On 1 May 2012 it is World Asthma Day.
Asthma (sometimes called bronchial asthma) is characterised by difficulty breathing. Its symptoms, which include coughing, wheezing and chest tightness, are common when sufferers experience an “asthma attack”, but with proper treatment asthmatics (of whom there are more than five million in the UK) can live well. There is no cure for asthma, but there are ways to control the symptoms.
Whether your asthma is allergic, exercise-induced, cough variant, occupational or nocturnal, the trigger is nearly always related to stress and anxiety.
During an asthma attack, muscle fibres in the walls of the bronchi and in the bronchioles within the lungs go into spasm. The contraction of these muscles causes narrowing of the bronchial tubes– giving the disturbing feeling of tightness and the inability to breathe without wheezing.
Research has shown that muscular relaxation alone appears to be ineffective in the treatment of asthma. However, mental relaxation techniques such as autogenic training and transcendental meditation seem to produce a clinically and statistically significant improvement of symptoms.
Autogenic Training doesn’t focus on any single breathing technique; indeed, focusing on breathing is only introduced during the fifth week. This means that the body is already prepared for this next stage and the only thing we have to do is to follow the natural rhythm of breathing. Typically, the breathing rate slows down and it becomes possible to move from thoracic to diaphragmatic breathing.
General tension and relaxation has an effect on each type of the muscles in the body – skeletal, visceral and cardiac – so practicing a 10-15 minute relaxation exercise helps to rewrite the programming of these tissues and cells. As ever, the trick with relaxation is to let it happen and allow your lungs to be filled with fresh air.