This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


5 Effective Breathing Exercises for Severe Asthma

We all tend to take the process of breathing for granted. Never do we pause to think twice about how we are breathing. However, this is not the case for people who have severe asthma. This medical condition narrows the airways in the lungs to a point where it becomes difficult to catch your breath. While medications like beta-agonists and corticosteroids can help open up the airways to enable you to breathe easier, but for people with severe asthma, even these medications might not be enough when the symptoms strike. If you have severe asthma and you are searching for something to supplement your medications and asthma treatment, you may want to consider trying certain breathing exercises. It wasn’t until recently that doctors started recommending breathing exercises for asthma, but this was only because there was a lack of evidence to show that they are effective in controlling the symptoms of severe asthma. However, new studies and data have shown that breathing exercises may help improve breathing in severe asthma and also the overall quality of life of Asthma patients. Here are some breathing exercises for severe asthma that may help improve your symptoms and also your quality of life.

Effective Breathing Exercises for Severe Asthma

Can Breathing Exercises Help in Asthma?

Breathing exercises can be helpful for the lungs. It has often been observed that the airways of people with asthma tend to become narrow and inflamed, which makes it difficult to breathe. Due to this, medications like inhalers are prescribed to help open up the airways and also improve breathing. New research, though, has suggested that in addition to medications, breathing exercises can be helpful for people with asthma. Breathing exercises can improve breathing and also their quality of life.(1, 2, 3)

There are many different types of breathing techniques that are known to be especially helpful for people with moderate to severe asthma. Some of these exercises help with breathing retraining. In contrast, other exercises help improve and strengthen the respiratory muscles, and yet some others work on improving the flexibility of the rib cage. (4, 5)

Based on the current evidence available, breathing exercises have been found to be valuable as an add-on therapy to ongoing asthma medication and any other conventional asthma treatments.

Breathing techniques for people with asthma are usually recommended by a doctor or your asthma clinic. However, before you go ahead and start practicing these breathing exercises, it is important that you get the exercises demonstrated by an expert to ensure you are doing them correctly.

5 Effective Breathing Exercises for Severe Asthma

Here are some breathing exercises for severe asthma. Some of these breathing techniques are known to be more effective than others at providing relief from asthma symptoms.

  1. Nasal Breathing

    Mouth breathing has been found to worsen the symptoms of severe asthma. One of the biggest benefits of breathing through the nose is that it adds humidity and warmth to the air you breathe in, which actually helps reduce the symptoms of asthma.(6)

    We all know that there are two ways to breathe – one is through your nose, and the second is through your mouth. Both of these lead to your throat, which then carries the oxygen into the lungs. However, there are many differences between nasal breathing and mouth breathing, and why mouth breathing is actually disadvantageous for people with asthma.(7)

    Some of the benefits of nasal breathing include:

    • It humidifies inhaled air: When you breathe through the nose, it is able to warm and moisturize the air you are breathing in. This helps to bring the air you have inhaled to body temperature, making it easier for the lungs to use.(8)
    • It helps filter out foreign particles: Nasal hair in the nose helps filter out allergens, dust, and pollen, which prevents them from entering the lungs.(9)
    • It produces nitric oxide: In nasal breathing, the nose releases nitric oxide (NO). This is a vasodilator, which means it helps widen the blood vessels which helps improve the circulation of oxygen in the body.(10)

    Breathing through the nose is especially beneficial because it lets your nasal cavities do the following:

    • Increase airflow to your veins, arteries, and nerves
    • Reduce exposure to foreign and potentially harmful substances
    • Warm and humidify inhaled air
    • Slow down your breathing
    • Increase the oxygen uptake and circulation
    • Improve your lung capacity
    • Strengthen the diaphragm
    • Reduce the risk of coughing
    • Reduce the risk of allergies and hay fever, which may worsen the symptoms of asthma
    • Reduce the risk of sleep apnea and snoring
    • Support the correct formation of teeth and mouth
    • Helps boost your immune system

    Here are the steps to practice nasal breathing (Pranayama):

    • Sit down comfortably and cross your legs.
    • Place your right hand on your right knee.
    • Raise your left hand and bring it close to your nose.
    • Breathe out completely, and use your left thumb and other fingers to close your left nostril.
    • Now breathe in through your right nostril, and close the right nostril using the right thumb and other fingers.
    • Now open the left nostril and let your breath out.
    • Take a deep breath through your left nostril and then close it again.
    • Open the right nostril and breathe out.
    • Keep repeating this cycle for five minutes, remembering to complete the breathing cycle by completing an exhale on the right side.
  2. Diaphragmatic Breathing

    The diaphragm is a muscle located just below the lungs. It helps you in breathing. When you practice diaphragmatic breathing, you learn how to breathe from the area around the diaphragm instead of breathing from your chest. The technique of diaphragmatic breathing helps strengthen the diaphragm, reduce the body’s oxygen needs, and also slows down your breathing, which is all required when you are having an asthma attack. (11, 12)

    Here are the steps to practice diaphragmatic breathing:

    • Lie down on your back and keep your knees bent.
    • Keep a pillow under your knees.
    • Or you can even sit up straight in a chair.
    • Place one hand flat on your upper chest and the other hand on your stomach.
    • Take a slow deep breath through your nose.
    • The hand kept on your stomach should move, but the hand on your chest should remain still.
    • Now breathe out slowly while keeping your lips pursed.

