For most people, breathing is an automatic process that rarely requires mental effort. However, for asthmatics, it is often a different story. Breathing takes a toll on both your mental and physical health when you have to put in the effort just to get enough oxygen. This, in turn, makes you feel powerless and out of control. Where do breathing exercises come in?
Even though asthma cannot be cured, you can gain some control over it. Properly exercising your lungs (the same way you exercise your body) often improves breath control and reduces flare-ups. Feel empowered over your health by learning some breathing exercises specifically designed to help asthmatics.
Breathing Exercises to Help Asthmatics
It is important to understand that while breathing exercises may increase your overall breath control, they cannot increase your lung capacity. They also cannot prevent your airways from restricting. Even so, the better your lung control, the better you become at responding to asthma symptoms and triggers.
1. Diaphragmatic Control
When you breathe, your diaphragm drops, allowing your ribs to expand. In turn, your ribs make room for your lungs to expand. If you have difficulty getting a deep breath, you may not be employing your diaphragm fully. To increase diaphragmic control, sit or lie down. Inhale slowly, but feel your abdomen expand rather than your rib cage. When you exhale, your abdomen (diaphragm) should slowly return to its natural position. Do this breathing exercise for several minutes each day to increase overall breath control.
2. Pursed Lips
The “pursed lips” breathing technique provides a tangible way to measure your breaths and to fully expand your lungs. Simply breathe in through your nose, then slowly exhale through pursed lips. You can try whistling as you exhale, or keep your lips almost tight against one another. Allow your body to release the air slowly, in a relaxed manner.
3. Yoga Stretches
Did you know that yoga exercises double as breathing exercises? Since calm, steady breathing plays such an important role in yoga, many yoga stretches benefit asthmatics in particular. The cobra stretch, savasana stretch, deep lunges, and more can relax your mind, strengthen your respiratory muscles, and deepen your breath control. Learn more about yoga for asthma.
4. Physical Activity
If physical activity is one of your major asthma triggers, consult a doctor before attempting this exercise. However, even asthmatics need physical activity to keep their bodies and lungs healthy. Engage in light physical activity such as swimming or running, focusing on keeping your breathing even. Practicing breath support during physical activity helps you maintain control during asthma attacks and flare-ups.
Additional Breathing Exercises to Consider
Many asthmatics find the following methods of breathing to be helpful in the event of a flare-up. Make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning a regular “breathing regime,” just to make sure it’s healthy for you individually.
Buteyko Breathing Method
The Buteyko breathing method increases breath control through intermittent breathing. Breathe in through your nose normally, out through your nose normally, then pinch your nose and stop breathing as long as is comfortable. Continue this breathing exercise, shortening your nose breaths each time.
Papworth Breathing Method
The primary goal of the Papworth breathing method is that your exhalation should be twice as long as your inhalation. Named after the hospital it was developed in, the Papworth method focuses on fully expanding your diaphragm and filling your lungs before slowly exhaling again. Over time, this changes your natural breathing pattern, helping you gather more oxygen and respond to attacks calmly.
Don’t Forget to Monitor Your Lung Health
In addition to building breath control through proper exercise, make sure you monitor your symptoms, triggers, and overall lung health through spirometry. Your health should be a priority, and knowing your body is one way to gain control over your own comfort.