There are more than 3 million cases of asthma in the U.S.
In fact, you might know someone with the condition or deal with it yourself.
It’s a chronic disease where the lung airways are inflamed, narrow, swelled or are blocked by mucus to the point where lung function is limited. When your normal breathing pattern is interrupted, activities involving cardio are difficult and can be uncomfortable. During an asthma attack, those feelings of discomfort are intensified and the feelings of breathlessness can escalate to feelings of death.
Though breathlessness is the biggest asthma symptom, others include:
- Chest tightness or pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Coughing or wheezing sessions that are exacerbated by illness
- A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
Different situations can worsen the symptoms of asthma. Intense exercise, allergies, or external stimulants like chemical vapors, gas, or dust, can all increase the risk of an asthma attack.
Luckily, most cases of asthma can be managed with a controller or rescue inhaler. Inhalers are filled with steroids that help stop airways inflammation. Those suffering from severe asthma might require longer-acting inhalers as well as prescription medication to ease their breathing.
Some experts believe that asthma sufferers also engage in more rapid breathing and mouth-breathing which increases the amount of cool, dry air entering the lungs…which then increases the chance of an asthma attack.
The good news is that current evidence from recent studies have also suggested that breathing exercises could be an effective way to alleviate the discomfort of these asthma symptoms. It’s not conclusive but knowing that breathing exercises could provide more asthma relief is a good place to start. Other studies show that it might depend on the type of breathing technique to provide relief.
Either way, practicing controlled breathing techniques has benefits which include strengthening lung muscles, introducing proper breathing technique for better air intake, and providing anxiety relief which can lead to calmer breathing versus rapid gasps of air.
If you’re looking for additional relief for your asthma symptoms, practicing breathing exercises could be what you need.
Here are five breathing techniques to help alleviate asthma.
This is a simple but effective breathing pattern that we’ve shared in previous articles. The goal of this exercise for asthma is to evenly distribute air between your lungs and help guide you into deeper breathing from your core. The trick is to breathe from the diaphragm, a small but powerful muscle underneath your ribs.
You can practice this technique lying down or sitting up. If you’re lying down, bend your knees to make sure your back is flat. Place a hand on your belly, right under your chest. Inhale deeply through your nose (try to avoid mouth breathing). As you inhale, use your stomach to push your hand on your belly away. On your exhale, gently push down the hand on your stomach — essentially deflating the little muscle. Your upper chest should remain still throughout your breathing cycle.
Try to hold out your breath on the exhale for twice as long as the inhale. A longer exhale means more carbon dioxide leaves your body.
Repeat this breathing pattern as necessary.
The Buteyko breathing technique was created by Ukranian doctor Konstantin Buteyko in the 1950s as a way to counteract the daily rapid breathing. He felt that fast breaths contributed to hyperventilation. And in asthma patients, rapid breathing could increase those feelings of shortness of breath — triggering potential asthma attacks because of the panic.
This method also helps correct the volume of your breathing — meaning you will adjust the depth of your breath in your intake. It’s all about regulating our breath so we aren’t over-breathing. Buteyko also felt that breathing too deeply was not necessary and contributed to shortness of breath.
Start by finding a comfortable place to sit. Make sure your posture is straight — shoulders back and sitting up. Then consciously, relax your stomach muscles and your chest. Look up and close your eyes to help you focus on your breath. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose. Use your diaphragm to take in these breaths. Take a breath in as you would regularly, then exhale through your nose regularly as well. Do this for a few moments.
When you feel a normal breathing pattern established, inhale through your nose for a shallow, quick breath. It should only be 1 to 2 seconds. Afterward, you’ll exhale but for a count of 4 to 5 seconds or until you feel there is no breath in your lungs. Then you’ll gently hold your breath for 5 seconds or so.
Repeat this breathing pattern for a few minutes. The Buteyko method’s goal is to help you adjust your breath intake and outtake to the right amount for you.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Pursed-lip breathing helps relieve shortness of a breath by focusing on a long exhale through your mouth. It’s very simple and you can do it at any time. Some find that this breathing method helps during the start of an asthma attack.
To practice it, take a deep breath through your nose with your mouth closed. On the exhale, you’ll put your lips together as if you were whistling. Exhale through the mouth, through your pursed lips. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale.
Yoga is an exercise that puts a lot of emphasis on maintaining a steady breath. So a study showing a correlation between improved asthma symptoms and yoga practitioners is of little surprise. A few studies even show that yoga can provide relief for those with severe asthma.
This might be because yoga asks you to move, balance, stretch without losing your breath. It’s a good training method to strengthen against an exercise-related asthma trigger.
To practice yoga breathing, sign up with a class so an instructor can remind you to breathe or try out a few stress-relieving yoga poses on your own time to set up your own pace.
The Papworth method has been around since the 1960s and has been shown to improve overall breathing quality for asthma patients.
The Papworth method is a breathing exercise similar to the diaphragmatic breathing method and the Buteyko method. In fact, it’s more of a combination of different breathing techniques that specifically help establish a breathing pattern for the asthma sufferer.
This method also factors in relaxation as a way to alleviate asthma symptoms. It emphasizes relaxation because the method attributes stress as a trigger for asthma symptoms.
Practice the Papworth method by starting out in a similar way to the diaphragmatic breathing exercise. Find a comfortable place and focus on the muscle underneath your ribs. With the focus on relaxation, it’s best to find a cool, dark room with little noise.
Inhale slowly without moving your upper chest. When you exhale, you may also use the pursed lip method as long as you make sure it’s a slow, deep exhale. On each exhale, imagine the tension from your muscles easing out. As you repeat the inhale and exhale, try to keep your breathing rate the same throughout. So if you inhale for a count of four, keep doing so throughout the exercise.
Breath Control Helps With Asthma Management
Asthma medication will still be the necessary and best way to manage this condition but we hope these techniques will provide additional relief. These breathing techniques are beneficial not only for asthma control but to help you get into a healthier mindset as well.
If you want to track your other health insights to improve your overall health as well as breathing patterns throughout the day, the Health Tag can help. When you breathe correctly and efficiently, your overall health will improve.