How Does Yoga Improve the Respiratory System?

How Does Yoga Improve the Respiratory System?

Yoga's Impact on Respiratory Health and Wellness - By Beth Rush

Reading time: 3 minutes

Studies have shown yoga is an effective mind-body therapy that reduces the severity of respiratory symptoms and improves various lung functions.

Do you experience excessive shortness of breath after a few minutes of physical activity? You're not alone. Exercise is more challenging for people with respiratory problems. When the lungs are stiff, the diaphragm has to work harder to get enough oxygen into the body. While conventional medicine can improve this, a popular complementary therapy is yoga.

How does yoga improve the respiratory system? Find out what researchers have discovered about the effect of this ancient practice on boosting lung function.

Improves Overall Lung Function

Since yoga is a multidimensional discipline, it can boost overall lung functions. It may be an effective therapeutic intervention in lung conditions like asthma. 

One study found that doing yoga for five years had significantly enhanced multiple respiratory volumes in practitioners. Between 50 healthy male and female controls and 50 practitioners, the latter increased the following lung parameters: 

  • Forced vital capacity: Measures the air one can exhale forcefully and determines the state of lung function.
  • Forced expiratory volume in one second: Quantifies the air exhaled in one second.
  • Forced expiratory volume in three seconds: Similar to the above but for three seconds.
  • Maximum voluntary ventilation: Refers to how much air one can inhale and exhale, which evaluates respiratory muscle function.
  • Peak expiratory flow rate: The amount of air one can forcefully expel in one exhalation used to track airflow changes. 
  • Breath holding time: Assesses how strong and efficient the respiratory muscles are.

Meanwhile, their respiratory rate decreased — a good sign for people with asthma. If you have a lung condition, inquire from your health care provider whether it’s safe to incorporate this practice into your lifestyle.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

People with health conditions are often in a constant state of worry and anxiety due to their symptoms. Yoga improves the respiratory system by alleviating the psychological effects of an illness. 

A review of 11 integrative studies found it to lower stress and anxiety levels and improve the quality of life of those with lung problems. Interventions included Hatha yoga mainly consisted of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). 

Stress and anxiety can exacerbate asthma and its symptoms. A self-management technique — like yoga — offers non-invasive and non-pharmacological intervention to boost lung functions. 

Yoga and Respiratory Health

Decrease the Frequency of Symptoms

Any form of active movement can do wonders for health. Exercise therapy may decrease the effects of dyspnea, which is shortness of breath that occurs in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

One review echoed the same positive outcomes of pranayama yoga practice. Researchers observed a considerable positive effect on cardio-respiratory functions in patients with bronchial asthma who engaged in the training. Their frequency of attacks decreased and so did their medication requirement. Meanwhile, patients with COPD saw improvement in their symptom, activity and impact scores. 

Yoga improves the respiratory system, which leads to a better quality of life. If you find the standard exercise challenging due to breathing problems like dyspnea, try a slower movement activity like yoga.  

Minimize the Severity of Chronic Respiratory Diseases

Another health-changing advantage of yoga is it can lower the severity of various chronic respiratory diseases. Symptoms like dyspnea, poor sleep quality and fatigue are prevalent in those with lung conditions. Since yoga is a popular alternative treatment, researchers wanted to determine its effects on the patient's health.

Sixty patients living with asthma and COPD participated in the study. The results showed that practicing yoga — combined with pharmacological therapy — reduced the intensity of dyspnea and fatigue and increased sleep quality. 

A few sequences of asanas and pranayama may be just what you need to fix your sleeping trouble. Try it and see if it works for you.

Yoga Improves the Respiratory System

Yoga recognizes the interconnection between the mind, body and spirit, allowing you to reap benefits beyond physical well-being. It can elevate your psychological and spiritual health as you further look within and understand your body more.

Yoga* is a holistic practice that improves the respiratory system and you can expect many positive changes in your life as you commit to the practice.

*commission earned from this link.

Beth Rush

Beth is the mental health editor at Body+Mind. She has 5+ years of experience writing about behavioral health, specifically mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.