Yoga techniques use gravity, leverage and tension while holding poses for varying lengths of time. Ancient texts describe rapid breathing (kapalabhati) as cleansing and stimulating and slow breathing (nadisuddhi), particularly through alternate nostrils, as calming.
Yoga has undergone much scientific study, with various psychological and physical theories suggested. In human research, yoga has been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, increase breath holding time and lung capacity, improve muscle relaxation and body composition, cause weight loss and increase overall physical endurance. Yoga may positively affect levels of brain or blood chemicals, such as monoamines, melatonin, stress hormones (cortisol) and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). Changes in several mental functions, including perception, attention, cognition, processing of sensory information and visual perception, are described in human research.
Multiple previous human studies report benefits of yoga (such as breathing exercises) when added to other treatments for mild-to-moderate asthma (such as standard drug therapy, diet or massage).
In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 19 women with asthma to a 10-week yoga training program or a control group. Quality of life was evaluated through the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire and heart rate variability was measure through a handgrip exercise test.
After 10 weeks, the researchers found that quality of life significantly improved for women in the yoga group when compared to the control group. Heart rate variability measurements also improved significantly for those participating in yoga.
The authors concluded that yoga may be beneficial for women with asthma.
In addition to yoga, many other integrative therapies have been studied for their potential benefits in asthma patients. Choline is possibly effective when taken by mouth for asthma. Choline supplements seem to decrease the severity of symptoms, number of symptomatic days and the need to use bronchodilators in asthma patients. There is some evidence that higher daily doses might be more effective than lower daily doses. Additionally, family psychotherapy may slightly improve wheezing and thoracic gas volume for children with asthma.
For more information about integrative therapies for asthma, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.
For more information about yoga, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.