Recently, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) released an eBook about yoga. It included research about yoga’s health benefits for people of all ages. It also provided safety tips for people with chronic diseases, people with pain conditions, and people with various health conditions. 

If you have PF, you may be wondering whether any fitness activities are feasible. After all, with symptoms like breathlessness and fatigue being so common, it can be difficult to stay active – let alone accomplish day-to-day household tasks like making the bed. We’ve heard from many community members who used to play sports, for example, that it’s just not possible for them anymore. 

Does this sound like you or someone you know? If so, know that there is support available! 

In addition to these tips on exercising your lungs, we recommend speaking to your doctor about the best & safest ways to practice yoga. You can also gently explore the benefits by attending our weekly mindfulness meetup online. We meet every Thursday at 5pm Pacific Time / 8pm Eastern Standard Time on Zoom

As always, feel free to ask questions in our support group and to post in our community forum too.

Here is a summary of the questions and answers in the NCCIH’s yoga eBook that are most relevant to people with PF:

  • What is yoga? The NCCIH explains, “Yoga is an ancient and complex practice, rooted in Indian philosophy. It began as a spiritual practice but has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being.” There are many different ways to practice yoga, many of which incorporate physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditations. Yoga can be gentle, physically demanding, or anything in between. In our online class, we emphasize breathing, meditation, and gentle bodily movements meant for people with lung disease. 
  • What are the health benefits? Yoga has been shown to have a variety of potential health benefits. For instance, Dr. Seppälä’s published research on yoga-based breathing has shown enhanced immune function, increased lung function, decreased pain, decreased inflammation, increased positive emotion, and decreased depression and anxiety. By reducing stress and leading to regular health-focused habits, practicing yoga can improve overall wellness, balance, quality of life, and even nutrition. It can also lead to improved sleep, which is very beneficial for people with PF. Furthermore, research has shown yoga can benefit mental and emotional health – another important aspect of fighting PF. 
  • Is yoga helpful for people with PF or other lung diseases? According to research cited by the NCCIH, yoga can help people with chronic disease to improve their overall quality of life while better managing their particular symptoms. Though studies on people with PF are limited, studies on people with a different lung disease called COPD showed that yoga improved patients’ lung function, quality of life, and capacity to walk and do other physical activities. Anecdotal evidence from PF NOW! community members, such as Galen’s advocacy story, affirm the potential and significance of yoga-based self care practices. 

Even though yoga is typically considered a safe way to be physically active, injuries such as sprains can still occur. The NCCIH reports that older adults should be particularly cautious, as “The rate of yoga-related injuries treated in emergency departments is higher in people age 65 and older than in younger adults.” To reduce the risk of injury, they provide the following advice:

  1. Find a qualified instructor who can guide you, supervise, and make modifications to poses if/as needed.
  2. Stay hydrated and avoid overheating.
  3. Avoid forceful breathing and extreme practices such as inversions (where you’re upside down temporarily).

Once again, please speak with your doctor or healthcare team before making changes to your treatment plan. Additionally, if you are attending a yoga class in person or online, practice advocating for yourself by 1) alerting the instructor of your needs and 2) ensuring they have the proper training to make the appropriate accommodations. 

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