I rarely have asthma episodes. These usually happen when my body’s resistance is terribly low. Not even air pollution triggers my asthma and if I remember right, my last episode was over 15 years ago, when I was pregnant with my youngest child.
But just before Christmas, I had to take care of two family members who came down with bad cough and colds. I hardly slept for almost 4 days because being a light sleeper, I’d get up at every cough of my “patients”. Then we had house guests from Sydney and I had to tend to them as well. By the time the guests had left and Christmas was approaching, my resistance was brought further down by severe pollen allergy to our flowering mango tree.
Eventually, my already very low resistance brought the flu on and by the time I saw my pulmonologist yesterday, it was already asthma.
When you have asthma, the airways become inflammed, leaving less space for air to pass through to the lungs. This is why asthma can be life-threatening. Those with severe attacks, if left unattended or unmedicated, could die either because of lack of air or from cardiac arrest as the heart works overtime due to labored breathing.
I could hear myself wheezing already last night so I knew that sleeping could be difficult if I did not do anything about it. More important, I knew that to keep myself out of the “danger zone”, I had to keep lots of air coming into my lungs.
Well, all these years of writing about the benefits of yoga sure came to fore because I decided to try the Corpse Pose (or Savasana in Sanskrit), one of the asanas touted as being good for asthma.
I lay down on my bed and propped my head a bit with a pillow (although the real Savasana needs no propping). I willed myself to relax into the pose (silently talking to my toes, my legs, my thighs, my hands, my arms, my neck, my head and telling each part to relax), spreading my feet apart in a V with my arms in a V also to my sides. And guess what. With the first deep breath that I took — NO WHEEZING SOUND! Not only that. The air I took in felt marvelous as I did not sense any airway constriction. I felt my lungs filling up with air as I continued taking in the air. Then as my lungs filled, I stopped inhaling to keep the new oxygen in as long as I could, before exhaling it all slowly.
During the night, I sensed my body naturally change position. Sometimes I’d turn to my left or right side. But minutes after doing so, I’d hear wheezing again or feel my nose and chest start getting congested. Then I’d return to Savasana position and slowly I could breathe normally again. I also noticed that if I raised both hands above my head while in Savasana, I could still breathe well. So I guess that is a modified position too for those who tire of having hands on the sides.
One might ask: But wait, that’s just normal lying down! On the external, yes. It’s just you lying down in bed. But I think what works is that your mind actively wills each part of your body beginning with your toes all the way up to the scalp to relax. And as you actively relax, your internal organs, more importantly your lungs, ease up and make breathing easier.
This being my first asthma attack since starting yoga, I never got a chance to test out the theory of Savasana being good for it. Till now. So for this coming New Year, with all the pollution from firecrackers and fireworks, if you get a sudden asthma attack, fear not. Savasana has been tried and tested by me. And it works!