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Deep Breathing for Stress: Not for Asthmatics

Earlier this week the New York Times ran an article entitled “A Breathing Technique Offers Help For People With Asthma.” Since deep, diaphragmatic breathing exercises are one of my favorite, and easy, ways to help people release stress, I was very interested. I figured that, since diaphragmatic breathing was so effective at relaxing people, the technique the Times was reporting on would be some variation on that. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

According to the article, during an asthma attack most people breathe quickly and as deeply as they can, which may actually make the attack worse. Inhaling deeply and forcefully through the mouth can actually trigger a bronchospasm. The Buteyko breathing method featured in the article (developed in the ’50s by a Russian doctor) teaches people “to breathe shallowly and slowly through the nose, breaking the vicious cycle of rapid, gasping breaths, airway constriction and increased wheezing.”

So if you have asthma, don’t try the deep breathing I recommend. If you are interested in the Buteyko method, check out the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/health/03brod.html.

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