Exercise Your Lungs
To breathe is to live. Nothing is more important than the ability to breathe easily and fully. The lung disease Idiopathic Pumonary Fibrosis (IPF) hinders that ability. To improve your quality of life, to keep doing the activities you love, it is critical you maintain and build up the strength and endurance of your lungs.
Medicines alone are not enough. Your lungs must be exercised in the same way you exercise other muscles in your body.
Having IPF means you probably will have to work harder than the average person to get your lungs in shape. In a way, it’s like running up a hill with a bag of stones on your back, which is challenging but not impossible. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you run out of breath to quickly, or are having difficulty taking a deep, full breath.
We’ve collected a range of targeted breathing exercises to help you build up your strength and endurance. With daily practice, may your breath flow more easily and freely.
Breathing exercises can improve your lung capacity and increase oxygen levels. They can also help you calm down and relieve anxiety. You will want to check with your doctor before you start a breathing program to ensure you are up to it. The following are exercises and challenges that will help you on your journey to better breathing:
Pursed-lip breathing involves breathing in through your nostrils and exhaling with your lips pursed like in a whistling position. National Jewish Health offers a video showing you how to do it.
The forced coughing technique is best done sitting in a chair with a straight back and feet on the floor. Begin by breathing in as deeply as possible and expanding your diaphragm. Hold the breath for a count of three. Then open your mouth and cough hard twice. Any mucus that comes up should be discarded into a tissue. Repeat the technique until you feel you have removed all of the excess mucus from your airways.
The huff cough technique is best performed sitting down with a straight back and feet on the floor. Take several gentle but deep breaths. Now, place one hand on your stomach, and breathe in like you normally would, but do so while tightening the muscles in your chest and stomach. Then, exhale strongly with an open mouth while saying the word “huff.”
The belly breathing technique can be done either sitting or lying down with your knees up. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose until you feel your lungs fully inflate. Exhale out of your mouth. With each breath, ensure your stomach rises on the inhale and falls on the exhale.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY)
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a cyclical controlled breathing practice with roots in traditional yoga, and is taught by the nonprofit Art of Living Foundation. It has four distinct parts, which can be explored in more detail via an article in the National Institute of Health’s library of medicine, and learned from the Art of Living Foundation directly:
- Ujjayi (“Victorious Breath”) – slow, prolonged breathing of 2-4 breaths per minute;
- Bhastrika (“Bellows Breath”) – rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation of 30 breaths per minute;
- Om – chanted 3 times with every prolonged exhalation;
- Sudarshan Kriya – rhythmic, cyclical breathing with slow, medium and fast cycles.
View more information on research on how the practice can improve organ function, reduce anxiety, pain, and depression, and enhance mood and self-esteem: https://www.artofliving.org/us-en/research-sudarshan-kriya