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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 00:28 GMT
Yoga 'can help asthmatics'
lung function testing
Severe asthmatics may benefit from yoga
A type of meditation based on yoga may ease asthma for some.

However, there is little evidence that other relaxation techniques can help.

Two studies carried out at the Department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter looked at a variety of techniques.

The first compared patients taught to carry out Sahaja meditation with another group using other forms of relaxation, such as "positive affirmation", visualisation and progressive muscle relaxation.

Sahaja meditation aims to create a state of "full or heightened mental alertness".

The researchers found that after four months, the patients, who had moderate to severe asthma which had failed to respond to conventional drug treatment, showed distinct differences.

The responsiveness of the patients' airways was measured, and in the meditation group, responsiveness to asthma medication was noticeably better than those simply carrying out relaxation techniques.

The extra effect they experienced was similar to the other group being given an extra dose of medication.

The mood of both groups was also assessed - both had improved - but by more in the case of the meditating asthmatics.

Quality of life

However, there were no noticeable differences in the overall measured "quality of life", or, significantly, in the use of inhalers, reported symptoms or breath strength.

Another study carried out at the university reviewed a number of other trials looking at the effects on asthma of several relaxation techniques.


The benefits of yoga, or any other relaxation techniques, are additional to the benefits of conventional drug treatment, and it is vital that patients continue to take their prescribed medication

Dr John Harvey, British Thoracic Society
These included progressive muscular relaxation, hypnotherapy, "autogenic training" - which aims to create a state of "detached but alert awareness", and transcendental meditation.

Of 15 trials, two involving progressive muscle relaxation or muscular and mental relaxation showed significant improvements in lung function - but the researchers suggested that the "poor quality" of the research might be harming the chances of reliable answers from the studies.

Dr John Harvey, from the British Thoracic Society, said: "Complementary therapy is becoming more popular with patients as they seek to relieve the emotional, as well as physical symptoms of their condition.

"Simple relaxation techniques and exercise can help regulate breathing patterns and also improve lung function.

"As a result, some asthmatics may find yoga helps them to manage their condition by easing symptoms."

However, he added: "The benefits of yoga, or any other relaxation techniques, are additional to the benefits of conventional drug treatment, and it is vital that patients continue to take their prescribed medication."


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See also:

05 Apr 01 | Health
Exercise on prescription
27 Oct 01 | Health
Is yoga good for you?
20 Sep 01 | Health
Region on scent of healthy living
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