Yoga Expands Breathing and Lung Capacity

Bending diligently to better lung
function; © Hemera

"This research suggests that short-term yoga exercise improves respiratory breathing capacity by increasing chest wall expansion and forced expiratory lung volumes," said lead researcher Raoyrin Chanavirut from Khon Kaen University in Thailand. "These findings may benefit people suffering from illnesses that affect breathing, including asthma." The researchers chose five Hatha Yoga positions designed to improve chest wall function, including the cat, tree and camel positions.

Fifty eight healthy volunteers, all around 20 years old, participated in the six-week study. Half of the volunteers did five positions of Hatha Yoga during 20-minute sessions, three times a week. The control group did not do the exercise, but continued their usual lifestyle, and did not smoke or drink.

The researchers obtained base line lung expansion and lung volume measures on the 58 volunteers before the experiment began and took final measurements after the experiment ended. They used a tape measure to determine lung expansion capacity, measuring the sternum, middle chest (rib 5) and the lower chest (rib 8).

"Chest wall expansion allows individuals to get more air to the base of the lung," Chanavirut explained. Greater expansion of the chest wall provides more oxygen with each breath and requires less effort to breathe, she said. The researchers found that the volunteers who did yoga over the six-week period significantly improved their chest wall expansion at all three measurement points, and also showed significantly better forced expiratory volume and forced vital capacity. The yoga sessions did not affect tidal volume, that is, the amount of air that passes in and out of the lungs in an ordinary breath.

The authors concluded that even short-term yoga practice improves breathing capacity by increasing chest wall expansion capacity and forced expiratory lung volumes.

MEDICA.de; Source: Khon Kaen University, Thailand