There has been a drastic increase in the number of patients with asthma in recent decades. Asthma affects almost 23 million Americans, including 7 million children according to the American Lung Association. Asthma rates in children under the age of five have increased more than 160% from 1980-1994 in America.
Asthma may be inherited, but environmental factors may also play a key role. Asthma may be caused by food, pets, dust and obesity, but the exact cause is not known. Incorrect breathing may also lead to asthma. Many athletes also suffer from asthma, and this strongly suggests that breathing too much and/or too violently may irritate and abrade the airways and possibly alter the brain’s breathing center, causing asthma.
Asthma is due to a hypersensitivity of the bronchi and bronchioles of the lungs, which swell and secrete extra mucus narrowing the air passage into the lungs. The disease can be treated with various hormone products, but unfortunately, these drugs cannot cure the disease. In some cases, pranayama breathing with slow exhalation, alternate nostril breathing and breath holding alleviate the symptoms or even cure asthma.
Breathing exercises can cure asthma
A genuine arsenal of hormone-containing inhalers and pills that can alleviate an asthma attack already exists. Unfortunately, these medications do not cure asthma. Although they are good at relieving the symptoms, they can lead to secondary adverse effects that sometimes force patients to take more and more medication because of the body’s reaction.
Several freedivers from AFK, Aarhus Freediving Club, cut down significantly on their use of asthma medication. This was mainly due to the fact that as freedivers they constantly trained new breathing techniques – both slow and controlled breathing and prolonged breath holds. Moreover, other freedivers were able to leave all of their medications on the shelf, including Peter Wurschy, a Dutch freediver and champion in distance diving who suffered severe chronic asthma for years but today is completely free of symptoms.
Naturally, the many hormone-based products have their justification, and there is no doubt that they help millions of people to have a better everyday life. Nonetheless, it is still unfortunate that there is so little emphasis on natural cures.
A number of scientific studies have shown that yoga and pranayama in particular have a positive effect on patients suffering from asthma. Even breathing exercises in their simple form with a 1:2 ratio i.e. an exhalation that is twice as long as the inhalation, have been shown to produce a beneficial effect. In some studies, progress can be observed within a week, although a treatment program for asthma is often long-term and depends on whether the asthma patient continues with the exercises in their everyday life. In the best cases, asthma symptoms completely vanish, and in many cases medication can be reduced, fitness rating is increased and lung performance is improved.
Why do breathing exercises help?
Why does it make sense that breathing exercises, especially slow exhalation and simple breath holding pauses, can relieve and sometimes cure asthma. If you try to breathe slowly and with control you can achieve a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the lungs as well as in the blood vessels. Since carbon dioxide expands blood vessels in the lungs and the rest of the body, it has a beneficial effect. It also seems very likely that carbon dioxide can help to recalibrate the control center of the breathing rhythm in the brain stem. In other words, re-establish a healthy and natural breathing frequency and depth.