Manage your COPD breathing with Yoga

Will yoga exercises help COPD patients manage breathlessness better?

Many people who suffer from a lung disease find it very hard to exercise. Often even the thought of physical activity makes them feel breathless. But there is a way to overcome these fears that only lead to a downward spiral of both physical and mental decline, practising yoga. This low impact form of exercise will not only help raising your energy levels, it also clears your mind from worry. Being good for everybody, it is also more and more recommended especially for people with lung diseases, like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other lung diseases commonly known as COPD.

Why can yoga exercises be especially beneficial for COPD patients?

In yoga practice there are two essential parts that complement each other in a synergistic way. One part is the Asanas, physical posture that improve range of motion, balance, flexibility and strength of the body. The other part is the Pranayamas, breathing techniques that teach you how to control your breathing and keep your lungs more fully. It also strengthens your respiratory muscles. The two combined will help you improve your general fitness and make breathing easier and more efficient. Additional meditation helps relieve stress and anxiety, which allows you to extend the benefits of the pranayamas and asanas.

Pranayamas, breathing techniques, that can be beneficial for COPD patients are:

Pursed-lip Breathing

This is an exercise especially suitable to learn control your breathlessness. While leaning slightly forward you slowly breath out with your lips pursed, imagine you are blowing a kiss or cooling your soup. This slows down the exhalation and stimulates the abdominal muscles to contract and forces the diaphragm upwards, so the lungs will empty themselves better. Instead of long inhalations and short exhalations, which is a common reaction to breathlessness, you learn to do it the other way around, with an ideal rhythm being to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. Not only will this calm you down and relieve the breathlessness, it also help to strengthen the breathing muscles.

Abdominal or Belly Breathing

COPD patient can benefit especially from the abdominal breathing technique, as it stimulates the diaphragm moving upward and downward, so more oxygen can be taken into the lower lobes of the lungs and spread through the body. At the same time the abdominal organs are massaged by the moving diaphragm, thus improving their intake of oxygen and functioning. By doing the belly breath your body relaxes and becomes re-energized at the same time.

Ujjayi Breathing or Ocean Breath

This is a special form of abdominal breath, typically used while practicing asanas. It is used to slow down the breath and make an audible sound by creating a constriction in the base of your throat, like you do when blowing out to create a fog on a mirror. It helps you to stay calm during the practice while focusing on the sound and avoiding breathlessness. It also is said to create heat in your body, which helps to keep up your energy levels throughout the practice. The diaphragm controls the length and the speed of your breath and will become stronger in doing so.

Correct breathing is an essential part of yoga; as the blood will be provided with more oxygen, which makes it possible to control energy levels and this will help you relax and calm your mind. Once you have controlled your breath by practicing pranayamas, you will feel more comfortable and confident to start practicing asanas.

Asanas, physical postures, recommended for COPD patients are:

Standing Mountain Pose

This is a straightforward pose, from which all other standing poses are performed. It requires you to stand tall, either with your arms raised or left hanging loosely at your sides. It teaches you to align your spine and balance the weight of your body, while focusing on your inner self. Your chest will open up and breathing will become easier.

Standing Back Bend

This pose is performed from the Standing Mountain Pose by placing your hands on your lower back with the fingers pointing down and arching your spine back. It helps to release tension in your neck and shoulders and opens up the respiratory system.

Standing Side Bends

These bends not only improve your posture by standing taller, it also regulates your breathing. The basic standing side bend is easily performed from the Standing Mountain pose. By exhaling with each bend, you stretch alternately to the left and to the right. This calming pose improves the flexibility of your rib cage and helps to strengthen your diaphragm to make breathing easier.

Seated Forward Bends

There are several seated forward bends, performed from either a chair or the floor. These poses calm the brain, stimulate the organs and stretch the spine and the shoulders to give more room to your lungs and help you to relax.

These are only a few examples of pranayamas and asanas that you can practice to help improve your lung condition. If reading this story triggered your enthusiasm to give it a try, do take some precautions before you begin. Things to consider are for example:

– Consult with your doctor or respiratory therapist about what is possible in your condition

– Always join a recognized yoga school, don´t go practicing by yourself without any coaching

– Be sure the yoga teacher of your choice is qualified, also for training special groups like COPD patients

– During class, always keep your inhaler or oxygen supply at hand

– Don´t overexert yourself, take a rest if you get exhausted or experience shortness of breath

With these precautions in mind and a good yoga teacher, you will surely be able to experience the benefits that can yoga give you, a fitter body and a mind more at ease.

