What are the Best Breathing Exercises for Asthma?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2020
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People suffering from asthma often have difficulty breathing not only because of the constriction of the airways caused by their condition, but also because they may breathe abnormally, taking very rapid, shallow breaths. This leads to weakness in the muscles that aid in breathing and poor breath control, exacerbating the difficulties asthmatics experience, particularly during a full-blown attack. It is therefore advisable for these patients to practice breathing exercises for asthma to train themselves to breath correctly, which can help them react more effectively to attacks and even reduce symptoms and the need for medication. The Buteyko method and pranayama yoga are some of the best breathing exercises for asthma.

By following breathing exercises for asthma, people with the disorder can retrain their bodies to breathe in a more effective manner. The muscles of their upper chests are often stressed and exhausted from overuse, while the lower chest, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles are weakened from underuse. Exercises that force patients to relax, breathe deeply, and exhale all of the air from their lungs using the diaphragm can help their bodies learn to breathe correctly. Patients usually tend to breathe too rapidly, so focus on slowing down and controlling their rate of breathing is also important.


Using breathing exercises for asthma treatment is typically not a fast process. Most people will need to mentally focus on relearning to inhale and exhale correctly, as their bodies have become accustomed to shallow breathing, and concentration will be necessary to get the right muscles to do the work. Over time and with practice, however, the correct technique will typically become more easy and begin to happen naturally, even during asthma attacks.

One of the best breathing exercises for asthma is the Buteyko method. This method follows three basic principles. Patients learn breath control, where they reduce their rate of breathing with techniques such as holding their breath until it becomes uncomfortable, and then gradually increasing the amount of time they can do so. They are also taught to breathe through their nose to decrease their rate of breathing. Learning to relax, particularly when an asthma attack strikes, is also key to the Buteyko method.

Another exercise that is very helpful for asthma is pranayama. This is a yoga technique which focuses on control of breathing. Practitioners work on balancing their breathing process, maintaining appropriate ratios of air during inhalation, retention, and exhalation. It also promotes the proper use of the diaphragm and abdomen to breathe correctly, helping to strengthen those areas and teaching patients how to inhale deeply and exhale completely.


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