running, yoga & exercise induced asthma

running, yoga & exercise induced asthma
EIA makes running difficult, especially as the weather changes.

Wikipedia (actually has a better definition than Mayo Clinic, so don't judge) describes Exercise-Induced Asthma as the following:
"Exercise-induced asthma, or E.I.A., is a medical condition that occurs when the airways narrow as a result of exercise. The preferred term for this condition is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB); exercise does not cause asthma, but is frequently an asthma trigger"
I've had exercise-induced asthma/bronchoconstriction ever since I first began running at age 8. For years, I thought that maybe I was breathing wrong, not in tip-top shape or just wasn't cut out for running. Shortness of breath certainly isn't out of the ordinary when you're running, but my symptoms would last long after I was done. Wheezing, phlegm, chest pain and coughing always went on for at least a few hours afterward, often into the next day if the weather was cold or if I ran particularly hard. 

Over the years, my asthma seemed to get worse. A scary asthma attack after a high school cross-country race prompted a visit to the doctor, where I was finally diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Although it doesn't sound like that big of a deal, it was a big deal to me at the time. It made me feel like I would never be able to compete to my full potential and would always be at a disadvantage to my asthma-free peers. I tried the inhaler-route for a few years, longer warm-ups and cool-downs and even the Vitamin C method, but nothing seemed to lessen my symptoms.

Running, in particular, is aggravating to E.I.A. in 3 main ways:

1.) Being outdoors: When outdoors, the lungs have no protection from the air. It's especially aggravating if you have seasonal allergies or if the weather is cold and dry.
2.) Mouth-breathing: During vigorous exercising, such as running, we use the mouth. Anytime unfiltered air rushes straight off the back of the throat, it quickly dries out the airways and can aggravate asthma symptoms.
3.) Posture: When we run, we're leaning, hunched over, the entire time. Our chest is compressed as we lean into the next stride. Try as you might, it feels ridiculous to keep the chest upright (open) while running, so the chest is already tight.
Aside from inhalers, there's really not much information out there for alternative asthma treatments. Trust me, I've looked. Prevention methods would obviously involve not running, not running outside and/or not running in the cold, but that doesn't really work for a runner. As I began to learn more about yoga, I hoped it would help.

Yoga is usually safe to practice if you have E.I.A.

There may be certain pranayama (breathing techniques) that don't work well for you, but normally, during yoga, we breathe in and out slowly through the nose. Yoga is also normally practiced indoors, sometimes even with humidity added to the room...all great conditions for exercising without experiencing asthma.
Even after years of yoga and pranayama, I would not say that my E.I.A. has improved when running. I've been running for 20 years and it will be a sad day when I have to hang up my running shoes, but I still struggle in the cold, I still wheeze and cough and experience chest pain. Yoga can help with many various health issues, but I'm not touting it as a cure-all. But in relation to E.I.A, yoga DOES greatly aid in the aftermath. The following is a little compilation of poses I like to practice when I'm having a tough time after a run. The goal of many of these poses is to open the chest and loosen mucus from the lungs.


Bridge or Wheel
Thymus reset

If you have exercise-induced asthma, I hope something here was helpful to you. I know how frustrating of a struggle it can be, especially when you really love something. I will always love running. There is absolutely nothing like it. I will always hate asthma. There is also nothing like it.  But for now, as long as I can enjoy a long run through the woods, I will embrace a few hours of post-running hacking.