Pranayama improved asthma control and quality of life compared to relaxation
Research Study At A Glance
The Research Question Asked
How does pranayama affect people with asthma?
Type of Study
Randomized control trial
Study Participants (Sample)
Sample size: 50 total participants
- Participants had experienced asthma for at least 6 months
- Asthma was diagnosed by a doctor
The study examined the impact of pranayama on asthma control, quality of life, and pulmonary function. Researchers used the Asthma Control Test, Asthma Quality of Life, and the Pulmonary Function Test to compare the results of the pranayama treatment group with a control group. The pranayama treatment group performed a pranayama practice for 20 minutes daily for one month, while the control group did 20 minutes of daily relaxation.
The pranayama treatment group had higher scores than the control group on the Asthma Control Test and the Asthma Quality of Life test.
The pranayama breathing techniques improved asthma control and quality of life, but did not significantly effect pulmonary/breathing function (as measured by pulmonary function test).
Asthma is a very common chronic respiratory disease affecting millions of people. While prescription medications, inhalers, and similar tools can help manage the symptoms, many medications have negative side effects and/or are not recommended for use beyond a certain frequency. Yet, solutions are needed to support regular maintenance of the symptoms of this disease which affects the daily life and work of those who suffer from it.
Researchers have recently begun to explore pranayama breathing practices as a potential component of a broad set of tools to manage chronic asthma. Interestingly, the initial results are promising. So far researchers have conducted preliminary studies to examine the effects of various pranayama breathing practices on specific measures of breathing. Those include measures such as forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, and peak expiratory flow. However, the researchers conducting this study saw a need for further research on the effects of pranayama breathing practices on simply controlling asthma, as well as impacts on quality of life.
How does pranayama affect people with asthma?
Fifty total participants were involved in the study. All participants had experienced asthma for at least six months and it was diagnosed by a doctor.
Participants who were selected for the pranayama treatment group performed a pranayama practice for 20 minutes daily for one month. Those participants in the control group did 20 minutes of daily relaxation. Researchers measured asthma control, pulmonary function, and quality of life of both treatment groups before starting the pranayama treatment and one month after the treatment began.
The study measured asthma control measured with the “Asthma Control Test” (ACT) which requires participants to answer questions about their experience with asthma in five areas on a scale of 1-5; 1=all the time and 5=not at all. Specifically, the five areas covered on the ACT included:
- Frequency of shortness of breath
- General asthma symptoms
- Use of rescue medications
- Effect of asthma on daily functioning
- Overall self-assessment of asthma control
The study evaluated quality of life with the “Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire” (AQLQ). Participants completed 32 questions about their quality of life on a scale of 1-7 with 1=severely impaired and 7=not impaired at all. The researchers evaluated pulmonary function using the “Pulmonary Function Test” (PFT). Participants completed the ACT and AQLQ before and after one month of pranayama treatment. Additionally, researchers also measured the PFT values before and after one month of pranayama treatment.
The pranayama treatment group had higher scores on the Asthma Control Test than the control (relaxation group). Additionally, the mean peak expiratory flow (PEF) value, which was measured by the Pulmonary Function Test, increased in the pranayama group after one month of daily pranayama practice. The pranayama treatment group also had a higher score on the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire overall. And, it had higher subscale scores than the control group.
Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?
Breathing is fundamental to yoga practice. This is true whether we are doing simple even breathing as part of an asana practice or whether we are doing a formal pranayama practice. It’s clear from this study that controlling our breathing has a very real effect on our body. This research in particular suggests that some pranayama techniques can even improve day to day quality of life for asthma sufferers. Learning to control our breathing using yogic pranayama practices can potentially produce positive effects on our overall well-being. This seems to be true even for those who are not suffering from respiratory dysfunction.
Yuce, G.E. and S. Tasci. 2020. Effect of pranayama breathing technique on asthma control, pulmonary function, and quality of life: A single-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 38: 7pgs.