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Effects of Yoga on Asthma*

Dr. A. A. Mahashur**, V.P. Kolhatkar & Neepa Dalal

A number of reports from all over the country suggest that Yogic practices have a beneficial effect on respiratory disorders, especially so on Bronchial Asthma. We decided to make a study to observe the long term effects of such practices. To this end we carried out a project in collaboration with The Yoga Institute, Santa Cruz (E) Bombay.

Firstly we identified - sufferers from Bronchial Asthma on the basis of their history of regular paroxysmal dyspnoea (breathlessness) and cough. According to the severity of their attacks, we categorised them into mild, moderate and severe asthmatics. In mild asthma the patient had infrequent attacks while the sufferer from moderate asthma had daily attacks and had to take recourse to daily medicine. Those with severe asthma had daily attacks which were frequently severe and required to be treated with corticosteroids; their routine activities were hampered by their asthma.

The selected patients were examined and the lung function tests used to confirm the diagnosis of bronchial asthma. All were found to show obstruction. They now attended the respiratory camp at The Yoga Institute where they were taught various Yogic techniques. As part of the routine they learnt Asanas to cultivate better mindfulness and relieve nasal congestion; Pranayamas to improve their respiratory resistance; various Kriyas and practices to help in their condition such as blowing out candles and so on. They were instructed in the benefits of observing a healthy routine with balanced diet devoid of excessively oily and synthetic foods, and rest and recreation adequately incorporated. The patients were advised to adapt to this new lifestyle and to carry out the practices they had learnt at least once a day.

Following this camp, the patients were monitored at intervals of one month or less in which their Pulmonary function tests were done. This included Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV) , and peak flow rate. They were also examined by the doctors for wheezing and other signs in the chest. Interrogation revealed that, although not all the patients were actually following the routines religiously, as many as 60% were carrying out the exercises as advised. Results of lifestyle intervention are given in Table 1 and Figures (1 – 3). 

Table 1: Summary of the lung function variables of 70 Asthmatic patients before and after three to six months of Yoga practice


Before YOGA

After YOGA




2.653 ± 1.005

2.752 ± 0.998




1.969 ± 0.875

2.069 ± 0.868




88.85 ± 24.23

93.31 ± 24.98




73.14 ± 13.72

74.77 ± 14.02




108.7 ± 73.35

116.0 ± 82.80




41 .87 ± 24.99

42.29 ± 26.75



*: Statistically Sign. diff. : P < .05,     **: P < .01

Fig. 1:  Graph of mean FVC in different groups
of 0.5 lit of FVC


Fig. 2:   Graph of mean FEVl of asthmatic patients  before  and after 3-6 months of YOGA practice, grouped by O.Slit of FEVl

1   2

Fig. 1:   It shows FVC in different courses on the basis of  basal FVC level before yoga exercises. All the patients were divided into 9 groups with group interval of 0.5 It. It is observed that in people having FVC levels less than 2 It. before exercises, about 20% of improvement (which is a significant improvement) was seen after yogic exercises. But no improvement was seen in people having basal FVC above 2 It.


Fig. 2:  Shows FEVl levels before yogic exercises. It is based on basal values. Seven groups were made considering the group interval of 0.5 Lt. It is observed that in people having  FEVl less than 2 Lt/sec. before exercises, about 25% improvement was seen after exercises, but no improvement was observed in people having basal FEYl  above 2 LT/sec.

Fig. 3:  Graph of mean FVC o/p of asthmatic  patients before and after 3-6 months of YOGA practice,  grouped by 20% of FVCo/p

Fig. 3:     Shows the ratio offered vital capacity observed! predicted before exercises. Five groups were made considering group interval of 20%. It was observed that  about 20% increase was seen in FEV 1 observed/ predicted in people having basal FVC observed/ predicted levels less than 80%, but no improvement was seen due to yogic exercises having basal FEVl observed/predicted above 80%.

Conclusion: At the end of 6 months, we had followed up 70 of the asthmatic patients. Of these, we found that the patients with mild asthma had responded completely, they reported no attacks in 6 months and were off bronchodilators. Those with moderate attacks reported considerable reduction in the frequency and severity, and their requirement of medicine had dropped considerably. Patients with severe asthma too reported reduction in severity of the attacks, and although they could not be withdrawn from medication, almost 90% with acute 2.0 attacks showed that their steroid requirements were discontinued.

*Research conducted at The Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Mumbai
**Dr. A. A.Mahashur, Head of the Respiratory Department of K.E.M Hospital, Mumbai