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More and more children are diagnosed with asthma each year and as the cases rise, a solution is sorely needed. Asthmatic children face social stigma, psychological difficulties and paralyzing fear that can rob them of some of the best years of their lives. For these kids, the addition of yoga can make all the difference.
Those who have never had an asthma attack can't really understand what it's like. Imagine suddenly being pulled under an invisible current of water, unable to draw a breath. There is no way to escape this force that prevents air from entering the lungs and all you know is that it'll lift only when it wants to. It would be difficult not to fight it and nearly impossible to remain calm during this experience. The more one fights it and panics, the longer the attack will last. This is difficult enough for an adult to reason through, let alone a child.
Most people think that inhalers are the solution, but this is not the case. The more a child uses an inhaler, the less effective it becomes. If the inhaler stops working altogether, there won't be anything to use in an emergency situation. Kids also really dislike the stigma of carrying an inhaler around as well. There is a definite stereotype surrounding asthmatic children.
More than anything, kids need to become aware of their breathing in a positive and gentle context and yoga provides that opportunity. Kids with asthma may participate in a normal yoga class for children provided that the instructor is aware of their condition and the child takes things slowly.
Performing the poses while breathing properly through the nose with the mouth closed and the tongue pressed to the roof of the mouth will teach children the proper breathing technique which hopefully will carry into everyday life. Studies show that asthmatics breathe 3 times faster than normal, which leads to excessive carbon dioxide loss. Expelling too much carbon dioxide inhibits oxygen retention in the blood, leading to decreased oxygen levels. Slow, steady, deep breathing promotes the proper balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen, reducing asthma symptoms dramatically in adults and children alike.
Above all, children need to learn not to fear their own breathing. The breath is not their enemy, and as they gain more and more control over their breath through the practice of yoga, their asthma symptoms should decrease. As the symptoms decrease, the reliance on the inhaler should lessen, making the inhaler much more effective in the event that it's needed.
Parents of children with asthma should strongly consider adding yoga to their child's activities. Graduates of kids yoga teacher training courses should consider making information available to parents of children with asthma.
I agree that there is a need for yoga concerning asthma. However, it will be hard to convince the drug industry to put everything aside and endorse pranayama.
About Yoga for Child Breathing Disorders
Yoga can be used to correct and relieve the symptoms of breathing disorders in both adults and children. There are a large variety of breathing disorders that can affect children, including asthma, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, and sleep apnea. Improper breathing has many effects on the body, and some of the more serious ones include a lack of oxygenated blood flowing to the tissues and metabolic imbalances due to poor gas exchange in the lungs. Improper breathing also increases the risk of illness, as toxins that would be removed from the body through respiration are not effectively released.
Breathing issues can be corrected through the regular practice of yoga and meditation, as well as by employing Pranayama. This is a specific set of breathing techniques intended to draw as much fresh air into the body as possible and to promote full gas exchange at the level of the lungs. It focuses on utilizing the maximum volume capacity of the lungs, while also ensuring that the air brought into the lungs is at a stable temperature. The temperature can alter the movement and flow of air into the lungs, and air that is too cold or too hot will cause someone to have difficulty breathing.
When air is drawn in through the nose, it is warmed and moistened before it enters the lungs. Inhalation is not meant to occur through the mouth, though many mistakenly believe that this can improve breathing. The practice of yogic breathing improves the flexibility of the lungs, allowing for better expansion and a higher maximum lung capacity. Red blood cells have an improved ability to bind to and transport oxygen to the tissues and organs, and there is a better rate of gas exchange in the alveoli of the lungs. Yoga also relaxes children, which causes muscles that were previously tense, such as the lungs and diaphragm involved in breathing, to relax.
Children with breathing issues do not often have the same ability as adults do to recognize when their breathing is becoming too labored and a break from activity is needed. It is important for child students to be paired with instructors who can recognize the signs of problems, as well as who can teach children how to breathe properly before and during a time of respiratory distress. When yoga is practiced correctly, it can be used to help children handle their breathing disorders more quickly and efficiently.
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