The word 'asthma' is derived from the Greek
language that means 'panting' or 'labored breathing'. Asthma is
a condition characterized by a paroxysmal wheezing dyspnoea
(difficulty in breathing), mainly expiratory.
Asthma is very common among children, teens and adults. It is a
condition where the air passages in the lungs become inflamed.
The air passages are the airways that carry air in and out of
the lungs. When the air passages get inflamed, it becomes red
and swollen. It starts to swell and sticky mucus or phlegm is
produced. All these factors cause the airways to become narrow
and make it difficult to breathe. Asthma attacks when your lungs
aren’t getting enough air to breathe with the results of
Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and a tight feeling in
the chest. Asthmatic attacks can be triggered by allergies,
exercise, cold air, pollution and stress related disorders.
Causes of Asthma Attacks Things that cause asthma attack are called trigger.
Triggers are everywhere. Some major triggers and dos and donts
are listed here to follow.
• Mold: Mold grows on damp things such as shower curtains, bath
items, tubs, basins and tiles. Remove it by cleaning it properly
with soap, by using exhaust fans or open window in bathroom and
• Dust mites: Dust mites are tiny bugs you can’t see. They live
in sheets, blankets, pillows, mattresses, soft furniture,
carpets, and stuffed toys, such as stuffed animals. Remove it by
washing bed sheets and blankets once a week and dry completely,
by using dust-proof covers on pillows and mattresses, using
vacuum on carpets, rugs and furniture often and at last but not
the least Wash stuffed toys and dry completely.
• Second hand smoke: The smoke from the burning end of a
cigarette, pipe, or cigar can trigger Asthma, or the smoke
breathed out by a smoker. Choose not to smoke in your home or
car, and don't allow others to do so either by making your home
and car smoke-free.
• Cockroach: Cockroach body parts and droppings may trigger
asthma attacks. To prevent your place cockroach free, Keep
counters, sinks, tables, and floors clean, clean dishes and
crumbs, store food in airtight containers; cover trashcans.
• Cats and dogs: A warm-blooded animal's urine and saliva may
also trigger attacks. What you can do? Keep pets outside if
possible. If you have a pet inside, keep them out of the bedroom
and off the furniture. Vacuum carpets and furniture often.
• Nitrogen Dioxide: Nitrogen dioxide is an odorless gas that can
irritate your eyes, nose, and throat and may cause shortness of
breath. This gas can come from the use of appliances that burn
fuels, such as gas, wood, and kerosene. What you can do? Use
fuel-burning appliances that are vented outside. Always follow
the manufacturer's instructions on how to use these appliances.
Never use gas-cooking stoves to keep you warm or heat your
house. If you have an exhaust fan, use it when you cook. Use the
proper fuel and keep the heater adjusted the right way while
using kerosene or gas space heaters. Make sure the doors are
tight fitting while using wood stoves. Follow the maker's
instructions for starting, burning, and putting out the fire.
• Chemical irritants: Chemical irritants found in some products
in your house, such as scented or unscented products, including
cleaners, paints, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics, or air
fresheners, may make your asthma worse. How to prevent it? Use
these products less often and make sure your child is not around
when you use these products. Also, consider trying different
products; take great care to follow the instructions on the
label. If you use these products, try to make sure that windows
or doors are open and that you use an exhaust fan.
• Other asthma triggers: Air pollution can trigger your child's
asthma. Even healthy people can have trouble breathing on high
air polluted days. The main air pollution triggers are small
particles (also known as particulate matter). These come from
smoke, dust, and emissions from cars, factories and power
plants. In general the levels of particle pollution can be high
any time of year and are higher near busy roads. Asthma attacks
can occur the same day, but may also occur the day after outdoor
pollution levels are high. When the Air Quality Index (AQI)
reports unhealthy levels, limit physical exertion outdoors.
Reschedule a high-energy outdoor activity to avoid the period
when air pollution levels are high, or reduce the intensity of
the activity, or spend less time engaged in high-energy
activities. Postpone sports activities to another time if air
pollution levels are very high.
Types of Asthma According to the etiology, bronchial asthma is
divided in to four groups:
1. Allergic (extrinsic/ atopic) asthma - This type of asthma
usually starts in childhood and is often preceded by eczema. But
most of the young adults (<35 yrs) developing asthma also fall
in this category. Genetic factors also play a significant role.
2. Infective or Intrinsic asthma - This is not hereditary or
allergic, but may be caused by, or at least associated with
upper respiratory tract or bronchial infection which is usually
3. Psychological asthma- Factors (like anxiety, emotional stress
etc) are often considered to be the sole cause of some asthmatic
attacks, but it is still not certain whether it can be the sole
cause or is only a precipitating factor.
4. Occupational asthma - This can occur in certain industries in
which there are exposure to metallic dusts (esp. platinum
salts), biological detergents, toluene diisocyanate,
polyurethane, flour and dust from grains etc.
Yogic treatment for Asthma and
Scientific studies have shown yoga as one of the best
alternate therapy to cure asthma. Yoga is an ancient science
that uses postures and breathing techniques (Pranayama) to
increase lung’s airflow, air capacity and stamina and reduce
stress. Simple meditation and relaxations techniques help to
reduce stress regulate breathing patterns and also improve lung
function. It reduces the frequency and intensity of asthma
attacks as well as to decrease medication use. Consistent
practice of yoga postures and Pranayama (breathing exercises)
increases the lung’s airflow, air capacity, stamina and
efficiency. An integrated yoga program including yogic cleaning
Kriya Yogasana, Pranayama, meditation & dynamic relaxation is
suggested to practice under able guidance and supervision to
cure asthma. Use of Ayurveda recommended herbs viz. Ajwain,
Harad, Hing, Sunthi and other are also beneficial for asthma.
