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Effect of pranayama on pulmonary functions and heart rate variability in patients with mild-to-moderate persistent bronchial asthma

Debdeep Saha, Dhanalakshmi Yerrabelli, Pravati Pal, Manju R, Jothi Marie Feula, Karthika Priyadarshini U, Nagalakshmi Tallam.


Background: The global burden of bronchial asthma is on the rise. Asthma is a disorder of airflow obstruction associated with deranged pulmonary functions and autonomic imbalance. Though past studies have shown the beneficial effects of various asanas and breathing exercises in bronchial asthma, the role of such non-pharmacological alternative modalities in reducing morbidity and financial burden in patients is far from clear.

Aims and Objectives: To assess the effect of Pranayama techniques on pulmonary functions and heart rate variability parameters in bronchial asthma patients.

Materials and Methods: In our present study, we have recruited patients with mild-to-moderate bronchial asthma after taking written and informed consent. These patients were then asked to perform three pranayama techniques, namely Suryanadi, Bhastrika, and Kapalabhati pranayama, for 30 min a day, 3 days a week, for up to 4 weeks. Pulmonary function test parameters (forced vital capacity [FVC], forced expiratory volume in 1st s [FEV1], FEV1/FVC, peak expiratory flow rate) and Autonomic function test parameters (Time domain: mean HR, mean RR, NN50, pNN50, SDNN; Frequency domain: very low frequency (LF), LF, LF/high frequency (HF) ratio, total power) were compared before and after the intervention using a paired t-test.

Results: After the intervention, improvements were recorded in pulmonary functions. Furthermore, pranayama was found to cause a shift in the sympathovagal balance toward the parasympathetic system. However, the changes recorded were not statistically significant. This shows further research in this field is required with a larger sample size, which may yield statistically significant data.

Conclusion: Thus, we conclude that pranayama can be a useful alternative therapy for reducing morbidity and mortality in bronchial asthma patients.

Key words: Bronchial Asthma; Pulmonary Function Tests; Autonomic Function Tests; Pranayama

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