Asthma is a life-threatening disease. But it never kills a person in one blown and no one dies of one Asthma attack. Asthma kills a person by wearing him out. The asthma attack drains away the patient’s energy lead ing toward death. This is a disease that harasses the patient openly, that creates inti macy with the patient, and that attacks him frequently, but does not kill the patient. So t errible can this disease be that the harassed patient often thinks s/he would prefer dea th as it becomes more and more difficult for the asthmatic patient to inhale or ex hale during an attack, and death seems the only respite from his/her trouble.
The process of breathing outside air into the lungs and breathing out impure air is a natural and vital process of life. It star ts from the moment of birth and ends only after the last breath. The process of breathin g is a distinguishing symptom of life. To test whether a person on his deathbed is alive, a thread is held near his nose. The thread moves if the patient is breathing. Breath is life and breathlessness is death. Generally no person can survive after four minutes of breathlessness.
This breathing process is the key supplier of oxyge n to the body. Oxygen is necessary for the activity of each and every cell i n the body. Cells cannot carry out their activity without oxygen and a cell denied oxy gen is none other than death. Oxygen lies in the air surrounding us. The external air enters the body through the nose. The oxygen also enters along with this air. T his air then enters the lungs where some oxygen gets absorbed in the blood and is carri ed to all the cells in the body simultaneous with the carbon dioxide formed in the cells being expelled on exhalation. The breathing process is in control of the nervous system. If the requirement for oxygen by the body increases, incre ased amounts of air are inhaled by increasing the rate of respiration. The rate decrea ses as the requirement is fulfilled. We all know that the rate of respiration increases while running and decreases during sleep.
Asthma is nothing but a disorder developed in the p rocess of respiration. The asthmatic patient cannot breathe in and breathe out enough air. Hence the body does not receive the required amount of oxygen. This red uces the rate of activity of the patient and at times he may become unconscious. The hindrance in the process of respiration is the attack of asthma. The intensity and frequency of the attack depends upon the nature of the disease. Some patients suffe r from the attack only in a cold or humid environment; i.e., in winter or rainy season, but do not suffer from asthma in hot and dry climate. There is no rule as such for t he suffering from this disease. But the nature of the suffering is one and the same in all cases.
Let us understand the process of respiration to kno w how obstruction in the process of respiration takes place during an asthma attack. Inhaling is the pulling of external air by the chest into the lungs. The chest cavity is expanded for the purpose, the diaphragm moves down and the muscles of the sto mach are pushed outward. This creates a low pressure in the lungs and the result is the external air entering the alveoli through the nose, pharynx, trachea, the bronchi and the bronchial tree. A network of tiny blood vessels surrounds the alveoli. Oxygen pa sses through the alveoli into the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) and carbon dioxide from the capillaries passes into the alveoli. The diaphragm then expands and moves up, s tomach muscles move inward, ribs move downward and the air from the lungs is fo rced out. Each inhalation constitutes nearly 500-600 cc (one-half liter) air and the same amount is expelled during exhalation. Efforts of deep breathing may in crease this quantity up to 4500 cc and a scientific practice of Yoga may increase this quantity even as high as 5500 cc.
61 In case of the asthma patient, the quantity of air inhaled is 300-350 cc instead of 600 cc. It may reduce to even 40-50 cc at the ti me the patient suffers from an asthma attack. The cause is the contraction of the bronchioles. There are circular muscles in the bronchioles. These muscles receive m essages from the nervous system resulting in their contraction. When the action of the bronchiolesis compromised enough air can be neither inhaled nor exhaled. Ment al stress stimulates the nervous system for the contraction of these muscles. Reacti ons to the daily events in the form of emotions like anger, hatred, jealousy, love, fri ght, anxiety about the future, and so on arouse mental stress stimulating the nervous sys tem and contracting the bronchial muscles. The intensity of the messages is directly proportionate to the intensity of mental stress, thus amplifying the intensity of the asthma attack. Many unfavorable incidents may result in this. Once the patient suff ers from the attack, the fear of recurrence of the attack may increase the possibili ty of the recurrence of the attack.
As the bronchial tubes contract when the patient su ffers from an attack very little air goes into the lungs. Cells from all part s of the body note the requirement of oxygen to the brain. Cells start complaining and on ce sensing the seriousness of the problem the brain makes vigorous efforts to breathe in excess air. As a result the expansion and contraction of the chest cavity and t he neck muscles increases and the diaphragm moves down with such force the muscles ge t fatigued while simultaneously not receiving sufficient oxygen to f unction optimally. As their capacity to function comes to an end it increases t he severity of the attack. Frequent attacks may make these muscles weak forever and it may not be possible for them to help even in normal breathing. This develops a vici ous cycle - asthma attack- weakening of respiratory muscles- leading to asthma attack- leading to frailty in the patient - thus increasing the frequency of attack a nd severity of the disease.
