Innovation: Yoga to relieve asthma-related problems

Owen Nyaka, CNS Correspondent, Malawi
Yoga has gained global popularity as a form of exercise with general life-style benefits, and recent studies have investigated the potential of yoga to relieve asthma-related problems. A global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health (Cochrane) recently published a systematic review on the benefits of Yoga for asthma patients. The authors reviewed 15 randomised controlled studies, which involved 1,048 men and women with asthma.

A new Cochrane Review, published on Wednesday April 27, 2016 says that yoga may have a beneficial effect on symptoms and quality of life in people with asthma, but effects on lung function and medication use are uncertain because the results varied. Most of the studies were conducted in India, followed by Europe and the United States. The majority of participants had mild to moderate asthma for 6 months to more than 23 years. Six studies looked into the effects of breathing alone during yoga exercise, whilst the other studies assessed the effects of yoga that included breathing, posture and mediation. The results of five studies indicate evidence that practicing yoga might be able to improve asthma patients’ quality of life and symptoms to some extent. However, researchers warned that higher-quality studies with more participants would be needed to draw any firm conclusion about the effects of yoga. The effects of yoga on medication use and any side-effects of yoga are also uncertain, because only a few very small studies reported these outcomes.

A-lead author, Dr. Zuyao Yang from the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong commented in a press release, “Our findings suggest that yoga exercise may lead to small improvements in asthma quality of life and symptoms. However, it is unclear whether yoga has a consistent impact on lung function and we don’t yet know if yoga can reduce people’s medication usage, or if there are any side-effects of yoga for people with asthma.” Deputy Co-ordinating Editor of the Cochrane Airways Group, Rebecca Normansell said in a statement, “At present, we just don’t have enough high quality evidence to determine the effects of yoga as a type of exercise for helping people manage their asthma.

“Because there is uncertainty about the effects of yoga on lung function and use of asthma medication, it’s important that people with asthma continue to take their medication, as prescribed. The findings of this Cochrane Review will help people make more informed choices about their future treatment options.” Asthma is a common chronic disease affecting about 300 million people worldwide. The many typical symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Reacting to the news, Dolesi Nankwenya, a 48-year old woman from the peri-urban slum of Mtandile in the outskirts of capital Lilongwe in Malawi found it very encouraging to note that a cross section of people are putting much effort to protect people with asthma. “It is my hope that sooner or later, a solution to treat asthma shall be found. If yoga can be approved am sure there shall also be ways for universal access to everyone-the less privileged, middle income and well to do people,” says Nankwenya.

Owen Nyaka, Citizen News Service - CNS
May 11, 2016