Relaxation Techniques for People With Asthma

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023

Relaxation techniques are popular ways to help manage asthma. Being more relaxed helps reduce physical and emotional stress. This can lower the risk of asthma attacks. It can also improve well-being.1

Emotional stress can affect asthma in many ways. Strong emotions, including stress, are common triggers of asthma symptoms. Emotional stress has been linked to:1-3

  • Asthma attacks in children and adults
  • Airway narrowing
  • Missed doses of medicine
  • Lower overall well-being

Relaxation techniques help offset your stress response. They are used to treat pain, anxiety, and other health problems. Relaxation can help you:4

  • Slow down your breathing
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your heart rate

Relaxation techniques may improve symptoms of asthma by relaxing the airways. They also can reduce emotional stress. This can lower the risk of asthma attacks and improve health management.5

Benefits of relaxation

You can learn some ways to relax on your own using online videos. There are also many popular apps you can upload to your phone. Or, you can take classes from an expert in the technique of your choice.

Relaxation has the biggest impact if you practice regularly. It also works best when you combine relaxation with other ways to reduce stress. These methods include:6

  • Avoiding situations that trigger stress
  • Exercising regularly
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Getting enough sleep every night
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Arranging for alone time every day
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Talking to trusted supporters, including a therapist

Breathing exercises for asthma

Breathing exercises are popular relaxation techniques for people with asthma. Certain breathing exercises may improve symptoms and well-being. We need better studies to understand how effective these exercises are.7-9

Expert guidelines suggest breathing exercises as an add-on to typical asthma treatments. This is because they are safe, easy, and healthy.1

Breathing exercises improve breathing techniques. They can strengthen your breathing muscles and relax your airways. They focus on deep breathing, slow exhaling, and relaxing your airway muscles. Some breathing techniques used in asthma are:8,9

  • Papworth method: slow and steady breathing from your diaphragm and through your nose
  • Diaphragmatic breathing: breathing from your diaphragm instead of your chest
  • Pursed lip breathing: exhaling with your lips pursed to slow down breathing
  • Buteyko breathing: slow and gentle breathing through your nose
  • Yoga breathing: steady breathing with moving, stretching, and balancing

What are other relaxation techniques for asthma?

There are many other relaxation techniques that can reduce stress. Some examples are:4,7

  • Guided imagery: picturing objects or events you find relaxing to create a relaxed feeling
  • Biofeedback: using an electronic device to see how your heart or blood pressure responds to stress or relaxation
  • Self-hypnosis: learning to relax when you prompt yourself
  • Massage, meditation, and yoga
  • Mental exercises to focus on experiencing relaxation
  • Progressive relaxation: tensing and releasing different muscles across the body

There is not much evidence that relaxation techniques improve asthma symptoms. Small studies have shown that guided imagery, biofeedback, and progressive relaxation improve lung function. We need larger studies to show how these techniques should be used in asthma.7

It is not possible to avoid all stress. Stress is a part of normal daily life. But managing stress can help prevent asthma attacks. This makes relaxation an important part of many people's asthma management plan.6

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.