    You should keep practicing this breathing technique until you are able to breathe in and out without your chest moving. This will make you become well-versed with diaphragmatic breathing.

  3. Papworth Method

    The Papworth method of breathing has been in use since the 1960s. It combines many different types of breathing with relaxation exercises. The Papworth method trains you to breathe slowly and steadily from the diaphragm and through the nose. It also helps you learn to control stress so that it does not impact your breathing. Research has shown that the technique of Papworth breathing can help relieve breathing symptoms and also improve the quality of life in patients with asthma.(13) However, it is generally believed that the Papworth method is more effective for people with mild asthma caused by rapid and mouth breathing. People who have severe asthma may or may not find this method to be beneficial, especially if their asthma is triggered by colds and allergies.(14)

    Here are the steps to practice the Papworth method of breathing:

    • Sit down comfortably and slowly inhale through the nose.
    • Exhale through your pursed lips, similar to how you would if you were blowing out a candle.
    • It is important to remember that your exhalation should be twice as long as the inhalation.
    • Repeat this breathing cycle at least three to five times.
  4. Buteyko Breathing Technique

    The Buteyko breathing technique was developed in 1956 by Dr. Konstantin Buteyko. Dr. Buteyko observed that both healthy and unhealthy people have different types of breathing patterns. He noticed that less unhealthy people were breathing with their mouths open and also had a higher respiration rate. On the other hand, those who were healthy had a regular, quiet, and effortless breathing pattern even when they were at rest. They were able to breathe through the nose, and their breathing was driven by the diaphragm. Dr. Buteyko created a breathing technique that focused on controlling the rate of inhalation and exhalation in order to teach people how to better manage their breathing patterns. The focus of his breathing technique was to take in less air into the lungs.(15, 16, 17)

    The Buteyko breathing technique is a therapeutic breathing method that makes use of certain breath retention or breath controlling exercises to control the volume and speed of your breathing. This technique helps you learn how to breathe more calmly, slowly, and also effectively.

    The biggest benefit of practicing the Buteyko breathing technique is that it helps regulate your breathing. Buteyko breathing is especially beneficial for those people who breathe too much or tend to hyperventilate, which has been observed in people who have anxiety and asthma.

    The Buteyko breathing technique is frequently used for the treatment and management of asthma as it helps prevent over-breathing, a phenomenon often found to trigger the condition.(18) There are many older studies that show the effectiveness of the Buteyko breathing technique in improving the symptoms of asthma. For example, a small study from 2000 found that people who regularly practiced Buteyko breathing exercises also improved their overall quality of life and also lowered their need for bronchodilator intake more than the group of participants who only watched a video on the Buteyko technique but did not practice the exercises.(19)

    Here are the steps to practice the Buteyko breathing technique:

    • Sit down straight on a comfortable chair.
    • Relax your chest and abdominal muscles while taking a deep breath.
    • Keep your eyes closed and face straight as you do so.
    • Take a deep breath through your nose, making sure to keep your mouth closed.
    • Take a deep and shallow breath, and slowly breathe out until you can feel that there is no more air left in your lungs.
    • Now hold your breath as long as you can before returning back to gentle breathing.
  5. Pursed Lip Breathing

    Pursed lip breathing is a breathing technique that is used to get relief from shortness of breath. This breathing exercise is highly effective when you are in the middle of an asthma attack. Since asthma causes air to become trapped in the lungs, this breathing technique helps you exhale more air, making it easier to breathe. Pursed lip breathing is said to be one of the best breathing techniques for people with asthma who feel short of breath.(20, 21)

    Some of the benefits associated with pursed lip breathing include:

    • It helps improve ventilation.
    • It releases trapped air in the lungs.
    • It prolongs the process of exhalation to slow down the breathing rate.
    • It keeps the airways open for a longer time and reduces the work of breathing.
    • It relieves shortness of breath.
    • It promotes general relaxation.
    • It improves breathing patterns by moving out old air from the lungs and letting new air enter the lungs.

    Here are the steps to practice pursed lip breathing:

    • Breathe in slowly from your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
    • Count till five, breathe out through pursed lips similar to what you would do to blow out a candle or blow a whistle.
    • Breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.