Phlegm developed in the lungs is another element re sponsible for an asthma attack. There are many glands creating phlegm in th e lungs. The respiratory movements force this phlegm in the upward direction through the airways and it is ultimately thrown out through the throat. Impuritie s like dust particles, smoke particles, poisonous particles, or any other foreig n particles adhere to the phlegm due to its sticky characteristic and it is thrown out a long with all these impurities. This means that the phlegm is a useful element in the re spiratory system. But if its production increases due to some reason and the qua ntity thrown out does not increase, it gets stored in the lungs and the airwa ys thus blocking them. This too results in an asthma attack. The main reason for st imulation of the glands producing phlegm is the stimulation of the nervous system. So metimes infection is the cause behind increase in production of phlegm.
As mental stress is responsible for asthma it also obstructs other functions in the body. A tendency to give in to addictions belie ved by the patient to reduce stress like smoking, tobacco chewing, and drinking also ac tually increases stress, which is suppressed only temporarily with addictions but inc reases the intensity of disease forever. Watching movies and over-eating are other ways imagined to release stress. And although these ways appear to release stress, t hey too actually enhance stress. The fear of experiencing an asthma attack is also r esponsible for increasing mental stress.
Eating food that is hazardous or infectious to heal th also causes a person to suffer from asthma. This is termed as ‘allergy.’ A person’s body reacts in extreme negation to certain substances. It creates its impr ession over the body. This impression may be in the form of an asthma attack. In this cas e finding out the substance causing allergy and avoiding it is the only way out. Medica tion works temporarily. It does not 62 cure the disease. The reason behind this allergy ca nnot be detected although it isbelieved that mental stress may be one of the rea sons behind it.
Asthma can also be hereditary, but it cannot be pre dicted that the child of an asthmatic parent will definitely suffer from asthma . Yet where there exists such a possibility it can be avoided if appropriate precau tions are taken. If a person carries the attitude that, “I will surely suffer from asthm a since my parents had to,”s/he will definitely suffer from it even if s/he has not had any trouble until then.
Whatever the cause of asthma, allopathic treatment is accepted the world over and the medicines are very effective during a serio us attack,but they do not cure asthma completely and the patient has to take the m edicines permanently. This prolonged medication generates dependency in the pa tient. It creates a strong belief in his mind that it is not possible for him to stay al ive without medication. Many a times, s/he suffers from an attack only due to the thought that the stock of medicines is over.
Various chemicals enter the body through the medici nes taken by the patient. These chemicals may be toxic. Although medicine is helpful for asthma it may create adverse effects on functions of the other systems o f the body and may cause other trouble for the patient. These other troubles might be so bothersome that the patient might prefer asthma. The chemicals in the medicines may disturb the physical and mental balance of the patient and this in turn may invite an asthmatic attack. The medicine is either taken into the stomach or is in the form of injections. Recently it is being taken through respiration. This reduces the q uantity of intake and gives results within minutes.
There is no option other than medicine at the time of an attack. The amount of medicine is less in the modern method (through resp iration), but it must be noted that it will only reduce the asthma trouble and not cure asthma. As time passes, the effect of medicine deteriorates and side effects appear. F requency of trouble increases and resistance power diminishes. As the medicines will not cure asthma, the patient must see to it that the need for medication reduces, eve n though they are effective. He must uproot the main cause of asthma. Yoga is very usefu l in uprooting different causes of asthma. Although the Yogic processes do not produce instantaneous results and have to be performed for long periods of time, their eff ect stays for a long time, the causes of asthma slowly vanish, and the frequency of attac k reduces as a result of increased resistance power.
Cleansing processes are the best for treating asthm a. Amongst these Vaman, Jalaneti, Dandaneti, Shankha Prakshalana and Kapalb hati have been proven to be the most effective. We have seen that an increased amou nt of phlegm in the lungs contracts the airways resulting in asthmatic attack . The phlegm constantly moves in the upward direction through the trachea into the p harynx and is thrown out through the nose or the mouth or enters the stomach through the food pipe. The phlegm stored in the stomach can be thrown out in the process of Vaman. The internal movements held in the process of Vaman help the phlegm in the chest to move more in the upward direction and be thrown out. It is suggested in the book of Hatha Pradipika that Vaman be performed immediately after meals. Th e food taken is all thrown out during this Vaman. This does not increase hunger bu t gives a feeling of lightness. This kind of Vaman can be performed once in eight d ays.
