If you don’t have asthma yourself, you almost certainly know someone who does. Over 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma’s shortness of breath and fatigue. Even with medical treatment, asthma can take a big toll. Over half of all children and a third of all adults with asthma miss school or work each year due to their disease. A recent Cochrane review suggests that yoga may be a promising way to improve health and well-being asthma patients.
The reviewers identified 15 studies involving 1048 patients. Five looked only at yoga breathing exercises. The other studies included breathing, posture, and meditation. All of the studies compared yoga to either regular care, no care, or “sham yoga”. The studies measured health impact in a variety of ways. Some looked at lung function or amount of medications used. Some tracked rates of bad events like hospital visits. Others looked at overall measures of health like reported symptoms and quality of life.
The reviewers found significant evidence that yoga improves quality of life and reduces asthma symptoms. There was a small amount of evidence that yoga might also reduce the need for asthma medication. Overall, the reviewers concluded that yoga probably improved health and well-being for asthma patients.
There are still many unanswered questions about yoga and asthma. More studies are needed on how yoga affects lung function and medication usage. But unlike other asthma treatments, doing yoga can be free, rarely causes side effects, and may have other mental and physical benefits. Yoga can be tailored to your health status and fitness level. Before trying yoga, you should check with your doctor about any special precautions. But whether you roll out your mat at your health club or your living room floor, yoga may offer a new way to help you breathe easier.