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This is the seventh in a series of articles on how to practice yoga, in consultation with Ayurvedic and Yoga Consultant, Dr Pushpika Attanayake. This week the discussion is on benefits of yoga practice for asthma patients.

“Asthma is a long-term lung disorder which brings about breathing difficulties, accompanied by coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

“Medical research has been conducted on the subject of a link between asthma and mind. Yoga calms the mind and relaxes the muscles. According to several studies, as a result of this calming effect, basal metabolism goes down after yoga, due to decreased oxygen consumption.

“Basal metabolism is the minimum rate of energy expenditure that a person needs to keep the body functioning at rest. This includes breathing, blood circulation and so on. According to researchers in Thorax journal, yoga breathing methods have shown to be beneficial to people with asthma.

“Yoga turns the mind inwards and achieves deeper internal awareness.  This awareness helps solve internal psychological and emotional conflicts. Internal awareness changes the conditioning and alters the psychological and physiological responses. For example, the awareness of the state of bronchus on lungs helps relax one’s own bronchus by mastering involuntary functions of the body,” says Dr Attanayake.

Beginners should consult a yoga instructor before practicing these postures.

yoga-1Mukha Dhouti
1. Stand erect on your feet. Then, bend your trunk slightly forward.
2. Inhale deeply and expel the air forcibly through the mouth. This should be continuous, with motions that are similar to a jet. This motion is brought about by pulling the stomach muscles inwards while maintaining prolonged exhalation.
3. Repeat this for ten times.

yoga-2Pada hastasana
According to Dr Attanayake, this position relaxes the muscles of the lung which makes breathing easier.
1. Stand erect with your legs together, and raise the arms on either side, parallel to the ground.
2. Raise the hands upwards. While inhaling, stretch your upper body upwards.
3. Bend forward, from your back, until the upper body becomes horizontal.
4. Try to push the bottom of the spine forward while bending. Breathe out while going down. Then inhale.
5. While exhaling, go down till the palms touche the ground and head touches the knees. Hold the position for two minutes.
6. Return to the standing position, without bending the knees.

yoga-3Vajrasana
1. While sitting, fold the right leg and bring the right heel under the right buttock.
2. Do the same with the left leg.
3. Keep your back straight and palms resting on your thighs.

yoga-4Sasankasana
“This posture is especially beneficial for breathing ailments,” says Dr Attanayake.
1. Sit in Vajrasana. Keep your spine straight.
2. Relax the neck muscles, inhale fully and stretch the neck slightly upwards.
3. While exhaling, bring the trunk down from the waist. Place forehead on the ground in front of the knees. If you cannot stretch so far spread the knees apart and rest the head on the ground between the knees or alternatively place the head on the knees. Hold for three minutes.
3. Then, while inhaling, slowly come back to vajrasana.

yoga-5Ardha Chakrasana
“This posture makes the spinal muscles flexible and makes breathing easier via this improved flexibility of spinal muscles,” says Dr Attanayake.
1. Stand erect with your hands relaxing on either side of the body.
2. Place the palms on the waist and support your back. Exhale.
3. Inhale and bend backwards from the lower back region. Head should also bend backwards, stretching the muscles on the neck. Hold the position for about a minute while maintaining normal breathing.
4. Return to the initial position.