Shatkarmas (Yogic pacification techniques): Hatha yoga has systematic practice of six cleaning kriyas
for the purification of body to make it ready to practice higher
level of yogic practice. The first part is neti (jal neti and
sutra neti) that deals with the cleaning of head. Second part is
dhauti (Jal dhauti-kunjal and Vastra dhauti) that deals with the
cleaning and purification of throat to stomach area. The third
is excretory-cleaning technique that is basti or enima, which
cleans intestine. These kriyas viz. Kunjal, Jal Neti, Sutra Neti
and Vastra Dhauti may be practiced in the supervision of yoga
Asanas: Back bending postures open the chest improving both lung and
heart functioning. Practice upper back bends and chest opening
postures if it is harder to exhale during asthma attacks.
Practice forward bends and lower back bending poses if it is
more difficult to inhale. Inverted postures drain excess mucus
from the lungs and balance the immune system. A general yoga
practice reduces stress, physical tension, and muscle tightness
and increases overall feelings of well being by activating the
parasympathetic nervous system.
• Surya namaskar followed by udar Shakti vikasak kriyas.
• Asanas for Asthma: Tad asana, Kati Chakrasana, Bhujangasana,
Dhanurasana, Bajrasana, Matsyasana, Gomukhasana, Yoga Mudra
Ushtrasana, Simhasana, Ekpada Uttanasana, Sarvangasana, Ardha
Matsyasana, Paschimotanasana (posterior stretch) and finally
Pranayama: Pranayama cultivates the ability to maintain a relaxed and
controlled breath that can prevent or reduce asthma attacks.
Pranayama exercises should be practiced according to what
usually triggers the asthma attacks. Breath perception is for
all conditions and will encourage slow deep breathing patterns.
For stress and emotional upsets use Nadi Sodhana (alternative
nostril Pranayama with retention), for asthma triggered by cold
air practice Ujjaiy Pranayama (hissing sound Pranayama), and for
allergic arthritis use Sitcari or Shitali Pranayama. To help
strengthen the lungs and reduce mucus congestion practice
Bhastrika (bellows Pranayama), Kapalbhati (lungs and brain wash
by breathing) and Anulom Vilom (alternative nostril Pranayama)
Pranayama slowly and gently.
Meditation and relaxation: The relaxation aspects in yoga help in calming the nerves.
Dynamic relaxation and meditation gives great relief in asthma.
Thus, the practice of yoga helps to combat stress, reduce
physical tension and muscle tightness. It activates the
parasympathetic nervous system with the feelings of well-being.
Natural methods of steam inhalation, gargling after meals, hot
water bag on the face and neck, and sunbathing in not too direct
sunlight would be very beneficial to an asthmatic patient. Fast
walking and running are also recommended in asthma as this helps
ventilation of the lungs. This should not again be done to the
point of exhaustion.
Diet: Yogic treatment of asthma plays emphasis on diet. Wrong
eating habit is also one of the causes of asthma. So eat
healthy, nourishing and well balanced diet. Eat easily
digestible food. Avoid milk and milk products, rice, curd, fried
food, cold drinks, banana and sour fruits. Replace your tea,
coffee with warm water. Avoid sudden exposure to cold weather.
It is good to avoid spicy, fried fatty foods. Foods, which
increase mucous secretions like pickles, chutneys, ice cream,
refrigerated food items, ice and iced drinks, should be avoided.
The stomach should never be overloaded with food as it presses
on the chest with the feeling of fullness and discomfort. Dinner
especially should be light and taken at least two hours before
Thus the treatment in asthma as in all diseases takes care of
the Ahar (food), Achar (relationships), Vihar (recreation) and
Vichar (thought processes) and it has been seen in many cases
that a person can change his diseased condition by changing his
attitudes and be a winner.
References: 1. Clinical study of yoga techniques in university
students with asthma: a controlled study.Vedanthan PK, Kesavalu
LN, Murthy KC, Duvall K, Hall MJ, Baker S, Nagarathna S.
Northern Colorado Allergy Asthma Clinic, Fort Collins 80524,
Adult asthmatics, ranging from 19 to 52 years from an asthma and
allergy clinic in a university setting volunteered to
participate in the study. The 17 students were randomly divided
into yoga (9 subjects) and non-yoga control (8 subjects) groups.
The yoga group was taught a set of breathing and relaxation
techniques including breath slowing exercises (Pranayama),
physical postures (Yogasana), and meditation. Yoga techniques
were taught at the university health center, three times a week
for 16 weeks. All the subjects in both groups’ maintained daily
symptom and medication diaries, collected A.M. and P.M. peak
flow readings, and completed weekly questionnaires. Spirometry
was performed on each subject every week. Analysis of the data
showed that the subjects in the yoga group reported a
significant degree of relaxation, positive attitude, and better
yoga exercise tolerance. There was also a tendency toward lesser
usage of beta-adrenergic inhalers. The pulmonary functions did
not vary significantly between yoga and control groups. Yoga
techniques seem beneficial as an adjunct to the medical
management of asthma.
2. Dr. John Harvey, from the British Thoracic Society, said:”
The Benefits of yoga and nature cure, or any other relaxation
techniques, are additional to the benefits of conventional drug
treatment, and it is vital that patients continue to take their