A process even more effective than Vaman is Vastrad hauti. Vastra is cloth. This cloth cleans the food pipe and stomach from in side by rubbing them. Although this process is somewhat difficult to perform it is very effective. The patient feels relaxed immediately after performing this process. The patient must perform this process every morning on an empty stomach during th e period when he is undergoing asthma trouble.
Jalaneti and Dandaneti are the cleansing processes of the nose. These clean the nasal tract and reduce the allergy caused by dust, smoke, fragrance, humidity, pollen, etc. These also improve the strength of the nasal s kin to sustain these impurities.
Shankha Prakshalana is an amazing and effective pro cess that cleans the entire food path from the mouth to the anus. The process i nvolves ingesting lukewarm water with lemon juice and salt and the practice of certa in asanas for a period of one and a half to two hours. This speeds up peristalsis and c leans the entire food path in only one and a half to two hours. Many flaws in the proc ess of digestion disappear by this process. The internal cleansing attained by this pr ocess gives rest to the asthmatic patient. This means that it must be affecting the r espiratory system and the nervous system as well, but more research must be done to s tudy its effect on these systems. It can be firmly stated that Shankha Prakshalana helps the asthmatic patient. But it cannot be performed frequently. Hence it is suggest ed once in six months.
Another effective cleansing process is Kapalbhati. Some perceive it as a kind of Pranayama as it is related to the respiratory sy stem, but Kapalbhatiis technically a cleansing process of the lungs. The procedure of Ka palbhati is to inhale in the normal way, but to exhalesharply and vigorously as if blow ing a bug out of the nose, which causes a sharp upward impulse in the diaphragm. Th e increased strength and efficiency of the diaphragm derived from this proce ss helps during an asthmatic attack and breathing can become comparatively easier for t he patient. Smooth inhalation and sharp exhalation also lifts the phlegm in an upward direction and releases it, making the respiratory tract freer of phlegm. Regular prac tice of Kapalbhati can uproot the main cause of asthma, but must be practiced daily f or 10-15 minutes to get good results.
Asanas are also useful for an asthmatic patient as various muscles are pressed or stretched when practicing asana. Just as the flu id in a sponge is released when it is stretched or pressed, similarly, the stretches and presses experienced in the asanas 64 help draw out toxins from the body. Asanas also imp rove the blood supply to the muscles thus improving muscle functioning and effic iency. In the case of patients suffering with asthma asanas can also help improve the efficiency of the chest muscles. And relaxation in the asanas also helps in improving respiratory efficiency. An asthma patient is permitted to perform all asana s as it cannot be said with certaintywhatasanas are useful and what ones are no t and none are harmful to asthma sufferers. Moreover, benefits may vary according t o each patient’s constitution and need. So one must decide based on trial and error t o confirm which asanas are most beneficial and then perform them regularly. While p racticing asanas stability and length of hold of the asanas ought be gradually inc reased for enhanced effect.Do not start with difficult asanas, although Sun Salutatio n performed at a slow speed will be quite supportive. Practice simple asanas initially and then turn to the difficult ones.
Pranayama is the control of prana and as a result the practice of pranayama reduces asthmatic trouble. Remember, the process of Pranayama is directly related to respiration. Hence Pranayama is directly beneficial to the asthma patient. Deep breathing and rapid breathing improves the efficien cy of the chest muscles as well as the entire respiratory system and the intensity and frequency of asthma attacks reduce as a result of reduced stress on the respiratory an d the nervous systems.
Control of breath also results in improved mental c ontrol, drains tensions piled up in the mind, and hinders development of new stre ss. As a consequence, asthma attacks can be reducedwith the practice of Naadisho dhan Pranayama, Bhasrika, Ujjayi and Bhraamari. But sufficient practice of deep brea thing must be carried out before practicing these.
Contemplation as we know is the practice of concent ration. This practice drains out mental tensions, as the mind does not co ncentrate on unwanted baggage. As we have seen that mental tension is one of the m ain causes of asthma, the reduced tension due to contemplation avoids contraction of the airways. Contemplation is very difficult although very effective. Hence initially, chanting of Aum is helpful. It carries out deep breathing indirectly and reduces stress, p urifying the mind. The vibrations produced due to Aum affect the nervous system and h elp reduce stress. This results in systematizing the function of the nervous system. A fter sufficient practice of chanting of Aum, concentration of Aum and contemplation with Aum as the object of support are the further steps to be achieved. These process es have to be practiced only with proper guidance and these processes help in reducin g asthmatic trouble.
Another boon to the asthma patient is the process o f Yoga Nidra, easy to perform and yielding the positive effect of relaxat ion. Yoga Nidra can be performed by all patients on their own with use of a recorded tape or CD. It can be performed twice or three times a day as per requirement. This process brings about relaxation on physical, emotional and mental levels. The practice of relaxation carried out daily will help reduction in muscular contraction at the time of attack. The mental pressure of an attack is reduced and the patient gets physically a nd mentally prepared to face the attack.
