Improve COPD with Yoga

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“I am 63 years old. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with emphysema. Emphysema is a progressive disease that increasingly damages the lung structure and impairs the lung function. However, I am pleased to say that my lung function has essentially remained unchanged from the day I was first tested. Credit for this “miracle” primarily goes to nine years of almost daily practice of yoga.” – Vijai Sharma


Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) are progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is very serious being the third leading cause of death in the United States, over 140,000 deaths per year. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing it. COPD causes serious long-term disability and early death. Symptoms develop slowly. Over time, COPD can interfere with the performance of routine tasks and is thus a major cause of disability in the United States. The most common cause of COPD is smoking. COPD also occurs with miners and is called black lung disease which has symptoms and progression very similar to cigarette smoking. COPD is not contagious. Most of the time, treatment can ease symptoms and slow progression. At this time the number of people dying from COPD is growing.


COPD has no cure yet. However, lifestyle changes and treatments can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease. COPD treatments include lifestyle changes, medicine, bronchodilators, steroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and surgery. They all attempt to relieve symptoms, slow the progress of the disease, improve exercise tolerance, prevent and treat complications, and improve overall health. Yoga practice would seem to be a useful lifestyle change that could improve COPD symptoms as it has been shown to improve exercise tolerance and overall health and includes breathing exercises.


In today’s Research News article “A randomized controlled study on assessment of health status, depression, and anxiety in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease following yoga training.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:;year=2016;volume=9;issue=2;spage=137;epage=144;aulast=Ranjita

Ranjita and colleagues recruited adult non-smoking coal miners who had been diagnosed with COPD. They were randomly assigned to a yoga practice or a wait-list control condition. yoga training consisted of a set of integrated yoga practices adapted for COPD. Yoga was practiced for 90 min daily, 6 days/week for 12 weeks. The control group simply continued conventional therapy. The miners were assessed before and after the 12-weeks of treatment for COPD effects on health and well-being, depression, and anxiety. They found that yoga practice, compared to the wait-list control condition, had a significant, 23%, improvement in overall health, 26% reduction in depression, and a 16% reduction in anxiety. These are impressive findings and suggest that yoga practice is an effective means to improve the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).


There are a number of ways that yoga practice may improve COPD symptoms. Firstly, it is a mild exercise involving breathing exercises that may directly assist lung function. Secondly, yoga practice is known to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress, making the miners less reactive to their stressful disease. Thirdly, yoga practice has been shown to generally improve emotion regulation and reduce depression and anxiety. And finally, by promotion of present moment awareness, yoga practice may reduce the worry and catastrophizing that is characteristic of sufferers from chronic diseases. It remains for future research to pinpoint the mechanism(s) for the effectiveness of yoga practice in treating the symptoms of COPD.


Regardless, improve COPD with yoga.


“We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD” – Randeep Guleria


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Ranjita R, Badhai S, Hankey A, Nagendra HR. A randomized controlled study on assessment of health status, depression, and anxiety in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease following yoga training. Int J Yoga 2016;9:137-44


Context: Psychological comorbidities are prevalent in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and contribute to the severity of the disease reducing their health status. Yoga has been shown to alleviate depression and anxiety associated with other chronic diseases but in COPD not been fully investigated.
Aim: This study aimed to evaluate the role of yoga on health status, depression, and anxiety in coal miners with COPD.
Materials and Methods: This was a randomized trial with two study arms (yoga and control), which enrolled 81 coal miners, ranging from 36 to 60 years with stage II and III stable COPD. Both groups were either on conventional treatment or combination of conventional care with yoga program for 12 weeks.
Results: Data were collected through standardized questionnaires; COPD Assessment Test, Beck Depression Inventory and State and Trait Anxiety Inventory at the beginning and the end of the intervention. The yoga group showed statistically significant (P < 0.001) improvements on all scales within the group, all significantly different (P < 0.001) from changes observed in the controls. No significant prepost changes were observed in the control group (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: Yoga program led to greater improvement in physical and mental health status than did conventional care. Yoga seems to be a safe, feasible, and effective treatment for patients with COPD. There is a need to conduct more comprehensive, high-quality, evidence-based studies to shed light on the current understanding of the efficacy of yoga in these chronic conditions and identify unanswered questions.;year=2016;volume=9;issue=2;spage=137;epage=144;aulast=Ranjita

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