Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes breathing difficulties, wheezing, and chest tightness. Some people with asthma use yoga as part of their treatment plan.

Yoga is a practice that focuses on mindfulness through movement. It improves flexibility, balance, breath management, and more.

Regularly practicing yoga may help individuals with asthma by reducing the severity of their symptoms.

Although yoga is not a first-line treatment for asthma, it can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Certain yoga poses can manage symptoms by reducing stress levels, opening the chest, and encouraging deep breathing.

Read more to learn about how yoga can help people with asthma and some simple poses to try.

Person in forward fold pose breathing deeplyShare on Pinterest
Oana Szekely/Getty Images

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects the airways. During an asthma attack, the airways become narrowed and inflamed. The muscles surrounding them tighten and squeeze, resulting in symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.

Treatment for asthma usually involves taking medication, which relaxes the muscles around the airways and reduces swelling and mucus.

Some research shows that yoga may be useful as a complementary treatment for asthma. This means that a person would perform it in addition to an existing treatment plan, likely involving medication.

A 2016 review of clinical trials involving 1,048 participants found that yoga somewhat improves quality of life and symptoms in people with asthma. However, researchers noted that many of the studies were flawed. Therefore, scientists need to conduct more studies to understand if and how yoga can help individuals with this condition.

While yoga does not treat asthma clinically, some people find it helpful in managing their symptoms, according to a small 2010 study. It can help open the chest muscles, encourages deep breathing, and creates a connection between breath and movement.

The following yoga poses may help people with asthma. They may assist with opening the chest, encouraging deep breathing, and controlling breathing. Although the following poses are suitable for beginners, individuals should keep their current fitness level and existing injuries in mind before starting any new exercise program.

Yoga poses that may help people with asthma include the five poses below.

1. Bridge

Dima Bazak

Bridge pose opens the chest and can stimulate digestion.

  1. Begin by laying on the back and bending the knees.
  2. Plant the heels of the feet on the floor underneath the knees.
  3. Extend the arms down alongside the body.
  4. Press into the feet, engage the core, and lift the hips.
  5. Pull the shoulders back, planting the shoulder blades into the mat.
  6. Take a deep breath and lower back down.

2. Baby cobra

Dima Bazak

This pose improves spinal flexibility and encourages deep breathing.

  1. Begin by laying on the stomach.
  2. Plant the palms in front of the chest in line with the shoulders.
  3. Gently push up until the entire stomach is off the ground. Keep the shoulders back and neck long.
  4. Inhale and exhale in this pose.
  5. Lower back down and repeat.

3. Supine spinal twist

Active Body, Creative Mind/Getty Images

In addition to improving deep breathing, this pose reduces lower back pain and improves digestion.

  1. Lie on the back, stretching arms out at the sides in a “T” shape.
  2. Inhale and draw the left knee to the chest.
  3. Exhale and draw the knee across the right side of the body. Rest the knee on the ground or use a cushion for more support.
  4. Turn the head to the left.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds.
  6. Inhale, draw the knee back to center, and repeat on the other side.

4. Cat-cow

Dima Bazak

This combination of cat pose and cow pose opens the chest and improves lung capacity.

  1. Get onto the hands and knees, placing the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips.
  2. With each exhale, round the back. Pull the belly button into the spine.
  3. With each inhale, gently drop the belly and arch the back. Keep the chest open and neck long.

5. Low lunge

Dima Bazak

Low lunge pose opens the chest, encourages deep breathing, and stretches the hip flexors.

  1. Start in downward-facing dog.
  2. Step the right leg forward and plant it on the floor between the palms.
  3. Gently lower the back left knee to the mat.
  4. Keep the right knee over the ankle and extend the arms overhead.
  5. On a deep inhale, open the chest and stretch backward. Take several inhales and exhales in the lunge.
  6. Push up into a downward dog.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

An asthma treatment plan, sometimes called an asthma action plan, is a tailored guide that can help people effectively manage their asthma. A doctor devises this plan and personalizes it to an individual’s needs.

It can include things to avoid, which medications to take, and what to do in case of an asthma attack.

Learn more about asthma action plans.

Although medication is a key part of an asthma treatment plan, a healthcare professional may also comprise nondrug therapies, which can include home remedies, yoga, and more.

Adding regular yoga practice to an asthma treatment plan strengthens the muscles, increases flexibility, and builds a connection between the body and breath.

However, it is crucial to note that this activity is not a medically proven treatment for asthma and cannot relieve acute symptoms. With this in mind, a person experiencing worsening asthma symptoms should consult their asthma action plan.

In addition to helping people with asthma, yoga offers various physical and mental benefits.

Physical benefits

The physical benefits of yoga include:

  • increased flexibility
  • improved athletic performance
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • improving cardio and circulatory health
  • increased muscle tone and strength
  • enhancing energy, respiration, and vitality
  • weight reduction
  • protection from injury

Mental benefits

The mental benefits of yoga include:

  • mental clarity and calmness
  • stress management
  • relaxes the mind
  • sharpens concentration
  • increases body awareness

If an individual experiences signs of an asthma attack, they should seek medical attention right away.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and rapid breath. In severe cases, an individual should go to the emergency room for prompt treatment.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition causing the airways to constrict.

While medications can treat the condition, yoga is a natural option that may help people with asthma manage their symptoms.

Some yoga poses, such as baby cobra and cat-cow, are particularly suitable for individuals with the condition because they open the chest and encourage deep breathing.

Yoga can be a suitable addition to an asthma action plan. Therefore, a person may wish to discuss incorporating the activity with a healthcare provider.

However, yoga is not an appropriate treatment of acute asthma symptoms, and people with asthma should have medication on hand in case of an asthma attack.