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Yoga for Lung Diseases
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Forum Posts: 50
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April 27, 2015
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January 19, 2011 - 7:05 pm
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Great, you just got home from seeing the doctor for your annual visit. She said you've got COPD. What the heck is that? It means Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Huh?

Chronic- a medical condition that is long lasting, recurring

Obstructive- an obstruction or blockage of airflow from inflamed tissues

Pulmonary- lungs, air passages

Disease- an abnormal condition affecting the body, not at ease, dis-ease

The most common cause of COPD is the result of smoking. All my patients who are smokers ask me to tell the kids not to start. Look at me now. How cool do I look with tubes in my nose hauling around this stupid tank? Advanced COPD can even cause a bluish color to the skin and lips.

Long term oxygen therapy or even a lung transplant could be in your future. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the US. Fourth. That works out to about 131,000 people a year; nearly 360 people dying a day. If you have COPD, now is the time to make the choice to fight back, stop smoking, and regain some of the functions needed for the activities of daily living (ADL).

1.) Your body is full of muscles. When you exercise your muscles they get stronger. You even have muscles that make you breathe. The diaphragm, which is under your lungs and the intercostal muscles between your ribs is your breathing muscle. If you exercise your breathing muscles you will breathe better. The more able you are to breathe the more active you become and get more of your independence back in the process.

2.) There are four types of exercises in pulmonary rehabilitation. Stretching exercises promote muscle flexibility. Aerobic exercises like walking or biking increases your body's use of oxygen. Specific breathing exercises, learning new and different ways to breathe, build up the breathing muscles help to take in more oxygen with every breath. Diaphragmatic breathing works specifically to strengthen your diaphragm. These breathing exercises also promote calm during episodes of breathing distress which helps people with COPD react more effectively.

3.) I can't think of anything more stressful than not being able to breathe. Accept possibly my ex-husband. Taking numerous deep breaths during exercise of any kind has a very soothing effect on the mind and body. Your brain has the ability to control your breathing rate based on the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, not oxygen. When we are nervous or stressed we take small shallow breaths which causes too much carbon dioxide to come out of the blood which then causes an imbalance of gases. Taking deep breaths, filling your lungs to capacity and slowly exhaling promotes the gaseous balance in the blood.

4.) With less stress you will experience another by-product of exercise, better mood. Doing simple yoga poses has shown increases in a brain chemical called GABA, gamma-amino butyric acid which regulates nerve activity to reduce anxiety and improve your mood.

5.) Finally, we all could use more energy. Doing simple, un-pretzel like yoga poses will give you more of it. The stretching and breathing techniques done during yoga accomplish this. Breathing, sitting and standing are things you already do and now you can do them with a heightened awareness. In as little as four weeks you can notice significant improvement in flexibility, endurance and vitality.

Few would argue that yoga is an excellent addition to your COPD program and with careful planning, you can benefit from an improvement in your overall perception of health. Since COPD makes breathing difficult, yoga can give you simple techniques to increase your breathing power and enjoy your life.

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May 26, 2012 - 12:51 pm
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Question: in preparation to teach chair yoga at a senior center I have been researching breathing exercises as taught by RN,s (since many seniors are given these to do on their own). They instruct patients to inhale through the nostrils but exhale through the mouth. Any idea why? The majority of the exercises demo'd are in sync with yoga training, with this one exception. Thank you

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May 26, 2012 - 11:40 pm
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My guess is it's easier for many people who never practiced pranayama to exhale with their mouth open. You won't get a 1:2 ratio, but if you were a senior who never practiced pranayama in your life, breathing through your nose will likely be a new experience.

Most people breathe with their mouth open. Look around at the mall or coffee shop and you will see mouthes open. The reason for the exhale with the mouth open is probably based on simplicity. From a yogic standpoint this doesn't seem right, but western medicine isn't yoga.

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