Life & Yoga with Asthma & Allergies

By: Melissa Zegley, E-RYT-200, RYT-500, YACEP, WYF-500, Reiki Master, 500-CMT, Grand Master Meditation

Life & Yoga with Asthma & Allergies

 Yoga for Asthma

May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month! Since age two, I have lived with severe persistent asthma and allergies, including food allergies. It has become a lifestyle for me and I incorporate yoga to maintain my physical health, mental health and overall well-being. My practice includes all eight limbs, including asana practice, meditation and pranayama.


One of my pulmonologists got me started with deep breathing, meditation and simple asana practice and my love of yoga grew from there. At an early age, I learned that being able to control my breath was an important part of living with my condition. Even in the midst of a severe asthma attack, being able to help control the breath could keep me calm. Controlling my breath helped to control my reaction to what I was going through. I can remember my mother sitting next to me reminding me to “breathe slow.” Two simple words, but they were meditative to me.


There are many aspects of yoga that can help with asthma and allergies symptoms and I’ll be discussing some of those today. There are many asana or yoga poses that are beneficial for asthma and allergy.  Please discuss with your doctor before begin yoga practice or any physical practice. Some of my favorites include:


·      Supported Savasana or Corpse Pose-place a bolster under mid-upper back and head to elevate the upper body and open the chest.

·      Baddha Konasana or Cobbler’s Pose-keep upper body upright and focus on opening the chest and hips.

·      Upavistha Konasana or Seated Wide Legged Pose-stay upright and focus on opening the chest.

·      Adho Mukha Shvanasana or Downward Facing Dog-with bolster or blanket under head for support.

·      Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall- with your hips on a bolster to open the chest.

·      Bitilasana Marjaryasana-Cat Cow Pose-stay upright and focus on opening the chest.

·      Setu Bandha Sarvangasana-Bridge Pose-with bolster or block under sacrum for support. Focus on opening the chest and breathe.


These are only a few of the many asana that can help improve the symptoms of asthma and allergies. To learn more about yoga and teaching yoga, see our Yoga Teacher Training options.


Pranayama or breath work is a valuable tool for living with asthma and allergies. It can be beneficial for maintenance as well as for dealing with an exacerbation. Please discuss with your doctor before practicing any pranayama and start slowly.

One of the most common, and safest, pranayama for asthma and allergy is Dirgha Pranayama or Three Part Breath. It is called three-part breath because while practicing this pranayama, you are actively breathing into three parts of your abdomen. Dirgha pranayama is all about filling the lungs to capacity, taking in as much air as possible. In Dirgha pranayama, we want to use the entire respiratory system and we focus on pulling air into the belly, lower chest and upper chest.

You can place your hands on your belly and chest while performing this breath so that you can feel the rise and fall of each part. On the inhalation, breathe into your belly first, then your lower chest, then the upper chest/lower throat. On the exhalation, allow the air to leave your upper chest/lower throat, then the lower chest, and finally the belly making sure to empty all of the air from your lungs. Then return to your normal breath for a breath or two before the next three-part breath.


Before performing more complex pranayama techniques, training is recommended to insure you are doing them correctly. It is very helpful to find a local yoga teacher who is able to instruct you. Yoga Teachers interested in learning more about pranayama can see our Pranayama Teacher Training.


Mindfulness and/or meditation is another excellent way to manage asthma, allergies and the anxiety that can come with them. One of my favorite mindfulness practices is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This technique draws in all of our senses and grounds us in the present moment. It isolates each of our senses through observation. To practice this technique, take a moment and focus on your breath. This allows you to settle in. Then look for five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Repeat as often as you need until you are feeling calmer. This practice can be done anywhere and at any time.


A meditation practice that I love for keeping myself breathing well and calmly is to use my breath as a focal point. This method simply involves breathing and anchoring yourself to that breath. This practice can also be done anywhere and at any time. Begin by focusing on your normal breath. Follow the inhale of your breath into your body and the exhale of your breath out of your body. Then, if able, allow your breath to deepen continuing to follow your inhale and exhale. To keep your focus on your breath you can repeat (out loud or in your mind) “I am breathing in” on your inhale and “I am breathing out” on your exhale. Continue to breathe and anchor to that breath for as long as you need to.


To learn more about meditation and mindfulness, see our courses here.


These are only a few of the yoga practices that can help manage life with asthma and allergies. They are a good starting point to explore what yoga has to offer to help you manage. Living the eight-limb path has helped me to manage both day to day life and symptoms of more severe exacerbation. Remember to discuss any new practices with your physician. Always be kind to yourself and show yourself grace. Living with asthma and allergies is hard but you are doing it! Take a moment to acknowledge the strength that takes.