Asthma is a disease of the lower respiratory tract brought on by obstruction due to parasympathetic over activity which, in acute attacks, causes narrowing of the bronchioles and outpouring of excessive mucus into the lumen of the bronchioles.
These three play an important role, and
The homeopathic view is that asthma is caused by intestinal dyscrasias (buddock). The yogic view is that it is caused by emotional factors.
Asthma can be managed in the following ways:
A number of experiments have revealed that asthma can be either cured or the patient's condition vastly improved by yoga practices.
Dr Bhole, MD of Lonavala Institute, who has investigated the influence of yogic pranayamas in normal and asthmatic individuals*1, has reported the following findings:
Yogasanas strengthen the abdominal wall, pushing it inside so that the diaphragm rises further into the chest. This helps the lungs to empty efficiently.
Relaxation during asanas removes tensions in the respiratory muscles which, in turn, helps the asthmatic patient to breathe more efficiently. This is reflected in increased breath holding time.
Kapalbhati is one of the hatha yoga shatkriyas which is directly concerned with breathing. Forced, efficient exhalation, with passive inhalation, is its special feature. It produces a strong current of expelled air, helping to expel bronchial secretions and strengthen the expiratory phase of the breathing cycle.
Pranayama, neti and especially kapalbhati directly influence the respiratory centres of the brain. By this powerful voluntary influence upon the brain activity, the patient gains a higher level of control over the movements of the respiratory muscles and the patterns of thought, feeling and general behaviour. This is fundamental in the management and cure of asthma by yoga.
Neti kriya cleans nasal passages, releasing constricted upper airways and increasing the flow of breath. It should be routinely performed in cases of asthma (especially of allergic origin).
A one month treatment program for asthma, which includes asanas, pranayamas and cleansing kriyas, substantially increases the breath holding capacity in normal resting conditions.
Dr G. C. Sepaha of J.N.M. Medical College, Raipur conducted an experiment with 27 cases of bronchial asthma which revealed that 62.5% of the patients showed improvement in ventilatory function tests (VFT) following yogic training.*2
Improved respiratory function as well as additional symptomatic advantages like sense of wellbeing, comradeship of group therapy and better exercise tolerance suggest that if these practices are done regularly and persistently, vast improvement, often amounting to complete or partial cure of the condition, will occur.
In view of these and other experiments, it is now widely recognized and accepted by doctors and therapists, that bronchial asthma can be effectively managed by yoga. The following line of treatment can be adopted:
If these yogic practices are learned under supervision for one month, and then incorporated into the daily lifestyle at home, the severity and frequency of asthma attacks diminish progressively and cure is possible in the majority of cases. Drug therapy can be discontinued as response to yoga practices occurs and confidence in their efficacy grows.
*1. M. V. Bhole and M. L. Gharote, 'Effect of yogic treatment on breath holding time in asthmatics', Yoga Mimamsa, 19 (1), Apr. 1977.
*2. G. C. Sepaha, 'Effects of yoga on bronchial asthma', Yoga, 17 (2), Feb. 1979.