Yoga-derived breathing has been reported to improve gas exchange in patients with chronic heart failure and in participants exposed to high-altitude hypoxia. We investigated the tolerability and effect of yoga breathing on ventilatory pattern and oxygenation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Patients with COPD (N = 11, 3 women) without previous yoga practice and taking only short-acting β2-adrenergic blocking drugs were enrolled. Ventilatory pattern and oxygen saturation were monitored by means of inductive plethysmography during 30-minute spontaneous breathing at rest (sb) and during a 30-minute yoga lesson (y). During the yoga lesson, the patients were requested to mobilize in sequence the diaphragm, lower chest, and upper chest adopting a slower and deeper breathing. We evaluated oxygen saturation (SaO2%), tidal volume (VT), minute ventilation (E), respiratory rate (i>f), inspiratory time, total breath time, fractional inspiratory time, an index of thoracoabdominal coordination, and an index of rapid shallow breathing. Changes in dyspnea during the yoga lesson were assessed with the Borg scale.
During the yoga lesson, data showed the adoption of a deeper and slower breathing pattern (VTsb L 0.54[0.04], VTy L 0.74[0.08], P = .01; i>fsb 20.8[1.3], i>fy 13.8[0.2], P = .001) and a significant improvement in SaO2% with no change in E (SaO2%sb 91.5%[1.13], SaO2%y 93.5%[0.99], P = .02; Esb L/min 11.2[1.1], Ey L/min 10.2[0.9]). All the participants reported to be comfortable during the yoga lesson, with no increase in dyspnea index.
We conclude that short-term training in yoga is well tolerated and induces favorable respiratory changes in patients with COPD.