Thinking about starting yoga for your asthma? Great idea! Yoga has many benefits for people managing asthma. It can help with stress management, get you moving which is always a positive thing, create more body awareness, and can help with your breath control.
Asthma is a disease of the airways but we know that stress and anxiety can affect asthma and our perception of asthma symptoms.Dr. Payel Gupta
The reason yoga for asthma can be beneficial for any fitness level is that there are many different styles of the practice, all of which at the core focus on linking breath with movement. A great yoga class has the perfect union of the two. So whether it is a gentle yin class or a Bikram class you will find the right level of yoga for your asthma control.
As long as you have space to lie your body down, you can do yoga anywhere. So, if you are practicing yoga at home or at a studio, here are some of our top tips. Kortney, a certified yoga instructor (bet you didn’t know that!) believes there really is no better form of movement for asthma than yoga.
Please note that yoga is not considered a treatment for asthma. However, some allergists recommend it as a complementary therapy because it helps improve breathing. If you have any conditions where you have been told to be cautious with exercise – always consult with your doctor before beginning yoga or taking a yoga class to make sure it’s safe for you.
Yoga for Asthma a few things to think about
Obviously, jeans are not the best choice for yoga. Instead look for soft, loose clothing that moves with your body. Make sure that it allows you to take in full breaths and does not dig into your abdomen. A lot of yoga clothes have high waists, which can impact your diaphragm breathing.
Kortney tells a story of her dad who would constantly leave the yoga studio with hives and wheezing. What they discovered was that the mat he had been using was made out of latex, which is an allergen for him, thus inducing his asthma.
If materials like latex are a problem for you, look into what your mat is made of. They have just started producing latex-free mats, yay! Kortney recommends Manduka mats, she has had the same one for 11 years!
The last thing you want to be doing if you are starting yoga for asthma is to be holding your breath in a posture. If some poses are feeling challenging to you, grab some props to help position your body in a comfortable way that will allow you to take full inhales and exhales. Props include yoga blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets. Don’t be afraid to ask a teacher how to use them and of course to get creative.
If you are in a yoga studio, be sure to wipe down the props as you never know how the studio cleans them or if someone used them after eating a handful of trail mix (important for contact dermatitis and food allergies).
Doing Yoga for Asthma in a Studio
Yogis love setting the mood, thus they love to burn incense. If you have asthma, this may not be something you want to hear, a smoked filled room will not be helpful to your asthma.
If you are concerned about incense (even if you aren’t because a lot of studios burn them or scented candles) call ahead and ask the studio to refrain from burning anything during your class.
Most yoga teachers are very respectful and will snub out the incense and not you.
An adjustment is when the teacher corrects your posture or deepens it. They may use their hands, arms, feet, back, or whole body! (This was pre-Covid so it may not apply)
This may be an issue if you are not comfortable having someone in your personal space. If you are new to yoga, an adjustment can be quite intense which may hinder your breathing. Additionally, if you have issues with perfumes or scents a teacher may trigger your asthma that way.
Creams, nuts and other unexpected things
Additionally, if you have food allergies or atopic dermatitis your teacher may be wearing a cream that could be an issue, or in Kortney’s previous experience munching on some pre-class peanut butter. When the teacher bent down to adjust Kortney, the smell of peanut butter wafted into her face. Needless to say, Kortney did not want to be adjusted that day.
Again, this was pre-Covid… Yoga teachers love using creams and oils in their classes. They lather students before (Jivamukti yoga is an example), or they put a drop of essential oil on your third eye at the end of class during savasana. If your asthma is triggered by perfumes then be sure to mention this to a teacher.
Yoga is about breathing and reducing stress. You should feel relaxed and safe, so be outright and talk to the teacher about your asthma and or allergies before a class.
A few yoga classes to try at home first
Kortney and Dr. G dicuss the benefits of yoga for asthma
More Asthma Resources
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!