Yoga has tremendous benefits for children with asthma. This article will itemize some of those benefits as well as provide specific exercises which children with asthma can perform to reap these benefits.
Yoga Teaches Proper Breathing Technique
Often asthmatics mouth breath or focus primarily on the inhalation. Both of these tendencies cause problems. Yogic breathing, pranayama, trains individuals in how to properly use their diaphragm, rib cage, chest, throat and nasal cavity to transport oxygen effectively to the body while allowing the carbon dioxide to be completely released. Asthmatics often need to focus on the exhale, allowing the lungs to fully empty, before inhaling. Breathing exercises also strengthen the lungs, increase lung capacity and pulmonary efficiency.
Yoga Combats Stress
Yoga is well known for its anti-stress benefits. Yogic relaxation techniques help to synchronize the mind and body. Tension is released and daily stressors relieved as the body lets go and individuals access their internal experience. Asthmatics are able to understand the emotional and physical triggers which can cause an asthma attack and thereby avoid them. Self-awareness is greatly enhanced and a feeling of confidence and trusting in your own personal wisdom grows. This is extremely empowering for children with asthma as they personally are in control of their mind, emotions and body.
Yoga Provides Physical Fitness
Many children with asthma curtail or refrain from physical activities for fear it will result in an asthma attack. Yoga however allows for a full body workout without asthma induced repercussions. Children can maintain a healthy body and mind, as well as benefit from all the social interactions which come from group physical fitness activities. In addition, yoga is movement education, where the body and breath work together, which is highly beneficial for asthmatics.
Exercises for Asthma Relief in Children
Three types of yoga poses are especially helpful when working with children with asthma.
- Chest openers increase lung space and improve posture. Back bending poses such as Cobra pose, Fish pose, Camel pose, and Pyramid pose are all effective chest openers.
- Poses which coordinate movement with the breath are especially beneficial. Standing in Mountain pose and raising the arms overhead on the inhale, lowering them back to the sides on the exhale, repeated 10 times, helps children become conscious of their breath, its rhythms, and how to breath properly.
- Twists such as simple seated twist or Marichiyasana III promote spinal length and flexibility. They help to tone the side body and massage the internal organs while teaching proper posture and how to move with the breath.
Breathing exercises for children with asthma are essential. Three pranayama exercises which will prove helpful for asthmatics are included here.
- Observing the Breath: Lie is Corpse pose. Close your eyes and place on hand on your chest, the other on your abdomen. Pay attention to the breath. Feel it, listen to it. Is it rough, smooth, fast, slow, even or un-even. Do not control the breath, simply observe.
- Lengthening the Exhale: As you breathe focus on softening the inhale (do not gulp in the air) and extending the exhale. Count while you do this so that the exhale becomes twice as long as the inhale. Be sure to use the diaphragm to expand and contract he belly and lower lung instead of using the chest and upper lung. Continue for five minutes.
- Breathing with Pursed Lips: This exercise focuses on the exhale. Inhale softly through the nose. Exhale through pursed lips, blowing the breath in out in a steady stream. Do not push too far. Pause, and then repeat. Keep the inhale soft, allowing the lungs to fill gently from the bottom. Maintain a slow steady exhale, using the diaphragm to expel the air gradually. Smaller children may benefit from a straw in a glass of milk or juice to visually see the effects of this exercise.