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Therapeutic Value of Yoga Breathing

Therapeutic Value of Yoga Breathing

Among the large number of patients treated for respiratory troubles by the author, both in India and America, through the yoga methods of breathing combined largely with such rational therapeutic measures as the sun, air and steam baths, massage, hydrotherapy and diet etc. The following case reports may prove interesting in evaluating the curative effects of yoga breathing or Pranayama.

Mr. Lewis B. Mc Sorely of Philadelphia he was and is the Chief Chemist of the Government (U.S. A; Laboratory at Philadelphia age about 35, case No. Am. 2006 was found suffering from asthma for the past number of years. When admitted as an inpatient, he had very little hope of recovery because the disease had advanced so far that its malignant and violent character had taken absolute possession of him and reduced him to a mere skeleton. The spasmodic attacks, especially after the sunset, were so severe that it practically became impossible for him even to breathe - accompanied, of course, by a convulsive state of the muscular fibers in the smaller bronchial tubes. Sleeping on the back or, for that matter, in any lying-down position was found impossible; and the patient had to rest throughout the night in a sitting position leaning against a chair. The sleep he thus gained was of a very short duration, i.e., only for about two hours, between 1 a.m. to 3 A.m. after which he was usually awakened by a severe attack continuing at times for over a period of an hour or so. During nights, he had recourse only to self-administered hypodermic injections and these were followed in succession, i.e., ranging from two to four injections in eight hours each night. In such a state of health, having failed to secure relief through the usual methods of treatment and drugs known to modern science, he subjected himself to the yoga treatment.

Needless, to enter into the details of actual treatment which, of course, included corrective and therapeutic breathing methods known to Yoga - suffice it to mention here that, in the course of a week, the patient was able to use his bed instead of a chair for sleeping which he did not have the good fortune to do for the past three years, and enjoyed undisturbed rest of two to three hours. After this, he improved very rapidly under the yoga regimen and was allowed to return home after three weeks. He: religiously kept to the treatment methods taught to him and regained his normal health in the course of six more months. He observed after three years of steady improvement, in a personal letter to the author, dated September 8th 1925, that:

"It is good to be able to tell you that I have had no trouble with asthma of late. In my case it seems essential to build up my general health and strength. It is noticeable that when I rest a great deal and take things easy I have no trouble. I still keep up the yoga exercises every morning, and believe they are most helpful; also, I rarely, if ever, eat meat; have no taste for it any more.

Master M.A.I.R. of Bombay, age 8, case no. Bom.759 was operated two years ago for adenoiditi and tonsillitis. After operation, the throat became septic resulting in low grade septic fever lasting forever three months. Soon on recovery, he was attacked with whooping cough which continued to linger for over a year. Grand-son of a rich knight, no treatment was spared howsoever expensive but to no avail. Finally he was recommended to undergo treatment at the Institute, and, when admitted on the 10th February 1941, was found suffering from whooping cough with intermittent fits of sneezing and paroxysms. Wheezing in the lungs was extremely prominent. During attacks at night lasting for hours, he suffered terribly from the usual feeling of suffocation with the face becoming cyanosed. Due to this malady, sleep was disturbed and, being chronic, it wore him down and kept him listless, lie was accepted as an outpatient purely as a trial case. After two months of treatment, violent and frequent sneezing stopped. Lungs were normal free from any trace of wheezing. Sleep sound and undisturbed. Spasmodic paroxysms were completely absent. Breathing capacity recorded a rise of nearly 83 1/2 % (600cc/ 1100 cc) with corresponding increase in vitality by 25 %( 56/75 E. Lbs. Grip.)

Mr. M.A.R. of Bombay, age 17, case No. Src.862 was found suffering from asthma. He gave up his studies in U.K. and all treatment methods in Europe and India proved ineffective, and Semi - invalidism continued. The hilar regions were found heavy radiating upwards and downwards, giving an appearance consistent with bronchial asthma. The heart was found rather narrow. Sheer desperation and faith brought the patient to the Institute on the 5th December 1949 where he remained as an inpatient for three months. During the period his respiratory capacity improved from2000cc to 3750cc, his blood pressure from 100s 70dto 110s 64d, and the endurance test from 168 210 E.Lbs. He was discharged in good health completely cured. X-ray after the treatment showed normal heart and lungs, and when last examined after seven years, he was found to be in perfect health.


Writing about the treatment of asthma in the Practitioner, May 1935, Dr. J. L. Livingstone makes many important observations regarding the value of right breathing exercises tor asthmatics. Hesitates, "The value of breathing exercises is not sufficiently appreciated in the treatment of asthma. It is an extremely valuable for a of therapy, and inapplicable to most cases. It is something the patient feels he can do for himself, and if he has sufficient perseverance and energy to acquire necessary control of the respiratory muscles, it is no exaggeration to say that fifty per cent will be symptom-free and a further thirty-live percent will be very much improved.

"The aims of remedial Pranayama breathing exercise are:

  • To acquire automatic diaphragm breathing at the expense of the thoracic type of breathing ;
  • To concentrate on expiration rather than inspiration, especially on the on set of an attack ;
  • To increase the mobility of the chest wall and to relax the accessory muscles of respiration ;and (d) to correct the kyphosis and other deformities commonly found in the chronic asthmatic.

It may be mentioned here that the Asthma Research Council of Great Britain have only of late be thought of recommending certain breathing exercises meeting the above requirements. It is also computed by the Council that unless the patient can acquire a chest expansion of at least "at the fourth rib and 2" at the epigastrium, he should be treated as having not acquired the technique, and will, therefore, not be much improved. An interesting feature of their finding, however, is that a number of patients report that they are able to abort an attack by doing the simple expiratory exercises at the on-set of wheezing.

For over decades, a large number of patient suffering from asthma have been most successfully treated at the Institute through yoga therapeutics. Remarkable case reports of asthma with narrow heart, myocardosis, fibrotic lungs, emphysema, and similar complications have already been recorded and published by us along with radiograms.

Not less than about a hundred cases have recently passed through our observation and the results, irrespective of age, sex and duration of suffering have been in the main all that could be desired.

That of all the breathing exercises known, the Yoga methods of breathing are undoubtedly superior in many respects is a fact which has been scientifically established and demonstrated by the author long before. For the laymen, such exercises have been fully described in other publications of the Institute, and the methods so illustrated is could be safely followed both by the lay students as well as those suffering from respiratory and other troubles.


Great care has to be taken to avoid any possible strain or tendency to suffocation by overdoing any particular breathing movement, as the respiratory organs are very susceptible to local injury. During all exercises, moreover, the mind should be kept steady by efforts at concentration on any part of the body, or an object to insure better results. The table hereunder is merely a guide of sequence, period and frequency most suited to the initial study of yoga breathing exercises.

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