments for adaptability. 

Keep taking your medications and using inhalers as per your doctor’s advice. Monitor your lung function using a peak flow meter to keep track of your progress. 

Can breathing exercises stop asthma?

Exercising can’t cure your asthma, but it can help you manage your severe symptoms and asthma attacks. Plus, in the long term, it will keep you calm if you’re getting any attacks due to triggers by helping you slow down and control your breath.

Conclusion

Respiratory diseases and their symptoms are actually complicated to deal with. Asthma needs special care to avoid triggers and its symptoms. But breathing exercises can make this easier due to its long-term benefits. And we’ve gone through some exercises which you can follow. But with some precautions and discipline, along with your medications. And then watch yourself breathing freely.

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