It is reported quite conclusively that the nose an lungs react to thoughts and emotions. Yoga has always known this and the new concept of psychosomatics and ‘biotypes’ confirms this. In dealing with asthmatics it is of utmost importance to find out the areas which trigger their negative emotional reactions or to find out suppressed anxiety. To this end it is good if psychologist or a mature person with insight can ‘see through’ their problem. Thus in Yoga the ‘attack’ on any diseased condition is holistic, but since it is recognised that the mind is central in a diseased condition the control and quietening of the mental state in itself would heal the disease to a great extent.
If it is found that asthma has its origin in childhood traumatic experiences; deconditioning of the feelings about that experience is encouraged. This can be effectively done by listening to the patient in a compassionate manner. If asthma in that patient derives from passivity and dependency, provide avenues of overcoming helplessness and hopelessness. The asthmatic can learn to say ‘no’ in certain conditions without feelings a threat to his personality or unduly suppressing his emotions and getting into an attack.
For making the mind steady it is important for the asthmatic to become aware of the so called ‘afflictions’ which are pinpointed in Yoga as being the cause of much of our misery. These Klesas are of ignorance (Avidya), Ego (Asmita), Extreme Love (Raga), Hate (Devesa) clinging to status quo or extreme attachment to life (Abhinevesa). An understanding is offered of how extreme likes and dislikes could trigger off physiological reactions in the body which would lead them to constriction of the air passages.
Another line of management of asthmatics could be to learn to relax at the physical and mental level. The relaxation techniques in themselves are valuable whereby every part of the body can be individually relaxed and a listening attitude is created as in Nishpandabhava and Savasana. But more important would be to make the asthmatic realize that he has to learn to live in the present and not in the past or the future. Some of the asthmatics seem to be very conditioned to ‘allergies’ as was found in the classical case of a woman who thought she was allergic to roses when exposed to a single artificial rose also started having signs of a full blown asthmatic reaction. This deconditioning and conditioning in positive modes of thinking and acting is of primary importance.
Yoga emphasizes mindfulness, awareness, concentration and the basis of therapy as Pragna or a balanced mind. Thus the asthmatic has to be made aware of his slightest changes in feeling tones, body signals of tiredness, exertion. Thus avoidance of over fatigue physical or emotional has to be guarded against by asthmatics. The person should not at any time overprotect himself thinking that the slightest exertion could bring about an ‘attack’. He should on the contrary indulge in activities which absorb him but which do not make him go into unsteadiness. Thus activity is very therapeutic for asthmatics.
As Yoga is not concerned with the mere relief from attacks but going too the root cause of the disease, a change of outlook is primary. Here Yoga offers the tools of Abhyasa (devoted, continuous practice) and Vairagya (detachment).
Many times the respiratory capacity of asthmatics is hampered by incorrect posture. The stretching induced in Asanas like Talasana, Yastikasana, Konasasa, Trikonasana, Parvatasana help a great deal. (Please refer to the section on practices.)
Sarvangasana is especially useful in asthma as the reverse position of the body serves to drain out the phlegm and relieve congestion of the lungs.
As Shri Yogendraji says "The value of breathing exercises is not sufficiently appreciated in the treatment of asthma. It is not sufficiently appreciated in the treatment of asthma. It is something which the patient feels he can do for himself and if he has sufficient perseverance and energy to acquire necessary control of the respiratory muscles, many would improve. The aims of remedial breathing exercises are (1) to acquire automatic diaphragmatic breathing at the expense of the thoracic type of breathing (2) to concentrate on expiration rather than on inspiration especially at the onset of an attack. (3) to increase the mobility of the chest wall and to relax the accessory muscles of respiration and (4) to correct the kyphosis and other deformities commonly found in the chronic asthmatic. Pranayama IV is ideal for concentrating on the diaphragm as an aid to breathing Recaka of Yogendra Pranayama VII helps in the slow expiration, Paranayama II aids the intercostal muscles to become more mobile and the spinal exercises of backward bending like in Chakarasana and Bhujungasana would help."
The treatment of asthma also plays emphasis on diet. It is good to avoid spicy, fried fatty foods. Foods which increase mucous secretions like pickles, chutneys, ice and iced drinks should be avoided. The stomach should never be overloaded with food as it presses on the chest and a feeling of fullness and discomfort can arise. Dinner especially should be light and taken at least two hours before bedtime.
As interpersonal relationships can be a source of tension in many cases, an asthmatic has to learn to detect areas where he can modify his behaviour and learn to look at life in a more witness like way.
Fast walking and running are also recommended in asthma as this helps ventilation of the lungs. This should not again be done to the point of exhaustion.
Natural methods of steam inhalation, gargling after meals, hot water bag on the face and neck, and sunbathing in not too direct sunlight would be very beneficial to an asthmatic.
Thus the treatment in asthma as in all diseases takes care of the Ahar (food), Achar (relationships), Vihar (recreation) and Vichar (thought processes) and it has been seen in many cases that a person can change his diseased condition by changing his attitudes and be a winner.