Websites consulted:

http://www.healthline.com/health/copd/yoga#1

http://yogachicago.com/2014/03/yoga-for-chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/

https://www.doyogawithme.com/yoga_breathing

 

Easy exercises for COPD patients‏

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If you suffer with COPD it is extremely important to exercise as this not only strengthens your cardio-respiratory system to aid in the improvement of your condition but strengthens you physically to be able to perform day-to-day tasks more easily. Being outside and socialising while you exercise also gets you out of the house and improves your quality of life. The less exercise you do then the less you are able to do. Weaker muscles need more oxygen to be able to work so you become more short of breath just from doing simple tasks like cooking. It is difficult to exercise what with the added hassle of oxygen equipment and some patients find it easier to just stay indoors. However with the use of portable concentrators it’s now easier to get out and about on oxygen therapy and the importance of exercising with a respiratory condition has been proven to be ever more so.

The goal is to try and exercise for 20-30 mins at least 3 times a week. Combining cardio activities with strength training ones. If you’re just starting then even a couple of minutes is beneficial and you can slowly work your way up as you become physically fitter. Some find it more fun or easier if they have a friend as an exercise buddy and if they plan their week to incorporate exercise into their schedule. Keeping an exercise journal also helps in planning and recording your activities which will keep you motivated as you see your exercise levels increase.

Walking:

Walking is an easy choice that everyone can do, especially good if you;re just starting out. Whether it’s around a shopping centre, outside or on a treadmill. Take it at a slow pace to start with and add 30 secs or 10 yards each time.

Biking:

Some people enjoy using a stationary bike as they can have one in the comfort of their own home. Although at a gym you’ll have supervision and can meet other people. If you want to join a class just check with the instructor to ensure it matches your abilities. As you improve you can bike outside in the fresh air and perhaps do it with others.

Arm Curls:

Lifting light weights can help build up your arm muscles so that reaching a high shelf or carrying items is easier. Use hand weights, stretchy bands or water bottles to try arm curls. Hold the weights at your side with palms forward and breathe in. Then lift towards your chest keeping your elbows down and slowly exhale. Then slowly lower your arms back down as you breathe in. Build your repetitions up slowly.
Forward Arm Raises:

To do these hold weights down at your sides with your palms facing in and inhale. Then slowly exhale as you raise both your straight out in front of you up to shoulder height. Then inhale as you slowly lower your arms. This exercise will strengthen your upper arms and shoulders. Start with light weights and build up your repetitions and then you can increase to heavier weights and slowly build up the repetitions .

Calf Raises:

This exercise will strengthen your calf muscles to help you to be able to walk easier and further. Stand 6-12 inches behind a chair with your feet hip-width apart and use the chair for balance and support. Then lift yourself up high on your toes while you exhale slowly. Hold the position briefly and then lower your heels back to the ground. As you get stronger you can try doing just one leg at a time. Slowly work up the repetitions.

Leg Extensions:

In order to strengthen your thighs you can sit in a chair, inhale and then stretch one leg out as straight as you can and then breathe in slowly, as you lower your foot back to the floor. Do one set at a time and then as your muscles strengthen you can add ankle weights. Again slowly work up your repetitions.

Diaphragm:

A stronger diaphragm will make breathing easier for you. Lie down with your knees bent or you can sit in a comfortable chair. Place one hand on your chest and one below your ribcage. Slowly inhale and your lower hand will rise. Purse your lips and exhale while you tighten your stomach. Your upper hand should remain still throughout. Do this exercise for 5-10 min3 or 4 times a day.

Chair Dancing:

This can be a more fun exercise if you enjoy dancing. You can buy DVD’s to do at home and then you can do the workouts to your own favourite genre of music. There are different levels that you can work your way through and you can add weights to increase the challenge.

Tai Chi:

Many COPD patients find Tai Chi relaxing as it eases stress while providing a mild workout for your heart and lungs and helps to tone your muscles. There are DVDs or classes that you can join.

You should make sure you stretch your muscles briefly before exercising so that you don’t do yourself any damage.
Other fun exercises can be jogging, skating, rowing or swimming. These are more sociable and more fun. Water aerobics is good for COPD and arthritis.
Make sure that if your COPD symptoms begin acting up or if you feel tired or muscle pain then give yourself a day off from exercising until you start feeling better.

References: http://www.webmd.com