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Yoga may be good for COPD

Riddle Hospital January 28, 2014 General Wellness

A focus on deep breathing has always been one of the most important parts of practicing yoga, and the results of a new study say it won’t just improve your downward dog, it could also improve the symptoms of patients struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A small new study out of India enrolled 29 patients with COPD in a 12-week yoga program, where they were taught postures, breathing techniques, and meditation and relaxation techniques to see if it would impact on their symptoms. At the end of the study, researchers found an improvement in overall quality of life and shortness of breath.

Although the study is a preliminary one, Crissi Saddler, Director of Respiratory Care and Sleep Medicine Services at Main Line Health, says it could be a solution for patients. Below, she explains three of the benefits patients can find in practicing yoga.


As with a number of other health conditions, a common lifestyle adjustment recommended by physicians after a patient is diagnosed with COPD is regular exercise. But if you haven’t been living an active lifestyle, the idea of visiting the gym every day or even taking a daily walk can seem like a lot to take on at once. Yoga is something COPD patients might be more likely to stick with than other forms of exercise because it doesn't require any special equipment or space and it may seem less like exercise than some other fitness routines.

Robert Bulgarelli, DO, Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist at Riddle Hospital, talks about more of the health benefits of yoga.

Deep breathing

Clinicians often advise their COPD patients to "re-learn" how to breathe correctly in a way that saves energy and oxygen. With a focus on deep breathing and the role it plays in your body’s overall movement and flexibility, yoga can be an everyday supplement to traditional COPD treatment.

Resting often

Patients with COPD are often encouraged by their physicians to take rest breaks in the middle of chores and activities and to move at a more leisurely pace to help limit shortness of breath and conserve energy. Unfortunately, slowing down physically often contributes to increased stress for patients. One of the benefits of practicing yoga is a focus on meditation and relaxation. Practicing yoga regularly can further promote the idea that slowing down is beneficial.

Main Line Health’s pulmonary rehabilitation programs already incorporate some aspects of yoga, including breathing training and relaxation techniques. However, Saddler reminds patients that yoga is only one aspect of an overall treatment method for COPD, and says to talk to your doctor before beginning any fitness routine, and to see if pulmonary rehabilitation is right for you.