If you have asthma, it is often very difficult to breathe. Asthma narrows the airways in your lungs, so they don’t fill and empty as efficiently as they’re supposed to. This can cause a feeling of tightness in your chest. It also makes less room for your diaphragm to push air in and out.
If your diaphragm can’t do enough to make you breathe easily, your neck, back, and chest muscles try to compensate. You work hard but still take less air. Your oxygen levels will decrease, making activities more difficult.
Experts recommend simple breathing exercises to calm your breathing and improve the overall function of your lungs and diaphragm.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This technique is helpful when you feel short of breath. The purpose of pursed lip breathing is to slow your breathing and keep the airways open longer. You should aim to take some breaths but allow more air to flow in and out of your lungs. The exercise itself is simple: inhale through your nose, then exhale through your mouth through pursed lips. Try to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. Repeat these long, slow breaths until your breathing returns to normal.
Belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, can help strengthen your diaphragm to make breathing easier. It can also be a useful technique to help with shortness of breath. Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position and place your hands on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through your nose, focusing on feeling your belly under your hands. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth, focusing on bringing your stomach back to normal. This type of breathing for 5-10 minutes daily can help improve diaphragm function.
Studies show that asthmatics who take yoga classes have fewer asthma attacks and don’t need to rely on fast-acting inhalers as often. In a recently published study, participants took yoga classes that involved consciously slowing their breathing. Researchers believe that slow, deep breaths help strengthen the muscles used for breathing. If you want to add yoga to your overall health plan, discuss it with your doctor. If you’ve never done yoga before, find a beginner-level yoga class, and tell your instructor you have asthma.
Breathing exercises are not a substitute for medication prescribed by your doctor to control your asthma. Continue taking your medications as directed. If you have questions about whether breathing exercises are right for you and how you should use them, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you add breathing exercises to your treatment plan.