Can’t catch your breath often? The ancient art that is now a popular modern exercise could help you boost your breathing capacity. Yoga is that art; and its focus on breathing as a form of deep relaxation could benefit anyone who tries it.
Researchers in Thailand looked at about 60 adults and tested their individual breathing capacities. For example, they used a tape measure to actually see just how far the patients’ chests expanded when they inhaled. Then, like the test used in nearly every allergist’s office around the country, they tested the force of each person’s exhalation. They finally measured the speed at which the air left the lungs at about the halfway mark of that exhalation.
Split into two groups, half the people practiced hatha yoga three times a week for about six weeks. Hatha (with “ha” meaning “sun” and “tha” meaning “moon”) is the most common form of yoga in North America, and what most people mean when they say yoga. It uses physical postures and breathing techniques to energize the body and promote meditation. Within this study, those performing hatha yoga did so for 20 minutes at a time (quite short actually) and had, among other movements, five specific poses that engaged the muscles of the chest.
The comparison group attended the yoga sessions, but did not participate. When the study concluded, researchers tested the respiratory abilities of everyone involved. Those taking yoga could expand their chest wall farther when they breathed, and could blow more air out of their lungs. The comparison group had no change in breathing capacity.
Anybody can perform yoga. It doesn’t matter how flexible you are (in fact, yoga will improve flexibility). The best way to get started with it is to learn the basics at a class, which could cost around $20. There is, for instance, a series of moves that make up a typical yoga workout; learning them in a class setting will allow you to do them in the comfort of your home. An instructor will help you do the moves properly so that full benefit is reached. For use at home, there is no shortage of videos out there to follow along for a yoga workout.
It is easily one of the fastest-rising alternative therapies in North America over the past two decades. If you haven’t tried it yet, why not see what you are missing?