Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Yoga with Dr.Melissa West

by Melissa West on July 12, 2012


Hi Melissa,  My husband was just diagnosed with the beginning stage of COPD, the main cause was from smoking. To  keep the disease from progressing he uses medication prescribed by his doctor, plus he needs to incorporate more cardio. He’s been a life-long weightlifter and is in good shape, but I think yoga would be helpful and think he would be open to at least giving it a try now. Which lessons would you recommend?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is the occurrence of chronic bronchitis or emphysema, a pair of commonly co-existing diseases of the lungs in which the airways become narrowed. This leads to a limitation of the flow of air to and from the lungs, causing shortness of breath (dyspnea).

I would recommend yoga practices that open up the airways and the lungs with practices that focus on side bending and backbending to really open up and encourage breath flow.

Since he hasn’t done yoga before starting with the beginner’s series would be a good place to start. This series introduces the concept of breathing along with grounding and spinal elongation. The final class in that series, episode 135 focuses a lot on side bends in order to create flexibility in the spine but will have the added benefit for your husband of opening up the lungs for increased air capacity.

Namaste Yoga Episode 11, Opening the Body to Breath features postures to open the torso as a whole so that breath can move right up into the shoulders and right down into the pelvis.

In episode 13 of Namaste Yoga I explore various breath practices. In this episode of Namaste Yoga, Melissa takes you through various pranayama practices in a series of simple yoga poses. Pranayama practices from 3-part breathing, extended exhalation, square breath, kapala bhati breath, lion’s breath, breath of joy and alternate nostril breathing are explored. These will all help to build up his breathing capacity.

Episode 109 of Namaste Yoga would be perfect as well – it is a class on fish pose and uses a lot of side bends to prepare for a backbend that focuses right on the area of the lungs.

Finally I would recommend one of my classic videos called Wave of the Breath. Yoga postures are used to open the anatomy around the respiratory apparatus for improved use of oxygen and detoxification of the body. This video will give you more energy, emotional stability and mental clarity. Breath practice is known to improve blood circulation, calm the nervous system, and improve digestive function, which will leave you feeling deeply rested and relaxed.

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