Improve Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


 “practicing yoga is one of the best things you can do for the health of your lungs. Yoga will strengthen the muscles of your chest, increase your lung capacity and boost oxygen intake.” – Tania Tarafdar


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 and the number of people dying from COPD is growing. 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. But, COPD also occurs with miners and is called black lung disease. COPD is not contagious. Most of the time, treatment can ease symptoms and slow progression.


There is no cure for COPD. 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. Indeed, it has been shown that yoga practice improves the mental and physical health of patients with COPD.


In today’s Research News article “Yoga-based pulmonary rehabilitation for the management of dyspnea in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A randomized controlled trial.” See:

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Ranjita and colleagues studied the effectiveness of yoga practice on Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) by recruiting non-smoking male coal miners with COPD and randomly assigned them to a treatment as usual group or a yoga practice group. Yoga was practiced in 90-minute session, 6 days per week for 12 weeks. Before and after training the participants were measured for exercise tolerance with a walking test, breathing difficulty, blood oxygen levels, pulse rate, and fatigue.


They found that the miners who participated in the yoga practice had a significant (24.4%) improvement in breathing, a 25.9% decrease in fatigue, a 19.9% increase in the walking test distance covered, a 1.3% increase in blood oxygen levels, and a 4.3% decrease in resting pulse rate. Hence, yoga practice significantly improved the miners’ lung function, energy level, and physical fitness.


These are excellent results and suggest that yoga practice may be a very useful additional treatment for Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). Previous research has shown that yoga practice improved overall health, depression, anxiety in COPD sufferers. Since, yoga practice is a gentle exercise that includes breathing exercises, it seems reasonable that it would have these beneficial effects for COPD sufferers. It would be useful if future research compared yoga practice to other forms of exercise as treatments for COPD. The yoga practice used in this study was exceptionally intensive. Many patients would not be willing to engage in such an intense practice. Future research should also look at whether less intensive yoga practice might be beneficial.


So, improve chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) with yoga.


“A comprehensive yoga program can have a salutary effect on general health and respiratory health and thereby help increase a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living. COPD is known to increase the level of stress, emotional vulnerability, inactivity and muscle wasting. Yoga techniques are particularly suited for promoting relaxation, psycho-emotional stability and exercise tolerance.” – Vijai Sharma


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Ranjita, R., Hankey, A., Nagendra, H. R., & Mohanty, S. (2016). Yoga-based pulmonary rehabilitation for the management of dyspnea in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 7(3), 158–166.



Background: Coal mine dust exposure causes chronic airflow limitation in coal miners resulting in dyspnea, fatigue, and eventually chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Yoga can alleviate dyspnea in COPD by improving ventilatory mechanics, reducing central neural drive, and partially restoring neuromechanical coupling of the respiratory system.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of Integrated Approach of Yoga Therapy (IAYT) in the management of dyspnea and fatigue in coal miners with COPD.

Materials and methods: Randomized, waitlist controlled, single-blind clinical trial. Eighty-one coal miners (36–60 years) with stable Stages II and III COPD were recruited. The yoga group received an IAYT module for COPD that included asanas, loosening exercises, breathing practices, pranayama, cyclic meditation, yogic counseling and lectures 90 min/day, 6 days/week for 12 weeks. Measurements of dyspnea and fatigue on the Borg scale, exercise capacity by the 6 min walk test, peripheral capillary oxygen saturation (SpO2%), and pulse rate (PR) using pulse oximetry were made before and after the intervention.

Results: Statistically significant within group reductions in dyspnea (P < 0.001), fatigue (P < 0.001) scores, PR (P < 0.001), and significant improvements in SpO2% (P < 0.001) and 6 min walk distance (P < 0.001) were observed in the yoga group; all except the last were significant compared to controls (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Findings indicate that IAYT benefits coal miners with COPD, reducing dyspnea; fatigue and PR, and improving functional performance and peripheral capillary SpO2%. Yoga can now be included as an adjunct to conventional therapy for pulmonary rehabilitation programs for COPD patients.


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