According to the American Lung Association, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is the third leading cause of U.S. deaths. Sufferers have new hope to control coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and mucus production symptoms, which worsen over time. Recent studies show COPD patients can improve lung function with some time-tested deep-breathing and meditation techniques.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is not a single condition. It’s an incurable group of lung diseases that block airflow as you exhale, making breathing difficult. Smoking is the primary cause, but pollutant and toxic chemical exposure can bring on COPD’s main conditions of emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis. Older adults typically have COPD, which can be an expensive condition with 70 percent of its costs related to hospitalizations.
COPD patients are embracing yoga, a mind-body-spirit practice based on an ancient Eastern philosophy. Cost-effective classes specifically for COPD sufferers offer modified yoga exercises without complicated, contorted poses. Focused on specific lung health needs, they provide gentle, easy and effective ways to manage your challenging symptoms. Low-impact stretching and bending exercises improve fitness, flexibility and relaxation. Breathing methods guide you to control your breathing and use your lungs more fully. Relaxation techniques help reduce anxiety and shortness of breath associated with COPD. Continue practicing yoga at home for ongoing relief.
A study showed three months of yoga, meditation and relaxation training helped COPD patients breathe easier. Yoga exercises included asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing technique), kriyas (cleansing technique), meditation and shavasan (relaxation technique). Researchers compared participants’ beginning and ending conditions and symptoms. After 12 weeks, they noted yoga improved lung functioning, inflammation, quality of life and breathing.
Getting proper airflow to your lungs is vital to your respiratory process. Meditation helps by requiring correct breathing using your diaphragm, a lobe below your rib cage that rises up and down as you breathe. The diaphragm caves in when you inhale to create the suction that draws air into your lungs. As you exhale, your diaphragm expands, pushing out air. Breathing properly is even more important when you have COPD because it’s the only way your body can get its necessary oxygen supply.
Mindfulness Meditation Reinforcement
Mayo Clinic researcher Roberto P. Benzo, M.D., a pulmonologist and epidemiologist interested in behavioral medicine, is finding success with a unique treatment approach. When COPD patients have frequent complications, he encourages them to improve their health through mindfulness meditation.
The concept of mindfulness dates back to 2500-year-old Buddhist traditions. It involves achieving full awareness of every movement you make. However, creating a positive outcome isn’t the goal. Instead, acknowledge whatever you feel and sense at every moment. This establishes and reinforces the importance of your role in enhancing your physical condition.
Such mindfulness creates self-efficacy so you improve your health. This novel and inexpensive treatment technique helps COPD patients feel better physically and emotionally.
COPD patient inactivity is a key mortality predictor. Staying active is important, but if you’re severely short of breath, strenuous exercise isn’t necessary. Try a familiar task like making cookies. Rolling out dough is more than a step in your baking process — it mimics yoga-like movements.
Any physical activity counts if you perform it mindfully. That means concentrating on your body motions and sensations consciously and purposefully. Mental reinforcement helps you regain confidence in your physical abilities and want to tackle more activities.
How patient perceive their health affects how often they are hospitalized. In a study of 600 COPD sufferers, Dr. Benzo reported that patient health perception predicts hospital admissions better than lung function or walking tests. His findings showed sad or anxious COPD patients who thought their health was bad were twice as likely to seek emergency care resulting in hospitalization.
When patients are mindful, however, it reduces post-surgery stay lengths and hospital readmissions. A Mayo Clinic study of severe lung disease surgery patients showed those with self-efficacy training in mindfulness meditation reduced their hospital stays by three days. Dr. Benzo’s study on hospital readmissions suggests mindfulness interventions might reduce subsequent hospitalizations by 20 percent.
Current COPD medications can’t stop your long-term lung function decline. However, combining relaxing yoga and meditation with these prescription medication types can help control your symptoms.
Bronchodilators increase airflow by opening your airways to make breathing easier.
Corticosteroid inhalers and pills reduce moderate to severe COPD inflammation.
Combination therapy of using bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids together treats stable COPD.
Leukotriene modifiers help prevent inflammation and swelling in your airways while reducing mucus.
Antibiotics treat respiratory infections that can be frequent with COPD.
Yoga, meditation and prescription medications can’t undo your existing lung damage. If you keep smoking, your lungs and lung function will continue to deteriorate. If you kick the habit, you may halt the damage from progressing.
Living With COPD
Worrying about what may happen tomorrow or next year isn’t productive when you have ongoing COPD. By focusing on the present, mindfulness will help you approach today’s limitations with resilience and determination.