FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Yoga? It Just Might Take Your Breath Away

It would seem like the perfect medical “marriage”.   Those born with asthma, a chronic respiratory disease that afflicts an estimated 29 million Americans, have lungs and bronchial passages too constricted to allow for healthy breathing.   Long-acting drugs like Fluticasone are known to ease asthma symptoms, as do portable, steroid-laced inhalers, but there’s no known permanent cure.   Surely yoga, an ancient mind-body discipline that facilitates deep breathing and breath control, can help?

India’s own Hindu yoga sages clearly think so.  A medical ashram based in South India, near Bangalore, claims to have “normalized” tens of thousands of asthma sufferers in recent years using yoga asanas and the breathing exercises known as pranayama.   And, as early as 2003, with publication of Stella Weller’s Yoga Beats Asthma, numerous American yoga teachers without extensive medical or spiritual training have proclaimed yoga a veritable “miracle cure.”  Surf the web and you’ll find scads of You Tube videos with yoga teachers demonstrating their favorite poses for asthma.

But consult the latest findings of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a federal research division of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, and you’ll find no such ringing endorsement.   NCCAM, citing a 2011 review of the latest peer-reviewed scientific research, says there’s no credible evidence that yoga poses or breathing techniques can alleviate the symptoms of asthma, as there might be for arthritis or for a vast array of other conditions.

On closer examination, not all asthma studies, even in the West, say yoga is ineffective.  But even those that do suggest a possible modest benefit conclude that it’s not known how and why yoga works, if it really does.  If Hindu sages say it’s due to the complex and mystical ways that yoga poses work on the body’s lymphatic and digestive systems, among others, Western doctors aren’t buying it – not yet, at least.

Some of the Hindu treatments for yoga hardly seem focused on asthma at all.  The South India ashram cited above recommends a full complement of poses, including Sun Salutations and other poses that comprise any standard yoga practice.  In fact, even the “special” breathing or neck exercises they recommend are part and parcel of any good yoga regimen.  On its face, to say there’s a distinctly — or at least, widely recognized – yoga “regimen” for asthma appears completely far-fetched.

In fact, Western skepticism is sufficiently deep that even some popular American exponents of yoga cures don’t mention asthma as a candidate for one.  In her recent book, entitled Yoga Cures, for example, yoga’s leading pop-celebrity, Tara Stiles, freely prescribes asana poses the Plow and the Headstand to cure some 50 common ailments, including serious illnesses like hypothyroidism, ADHD, and depression.  But she fails to deal with asthma.   Neither does another rising yoga superstar, Kathryn Budig, in her own just-published treatment compendium, The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga.

Ironically, while much of the debate over asthma still focuses on its genetic origins, the latest research suggests that environmental causes, especially the rising use of household sprayers, as well as air pollution, may be chiefly to blame for today’s skyrocketing rates of asthma.  Much of the prevention literature, in fact, assumes that asthma is largely under control or at least treatable now – but that the threat of sudden attacks remains, largely due to “triggers” like dust, pollen, smoke, pet dander, or perfume.    And that attack threat even extends to yoga class, apparently, where heavy incense burning, despite its documented contribution to lung cancer, is still widespread.

The upshot?  Asthma, like so many modern ailments, is complicated, and that’s means there’s no quick fix.  Barbara Benagh, an American yogi asthmatic writing in the industry trade publication Yoga Journal, argues that yoga’s a mixed bag: some recommended deep breathing practices can actually make the condition worse, but others can genuinely help, but only if they are carefully adapted to your condition.  Consult a specialized yoga therapist, she suggests — hopefully, a fellow asthmatic.  In the meantime, pending further research – with better experimental controls and a more precise yoga regimen, perhaps – hold on to your trusty inhaler.  Even in yoga class, it turns out you may need it.

Stewart J. Lawrence can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Stewart J. Lawrence can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com

August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail