What is yoga?
An ancient Indian form of exercise, yoga focuses on building breathing control, muscle strength and flexibility.
Typically, a yoga session will involve:
- Some gentle stretching of the body to warm up
- Breathing exercises to help coordinate your movement to your breath
- A sequence of poses, movements or stretches, sometimes repeating the same sequence a few times
- A few minutes at the end to cool down, relax and meditate, usually lying on the floor
How can yoga help pulmonary fibrosis?
There is growing evidence that yoga can help relieve the symptoms of short-and long-term health conditions, including lung diseases like PF. This includes:
- Overall quality of life: studies show that yoga can improve the lives of people with lung diseases, for example by helping them to manage their breathing and fatigue
- Mental health: research has found that yoga can be used to help people with stress, anxiety and depression. Exercise like yoga encourages the body to produce endorphins, which allow you to relax and better control your breathing
- Physical health: yoga is a safe way to improve your levels of physical activity, strength and flexibility
- Breathing control: According to recent studies, controlled breathing in yoga not only helps ease anxiety and relax the body, but also improves air circulation, opens blocked airways and gets more oxygen to the bloodstream. This has already been shown to help certain lung diseases
Different types of yoga
There are many different styles of yoga, each giving more or less focus to breathing, relaxation, strength and flexibility. Here are some of the most popular styles of yoga:
- Pranyama yoga, commonly known as breathing yoga, is the style most recommended for those with pulmonary fibrosis and other lung diseases. It focuses heavily on breathing control, which is the practice of breathing gently, using the least effort
- Hathayoga focuses on breath, meditation and basic movements to help with breathing and relaxation
- Vinyasayoga focuses on synchronising movement and breathing. It is sometimes also called vinyasa flow yoga
- Ashtangayoga is a faster, more demanding style, designed to improve strength and flexibility
Make sure you do your own research and speak to your yoga teacher and/or treatment team about which is the best fit for you.
Booking a class at a local gym, health club or yoga centre
- All reputable venues will have certified yoga instructors. They will ask new joiners to complete a health check form and/or tell them about any pre-existing health conditions
- Your teacher should be able to advise you on which class and yoga style is best for you. A lot of classes will also have different levels, for example beginner and advanced
- Your teacher should reassure you that you do not need to push yourself, in fact quite the opposite; yoga is about being present and in-tune with your body, letting go of any judgment or comparison
- It may feel uncomfortable the first time you are in a class with others, but a good teacher will work with you to overcome those feelings so that you can be at ease and make the most of the session
Signing up for online yoga classes
- Online yoga classes are a good option if you are unable to go out for health-related or practical reasons, or if going to a class in-person makes you too anxious
- Most online yoga classes are recorded, which can help with any anxiety you feel about missing or not getting the hang of some movements or positions. This allows you to replay parts of the class and practise them at your own pace
- You should still speak to the teacher about the most appropriate online class to take before signing up, just like you would with an in-person one
Booking a yoga class through your health practice
- Some hospitals and treatment teams will help people with pulmonary fibrosis and other long-term diseases to arrange a yoga class
- Speak to your treatment team to find out what is available in your area
Four things to ask when choosing a yoga class
Once you’ve tried a yoga class or attended a few, use the following questions to help decide whether it is right for you:
- Is the class challenging me enough, without being too much?
- Do I feel as though the teacher is listening to me and giving me the support I need?
- Do I feel safe, calm and able to relax in the class?
- Do I want to go back? (If not, why? Is there another class that might be better?)