Wednesday, May 27, 2009

STUDY SUMMARY: Yoga Decreases Breathing Distress and Improves Functional Performance in People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Source: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(3): 225-234. March 2009.
Authors: Donesky-Cuenco D, Nguyen HQ, Paul S, & Carrieri-Kohlman V.
Contact: DorAnne Donesky-Cuenco, Department of Physiological Nursing, School of Nursing, Box 0610, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0610, or Virginia Carrieri-Kohlman at

This pilot study examined the safety, feasibility, and benefits of a yoga practice in older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 21 women and 8 men (mean age of 69.9 ± 9.5 years) were randomly assigned to either a standard care control group or a yoga therapy intervention. The yoga group participated in a 12-week, twice-weekly yoga program designed specifically for individuals with COPD. The practice included 9 basic asanas and visama vritti pranayama (timed breathing).

To examine the safety of the yoga practice, researchers measured heart rate, oxygen saturation, dyspnea, and pain during the practice. To examine feasibility, researchers recorded participant adherence and asked participants how much they enjoyed the practice and how difficult they found it. To test the benefits of yoga, researchers measured breathing pain and distress before and after the 12-week program, as well as other measures of health, including exercise performance and health-related quality of life.

The yoga practice was both safe and feasible for the participants, providing more evidence that a well-planned yoga intervention is appropriate for individuals with COPD. Compared to the standard-care control group, participants in the yoga group showed a significant reduction in breathing distress. The yoga group also showed improved physical strength and walking speed in a timed exercise test, as well as higher self-reported of life.

This study is limited by its size, and should be interpreted as providing encouraging but modest evidence for the idea that yoga benefits individuals with COPD. However, the number of these small-scale studies is increasing, and being reported by diverse research groups, as illustrated by the two studies reported here.

This research summary was orginally prepared for the International Association of Yoga Therapists. IAYT is a professional organization for yoga therapists, yoga teachers, researchers, and healthcare professionals who use yoga in their practice.