Many people use the postures and breathing of yoga to exercise or unwind. The authors behind a new study explored whether yoga also might help those with lung problems breathe easier.
In this new study, researchers from India explored the effects of yoga on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The study found that after 12 weeks of yoga training, COPD patients had less shortness of breath and reported higher quality of life.
COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases that includes the conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Common symptoms include difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, coughing and mucus.
This new study, presented at a recent conference by Randeep Guleria, DM, of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders at the India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, focused on structured yoga training in patients with COPD.
The researchers identified 29 stable patients with COPD and followed them for 12 weeks.
"Patients were taught yoga exercises by an instructor in a predesigned format including asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing technique), kriyas (cleansing technique), meditation and shavasan (relaxation technique) for 1 hour duration twice a week for the first 4 weeks," Dr. Guleria and colleagues explained.
For the next eight weeks of the study, sessions were taught once every two weeks. Some remaining sessions were completed at home.
At the start of the study, the patients were evaluated in a number of areas, including a lung function assessment, quality of life assessment, tests for markers in the blood showing inflammation and assessment of the severity of dyspnea, or trouble catching one's breath. Tests were repeated after 12 weeks.
At the study's outset, the participant's average serum levels of C-reactive protein, which rises in response to inflammation in the body, were measured at the density of 1 milligram per deciliter, and after 12 weeks, the average measurement dropped to 0.8 milligrams per deciliter. Other blood tests showed no changes from the study's outset to the study's end.
Results from several tests aimed at measuring difficulties catching the breath improved. At the study's beginning, participants traveled an average of 390 meters during the six-minute walk test, and by the study's end, the average distance had increased to 450 meters.
The researchers also used a visual analog scale (VAS) to measure participants' shortness of breath. In this test, participants mark on a 100 millimeter line how much shortness of breath they are experiencing, with a lower score indicating more trouble breathing and a higher measurement indicating less trouble breathing. Initial average VAS scores were 55 millimeters, and final average VAS scores increased to 70 millimeters.
Dr. Guleria and colleagues also noted that the patient's perceived exertion levels dropped, and they saw a significant improvement in quality of life scores at the study's end.
"Yoga is a simple, cost effective and a patient acceptable method to improve dyspnoea and quality of life in COPD," Dr. Guleria and colleagues wrote. "As COPD increases in developing countries this method of simple rehabilitation needs proper evaluation."
This was a small study and further research is needed to confirm the findings.
The study was presented October 27 at CHEST 2013, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians. It is important to note that studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
No conflicts of interest were reported by the study authors.