Yoga and COPD July 2, 2012

Chances are that you know at least one person that suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Decease (COPD).  Roughly 12 million Americans suffer from COPD.  COPD, either through chronic bronchitis or emphysema, impacts a person’s ability to breath.   This of course can have a profound impact on the quality of someone’s life.

I know because my mother has COPD.  Back in the 1980’s she quit smoking cold turkey.  Unfortunately, nearly 25 years later, she was diagnosed with COPD.  Based on my observations of her battle with COPD over the last 7 years, living with COPD is complicated and can result in a dangerous downward spiral of health.  Difficulty breathing and ongoing bouts with bronchitis limits your ability to exercise which often results in weight gain which further exasperates the issues with breathing.  You can see how COPD can impact both your quality of life and independence.  The true danger in this is the feeling of losing control of your health that then leads to loss of hope.  While this is not a disease that is limited to seniors, COPD is especially tough on seniors, because it can multiply the impacts of our natural reduction of physical ability that comes with age.

What does this have to do with yoga you might ask?  One of the challenges for people with COPD is finding a way to stay physically active or regain the ability to be physically active.  Exercise to build or maintain lung capacity as well as to maintain a healthy weight is very important in limiting the impact of COPD on those that have it and to maximize quality of life.  The first images that pop into your mind of people doing yoga may lead you to believe that yoga is not the answer, but actually yoga is an excellent option for people of all ages and physical conditions that suffer from COPD including seniors.

Why is yoga a great option for those that suffer from COPD?

  1. Yoga is all about breathing – The power of breath and breathing is a core principle in yoga.  In the treatment of COPD patients are taught how to breathe correctly.  Yoga teaches you to control and use your breath as well as helps build lung capacity.
  1. Yoga is all about movement – Yoga teaches you to couple breathing and movement.  Since movement equals exercise, it is a great way to build your physical capabilities.  It makes a great addition to your current exercise program and is the perfect way to get started again if you have not been exercising.
  1. Yoga is all about meeting yourself where you are – Many think yoga is only for the young and already fit.  Yoga, more than any other form of exercise, has the ability to meet you where you are no matter your physical capability or age.  You can start in Chair Yoga and build from there.  I would argue that yoga is the best single physical activity people with COPD can undertake.
  1. Yoga at YouYoga is all about community – When you are trying to overcome any challenge, it is always better to have support doing so.  At YouYoga we have built a community of likeminded people studying yoga for many reasons, but all wanting to do so in an inviting, safe, non-judgmental, supportive environment.

If you suffer from COPD or know someone who does, I encourage you to consider yoga as a way to minimize its impacts, improve your quality of life and to preserve your independence.