Yogic processes, from cleansing processes to Yoga N idra, purify the body and mind of the patient and alter the perception of the patient towards life. He develops a positive attitude to life. The allure for sensual e njoyment decreases and a positive detachment towards life develops in the patient. Th is detachment impedes any rise in tensions and it takes the person beyond the state o f joy and woe. Consequently, the root of the disease disappears. All this change is not spontaneous. It is the fruit of consistent practice of especially advanced processe s.
The treatment of asthmatic patient has to be consid ered on three levels. A patient new to Yoga will have to be taught some pre paratory practices and then he may be taught the processes useful for treatment. T he self-study processes are different and those to be performed at the time of attack are different. All the three periods have to be taken into consideration.
First Week - Yoga Sopan syllabus
Second, third and fourth Week - Yoga Pravesh syllabus
Fifth to tenth Week - Yoga Parichay syllabus Yoga Sopan, Yoga Pravesh and Yoga Parichay are the primary courses of our institution- Yoga Vidya Dham.
It takes ten weeks to complete all these three cour ses in continuation. The processes of these courses may vary a little accord ing to the patient’s capacity. Here follows the additional processes to be taught to th e asthma patient during these weeks.
Second Week - Process of Vaman (Perform it regularly after lear ning it).
Third Week - Shankha Prakshalana (On the last day of the week).
Fourth to Tenth Week - Perform Laghu Shankha Prakshalana and Vaman once daily and Vastradhauti thrice a week.
The asthma patient must perform Yoga Nidra regularl y once in a day. Chanting of Aum for half an hour is also beneficial . When the patient completes the above course in ten weeks’ duration, he must perfor m the following practices daily for his self-study.
Prayers, Sun Salutation- 12 in no., Shavasana, Sarv angasana, Matsyasana, Shavasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana, Makarasana, Ardha Matsye ndrasana, Pashchimottanasana, Ushtrasana, Shashankasana, Marj arasana, Shavasana, Trikonasana, Veerasana, Chakrasana, Agnisar, Uddiya n Bandha, Shavasana, Laghu Shankha Prakshalana, Vaman, Shavasana, Kapalbhati, Naadishodhan Pranayama (21 cycles), Bhasrika Pranayama (11 cycles), Bhraamari Pranayama (11 cycles), chanting 66 of Aum (51 times), Prayers. It requires approximately two hours for self-study. Asanas may be more or less according to the patient’s necessity. In addition t o this, Yoga Nidra once daily and chanting of Aum for fifteen minutes before sleeping is beneficial.
Hot water bath for legs. This process is useful even at the time of asthma attack.
Take a steam bath in the morning daily. Take enema of sesame oil in the evening in between 5.30 – 6.30.
Grated cabbage steam twice a day.
Have a glass of cabbage juice on an empty stomach.
Non-vegetarian food, hot, spicy, fried substances, bakery products, milk products and cold substances.
Banana, guava, custard-apple, cucumber, pineapple.
Daily Practice Program: To be practiced after completing the prescribed program.)
|No.||Asana / Yoga technique||Duration in min.|
|01||Shavasana (Corpse pose)||2|
|02||Hasta Sanchalana Type 1, 2, 3 (handsmovements)||7|
|03||Pada sanchalana type 1, 2, 3 (leg movements)||7|
|04||Janu sanchalana type 1, 2, 3 (knee movements)||7|
|05||Shavasana (Corpse pose)||2|
|07||Skandha sanchalana type 1, 2 (shoulder movement)||4|
|08||Kantha sanchalana type 1, 2 (neck movements||4|
|10||Shavasana (Corpse pose)||2|
|11||Vajrasana Chain of asanas||12|
|12||Shavasana (Corpse pose)||2|
|13||Deep breathing in Tadagasana (pond pose)||5|
|14||Swastikasana (auspicious pose)||9|
|15||Sheetali (Inhalation) + Bhramari (exhalation)||1|
|16||Inhale (right nostril) + Bhramari (exhalation) 21 times||10|
|17||Fast breathing type 1 to 6||5|
|Vaman Dhouti once a week|
|Laghoo Shankh Prakshalana once a week|
|Yoga Nidra for stress relief, once a day||30|
|Meditation on Adnya Chakra with mantra “OM”|
Yoga Vidya Dham, Kaivalya Nagari,
College Road, Nashik - 422005.
Phone - +91-9822770727 (for courses in ENGLISH)
+91-253-2318090 (For courses, in HINDI or MARATHI)
(Please call during 9.00 AM to 5 PM Indian Time)
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