Asthma is an overreaction of the bronchial tubes (pathways to the lungs) to an allergic trigger. The trigger causes the bronchial tubes to become inflamed and constricted, making it difficult to breathe. Triggers may include viral infections, smoke, exercise, certain medicines, or allergens like dust, mold, or pollen. In some cases, the asthma can be severe enough to be life threatening. Asthma is treated with long-lasting and short term medicines, as well as lifestyle changes. Avoiding triggers is helpful in preventing asthma attacks, but it is unrealistic to avoid all triggers. Asthma can impair daily activities, leading to increased use of medicines. Some studies have indicated that yoga may help to control asthma.

Researchers from India conducted a study to better understand potential benefits of yoga for asthma control. The study found that people who participated in a yoga program had improved quality of life and needed less medicine than those who did not.

About the Study

The randomized control trial had 57 participants with mild to moderate bronchial asthma. All participants received conventional care, but 29 of the participants were also assigned to a yoga group. This yoga group participated in two weeks of lifestyle modification and stress management based on yoga and six weeks of monitored home practice. The yoga practice included postures, breathing, and meditation. Researchers measured the occurrence of exercise-induced bronchorestriction, pulmonary function, asthma quality of life, and the use of rescue medicine. After eight weeks, the yoga group:

  • Showed improvement in pulmonary function compared to their baseline levels
  • Had a reduction in the incidences of exercise-induced airway restriction
  • Had significant improvement in asthma quality of life (The control group had an improvement as well, but the yoga group improved faster and more completely.)
  • Showed decreased use of rescue medicine (Use decreased in both groups, but the change began earlier and was greater in the yoga group.)

How Does This Affect You?

Both groups had some positive changes after learning about asthma management steps, which suggests the importance of lifestyle changes for good management. The study was not able to define how the yoga made a difference for participants. Previous studies have shown that regular physical activity may help decrease the intensity or frequency of asthma attacks. Yoga provides physical activity, as well as breathing exercises and meditation. The unique body and mind exercises may contribute to the improvements seen here.

In no way is this a suggestion that yoga should replace conventional care for asthma. Follow the plan you and your doctor have developed for management of your asthma. Consider adding yoga to your routine as an additional tool for good overall health. There are many different styles of yoga. Talk to yoga instructors in your area to find one that may be right for you. There are also a variety of yoga workout videos that you can do at home. Breathing exercises and meditation may help relieve stress. Some of these activities can be done in short bursts, anytime they are needed.