For people with asthma, learning these breathing exercises and practicing them on a regular basis can help them develop better control over their symptoms. Practicing these breathing exercises may also help you cut down on the use of asthma medication like your inhaler. However, it is important to keep in mind that even the most effective breathing exercises are not a replacement for your asthma treatment entirely. And you should always talk to your doctor before trying out any of these breathing techniques to make sure that they are safe for you to practice. Also, ask your doctor to recommend a respiratory therapist who will be able to teach you how to correctly do these exercises safely.


  1. Thomas, M. and Bruton, A., 2014. Breathing exercises for asthma. Breathe, 10(4), pp.312-322.
  2. Holloway, E.A. and Ram, F.S., 2004. Breathing exercises for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1).
  3. Thomas, M., McKinley, R.K., Mellor, S., Watkin, G., Holloway, E., Scullion, J., Shaw, D.E., Wardlaw, A., Price, D. and Pavord, I., 2009. Breathing exercises for asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax, 64(1), pp.55-61.
  4. Santino, T.A., Chaves, G.S., Freitas, D.A., Fregonezi, G.A. and Mendonca, K.M., 2020. Breathing exercises for adults with asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3).
  5. Saxena, T. and Saxena, M., 2009. The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity. International journal of yoga, 2(1), p.22.
  6. Slader, C.A., Reddel, H.K., Spencer, L.M., Belousova, E.G., Armour, C.L., Bosnic-Anticevich, S.Z., Thien, F.C. and Jenkins, C.R., 2006. Double blind randomised controlled trial of two different breathing techniques in the management of asthma. Thorax, 61(8), pp.651-656.
  7. Izuhara, Y., Matsumoto, H., Nagasaki, T., Kanemitsu, Y., Murase, K., Ito, I., Oguma, T., Muro, S., Asai, K., Tabara, Y. and Takahashi, K., 2016. Mouth breathing, another risk factor for asthma: the Nagahama Study. Allergy, 71(7), pp.1031-1036.
  8. Araújo, B.C.L., de Magalhães Simões, S., de Gois-Santos, V.T. and Martins-Filho, P.R.S., 2020. Association between mouth breathing and asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 20(7), pp.1-10.
  9. Ozturk, A.B., Damadoglu, E., Karakaya, G. and Kalyoncu, A.F., 2011. Does nasal hair (vibrissae) density affect the risk of developing asthma in patients with seasonal rhinitis?. International archives of allergy and immunology, 156(1), pp.75-80.
  10. Martin, U., Bryden, K., Devoy, M. and Howarth, P., 1996. Increased levels of exhaled nitric oxide during nasal and oral breathing in subjects with seasonal rhinitis. Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 97(3), pp.768-772.
  11. Gosselink, R.A., Wagenaar, R.C., Rijswijk, H., Sargeant, A.J. and Decramer, M.L., 1995. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces efficiency of breathing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 151(4), pp.1136-1142.
  12. Hamasaki, H., 2020. Effects of diaphragmatic breathing on health: a narrative review. Medicines, 7(10), p.65.
  13. Holloway, E.A. and West, R.J., 2007. Integrated breathing and relaxation training (the Papworth method) for adults with asthma in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax, 62(12), pp.1039-1042.
  14. Holloway, E.A. and West, R.J., 2007. Integrated breathing and relaxation training (the Papworth method) for adults with asthma in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax, 62(12), pp.1039-1042.
  15. Bruton, A. and Lewith, G.T., 2005. The Buteyko breathing technique for asthma: a review. Complementary therapies in medicine, 13(1), pp.41-46.
  16. McHugh, P., Aitcheson, F., Duncan, B. and Houghton, F., 2003. Buteyko Breathing Technique for asthma: an effective intervention. Journal of the new zealand medical association, 116(1187).
  17. Opat, A.J., Cohen, M.M., Bailey, M.J. and Abramson, M.J., 2000. A clinical trial of the Buteyko breathing technique in asthma as taught by a video. Journal of Asthma, 37(7), pp.557-564.
  18. Campbell, T.G., Hoffmann, T.C. and Glasziou, P.P., 2018. Buteyko breathing for asthma. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2018(8).
  19. Opat, A.J., Cohen, M.M., Bailey, M.J. and Abramson, M.J., 2000. A clinical trial of the Buteyko breathing technique in asthma as taught by a video. Journal of Asthma, 37(7), pp.557-564.
  20. Breslin, E.H., 1992. The pattern of respiratory muscle recruitment during pursed-lip breathing. Chest, 101(1), pp.75-78.
  21. Fregonezi, G.D.F., Resqueti, V.R. and Rous, R.G., 2004. Pursed lips breathing. Archivos de Bronconeumología ((English Edition)), 40(6), pp.279-282.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 26, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts