Yoga, The Haze and Asthma


It’s the time of the year again in Singapore when the haze is in town, no thanks to Indonesian farmers who burn their forests to clear land. Short of making both political and apolitical jabs, I decided that there is something better to do – help my asthmatic friends out there get some relief.

There are always costly ways to alleviate your asthma through corticosteroid therapy – it is financially and physically expensive to do so. You will grow reliant on it and sad to say these meds may be bringing you closer to your death.

Indians have been using yoga as a cost-efficient and complementary approach to inhalant steroids. Some studies displayed that effects such as decreased amount of medication dosage and asthmatic attacks becoming less frequent.

An extensive review, by Sharma, Haider and Bose in 2012 published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, dug through 15 international studies held in US, UK, Australia, India and even Ethopia.

These studies used a variety of yogic methods including pranayama (breathing exercises) and low impact asanas (yoga postures). The more recent studies have shown that participants with mild to moderate asthma had significant improvement with more air passing through their airways. The diagnostic test for lung function, Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV) was shown to have improved as well.

Well, how much yoga should you do?

I personally like the method devised by Sodhi, Singh and Dandona from Christian Medical College of Ludhiana, India. Their statistical test seemed the most rigorous of the lot, with a statistical significance set below 1%.  They also had a big sample size of 120 participants and with a wide age group of participants from 17 to 50.

They recommended a course of pranayama, kapalabhati and ujjayi over a period of 8 weeks, where 45 minute weekly sessions are held with a trained instructor and the participant practises the exercises twice daily for 45 minutes.

For now, yoga is still thought to be a complementary relief next to corticosteroids. So don’t drop your inhaler just yet. It is also a great indoor exercise till the skies are clear for us to get out there to romp around. So till then, why not sign up for a yoga class?


 Manoj Sharma, Taj Haider and Partha P. Bose. Yoga as an Alternative and Complementary Treatment for Asthma : A Systematic Review.Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2012 17: 212 originally published online 18 July 2012

Sodhi C, Singh S, Dandona PK. A study of the effect of yoga training on pulmonary functions in patients with bronchial asthma. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009;53:169-174.


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