top of page
  • mandybaucum

Can Better Breathing Help Asthmatic People?

Recently I was in Cottage Grove, helping my boyfriend run a basketball tournament, which was a fundraiser for his athletic club. I kept time for the 15-minute games. I love watching basketball, but I love people watching more. As a total yoga/body nerd, I am fascinated by the human form. I am always looking at people and their postures, breathing patterns, movement styles and moods. When I see a unique human trait, my inner geek kicks into high gear and an internal science experiment begins.

At the tournament there was a player who had asthma who really piqued my interest. He caught my eye when he left the court during a game to use his inhaler. Immediately I wondered if I could see anything unusual in his breathing. As I watched him, I noticed two things right off the bat: 1) he was breathing primarily from his mouth (his mouth was open the whole game) and 2) he inhaled primarily into the upper part of his chest (meaning I didn't see his belly expand much when he inhaled). What I know about these two traits are that they are both very inefficient ways of breathing.

Which got me even more curious...I wondered, "Does athletic exertion trigger his mouth and chest breathing, or does he breathe like that all the time?" "Does he know his breathing patterns are inefficient?' "Would teaching him better breathing help reduce his asthma attacks?" "Do they teach good breathing habits to asthma patients - or do they just hand them an inhaler?"  (This cascade of questions is what I meant by "internal science experiment").

I would have loved to ask him some of these questions about his breathing and asthma, but I sensed that the basketball tournament was not the right time and place for a Q &A with me.

By the end of the day, I hypothesized that he probably would have less asthma attacks if he put some effort into re-training his breath to use the muscles and body parts that were meant to be used for breathing. Let me explain:

Your nose is perfectly designed for optimal breathing!

Mouth breathers miss out on all the good stuff you get from nose breathing!! Nasal hair filters out dust, allergens and pollen, which stops those things from entering your lungs. Your nose warms and moisturizes the air you breathe in, which brings the air you inhale to body temperature, making it easier for your lungs to use. And nose breathing slows down the breath and strengthens the diaphragm (super important!). Side note:  A mouth breather is also much more likely to be found and killed in a horror movie because it's louder than nose breathing.

Your diaphragm is meant to be your body's primary breathing muscle!

When someone "chest breathes" (meaning their chest expands significantly more on the inhale than their belly), it means that they are barely using their diaphragm. Our bellies should get bigger on the inhale breath - because the diaphragm goes down toward the belly on the inhale. (Here's a super quick video illusration - starts 11 seconds in). The diaphragm is meant to do 75 percent of the work of breathing! The upper neck and chest muscles are only meant to do 25 percent. For chest breathers, those poor upper body muscles get so overworked and stressed out! Overusing the chest breathing muscles can even contribute to mental /emotional anxiety.

When I got home from the tournament, I looked up asthma in my breathing book (literally called "The Breathing Book," written by yoga teacher Donna Farhi). The first sentence in the asthma section said this: "Asthma is a reversible lung disease that is characterized by hyper irritability of the bronchial airways." 

What!! I had never heard that asthma is reversible. Have you? I know people sometimes outgrow asthma (my Dad outgrew his childhood asthma) but I haven't heard anyone say that it's reversible. The book also listed common features of a typical asthmatic's breathing pattern. Interestingly, the first bullet point said "Premature curtailing of the exhalation, with the use of secondary respiratory muscles (a.k.a chest muscles) to initiate inhalation. As a result these accessory muscles in the upper chest, back and neck become overdeveloped." The book also said that yoga and yogic breathing practices have been shown to relieve many asthmatic symptoms.

Later, I typed “can asthma be cured” into the Yahoo search engine and found a few Youtube videos created by people who have cured their asthma naturally. I HAD NO IDEA!

It blows my mind all the healing opportunities that are out there, but many people don't know about them because Western medicine has such a narrow perspective. Thank goodness for the internet!

Below are a few of the videos I found. Please pass on to anyone you think might benefit.

While I doubt that practicing better breathing is the sole cure for asthma sufferers, I continue to be very curious about the role breathing patterns play in quality of life for asthmatics and everyone else.

Thank you for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

How to Quickly Shift Out of a Funky Mood

We've all been there. One minute you're moving through life, feeling pretty good and then all of a sudden you're in a funk. Sometimes you know how you got there and other times you haven't a clue. You


bottom of page