Sunday, March 16, 2008

I've been told that I should focus more on exhaling--by both the last doctor I had who treated my asthma as well as one of my yoga teachers--and that this will make inhaling easier and more productive.

According to an article I read in the Yoga Journal, "Dr. Gay Hendricks, author of Conscious Breathing (Bantam, 1995), and Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, a pioneer in the use of breath retraining for asthmatics, consider the malady to be more a disturbed breathing pattern than a disease."

That's pretty interesting--asthmatics tend to breathe at a rate two to three times faster than most people do, i.e. our breathing pattern is not normal. We take in a lot of oxygen, but then we breathe out too much carbon dioxide. Again from the same article "If CO2 levels get too low, the hemoglobin that carries oxygen through the blood becomes too "sticky" and doesn't release sufficient oxygen to the cells."

After a while, the body gets starved for oxygen, and so it resorts to rather drastic measures to slow breathing down and build up the CO2 levels again. Basically, it resorts to creating an asthma attack--muscles around the airways tighten, the body produces mucus and histamine, and breathing becomes difficult.

So, that's why trying to change my breathing pattern might help. I tried focusing on my exhales during yoga class this morning and it was incredibly difficult. When I'm forcing myself to exhale completely, all I want to do is stop halfway through and inhale again. However, I did notice that after about three or four minutes of breathing this way, exhaling completely became easier.

I just have to remember that when I'm not on the mat.

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