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 kitchen.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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 viral.
- 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.
- 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 Bronchitis
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 therapist.
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 Shavasana (corpse).
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.
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 bedtime.
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.
- 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, USA.
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.
- 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 prescribed medication.”