Yoga may improve some symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and overall quality of life, results of a small study involving patients in India suggest.

Twice weekly yoga classes improved several measures of dyspnea and living quality over the course of 12 days, Randeep Guleria, MD, of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and colleagues reported at the CHEST 2013 meeting.

“Yoga is a simple, cost effective and a patient acceptable method to improve dyspnoea and quality of life in COPD,” Guleria said during his presentation.

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Lack of patient compliance is a known problem with many standard pulmonary rehabilitation programs, so Guleria and colleagues enrolled 29 patients with COPD to determine if yoga could be beneficial.

They enrolled 25 men and four women, mean age 56 years, and taught them several yoga techniques, including physical postures, breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques. Patients participated in hour-long yoga sessions twice weekly at the hospital for the first four weeks. They were then asked to do their yoga exercises at home for an additional eight weeks, and came to the hospital for one class every other week.

The researchers measured lung function, dyspnea severity, quality of life and inflammation at baseline and 12 weeks. During the study period, the patients experienced significant improvements on all measures of dyspnea severity:

  • Medical Research Council (MRC) grade: 2.59 versus 2.07 (P<0.001)
  • 6-minute walking test: 417.86 versus 448.85 meters (P=0.014)
  • Borg scale: 2.00 versus 1.00 (P<0.001)
  • Visual Analog Scale (VAS): 55.69 versus 70.74 mm (P<0.001)

Overall quality of life scores also significantly improvede from a baseline value of 50.97 to 31.44 at 12 weeks (P<0.001). There were no significant improvements on pulmonary function tests or inflammatory markers.

The researchers called for larger studies to assess the impact of yoga on COPD over longer periods and in comparison with standard pulmonary rehabilitation programs.


  1. Guleria R et al. e-Poster #1079. “Efficacy of yoga on inflammatory markers, dyspnea, and quality of life in COPD.” Presented at: CHEST 2013. Oct. 26-31, 2013; Chicago.