Breaking a world record with a Pranayama Practice – Raising awareness for Asthma
I have recently been asked to take part in breaking a world record for the most people doing a breathing class over several sites in Europe to raise awareness for asthma. Of course I jumped at the chance, not only because I have people close in my life who, at times struggle with their asthma but also to be part of a breaking a world record doing yoga. Ironically the week I was asked to teach I was learning about the respiratory system as part of my Yoga Therapy course so naturally it was meant to be!
According to the NHS, 1 in every 12 adults and 1 in every 11 children are receiving treatment for asthma that is 5.4 million people. In 2009, 1,131 deaths occurred in relation to asthma, that’s an estimated three people a day die from asthma which Asthma UK say 90% of deaths could be preventable . That’s astonishing.
It wasn’t until the 60’s that it was recognised as an inflammatory disease. The muscles of the bronchial tubes tighten and thicken leading to the air passages becoming inflamed and mucus filled, which makes it difficult for air to move. Symptoms can include a feeling of breathlessness, a tight chest, coughing, wheezing and attacks of not being able to breathe. Recently I was unfortunate to have a choking episode in which I was unable to breathe. Luckily, my mother-in-law, a trained nurse was there at the time to give me abdominal thrusts. It was a terrifying experience so I can appreciate how scary it is for people who are having an asthma attack and unable to breathe.
Having this experience, learning about the respiratory system and the overall learning from the therapy course is broadening my knowledge to the power of the breath. I have learnt people who have asthma can have dysfunctional breathing patterns, such as chest breathing, stronger inhalations than exhalations, breath holding, mouth breathing, reverse breathing and over-breathing.
Teaching and encouraging new pranayama practices is an excellent way to reverse these effects and build respiratory strength and awareness of lung functioning. Doing a gentle physical practice, as Heather Mason, my teacher, says can bring strength, confidence and resilience, whilst Mindfulness practices may develop a sense of acceptance and compassion in a population that may feel let down by their bodies. Moreover, yoga is not only about doing asanas, (postures) we can also integrate the Yamas (external ethics) Niyamas (internal ethics) into the practice by teaching lifestyle management and self-discipline to support better habits which can have overall positive effects.
My husband, who has had asthma since a young age and has a dedicated yoga practice over the last 2 years genuinely believes yoga has helped his asthma. He regularly attends GP appointments for an asthma review where to check his peak flow, which measures how quickly or forcefully he can blow air out of the lungs in one breath. The improvement has been remarkable and the only lifestyle difference has been his dedication to his practice.
So as I teach on Tuesday 3rd May I will be grateful for people like my teacher, Heather Mason who has dedicated her life to deliver a Yoga Therapy course that is outstanding and teaches me how to support people living with a respiratory condition, as well as all the other conditions. Additionally, I hope the event will raise more awareness about asthma and what we yoga teachers can do to support this condition that so many people pass away from unnecessarily. And lastly hopefully get into the Guinness Book of records for the biggest pranayama class in the world!