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Breathing Exercises to Help With Asthma

There are many breathing exercises you can try to help control asthma – alongside using an inhaler. We’ll share a few below, but it’s best to have a respiratory nurse or expert walk you through each technique.
It’s also important to know that the jury is still out on some asthma breathing techniques (check out this New York Times report). So it's all about finding which ones work for you.

The Buteyko method for asthma

The Buteyko method is a Russian breathing technique, named after Dr Konstantin Buteyko who in the 1950s discovered breathwork as a way to overcome hundreds of breathing disorders – including asthma. 
Part of the method is what’s called the ‘Control Pulse’ breathing test. It’s a way to check the depth of your breath. Here’s how it works:
  • Sit down, close your mouth, and breathe normally through your nose for 2-3 minutes.
  • Breathe out normally until there’s no air in your lungs, then use your thumb and forefinger to close your nose.
  • Look at a stopwatch. When you need to breathe, release your fingers and breathe in through the nose. Keep your mouth closed.
When watching the clock, note how many seconds pass before you breathe in again. This is your ‘control pause’.
The method says that if you inhale before 10 seconds, you “have health problems”. Around 30 to 40 seconds is “satisfactory” while 60 seconds and above is considered “excellent”.

Diaphragmatic breathing for asthma

Scientists now believe asthmatics breathe faster than non-asthmatics. Diaphragmatic breathing is one technique that helps slow your breath. Sit or lie down, breathe in slowly through your nose (ensuring your belly goes out, but your shoulders and chest stay the same). Then exhale slowly, ensuring your belly goes in. Your out breath should be twice as long as your in breath.

Yoga for asthma

Some studies have found a regular yoga practice lowers asthma symptoms and inhaler use by 43 percent. You might like to attend yoga classes in your area, and see if it works for you.

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