It was five years back that I heard of a condition called ‘Sleep Apnea’. A patient of the same had given me a call to explore a holistic cure of the said problem. I had no clue about this problem and therefore, decided to visit the doctor to understand it in its entirety.
To my understanding (based on my conversation with the doctor as well as the patient), the victim of sleep apnea wakes up frequently at night gasping for breath as he or she had trouble breathing normally just before the event. These series of interruptions would keep one away from getting sufficient sleep; forget about deep and sound sleep. The result, therefore, would be lot of negativity in the regular course of life, keeping the sufferer away from being his best at everything. The work, the performance, the mood, the eating pattern etc., will get affected badly, causing the basic balance of life slip out of alignment. In fact, in some of the extreme cases, it has been reported that lack of sleep has even led to accidents where the sufferer suddenly falls asleep behind the wheel. The worst news of these: many suffering from this condition are not even aware of it.
Wikipedia defines ‘Sleep Apnea’:
Sleep apnea, also spelled sleep apnoea, is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. Each pause can last for a few seconds to several minutes and they happen many times a night. In the most common form, this follows loud snoring. There may be a choking or snorting sound as breathing resume.
What could be the probable causes for Sleep Apnea?
- Family history
- Seen more among
males 55 and above
- Structural problems in the airways
- Many other factors apart from the above
Can Yoga cure Sleep Apnea?
I have worked specifically on two cases of Sleep Apnea till date.
A healthy adult male, with relatively healthy habits, has been able to manage his Sleep Apnea with regular yoga practice. He leads a normal life now without any medication.
This person had a lot of medical as well as lifestyle issues (obesity, high BP, diabetes, a chain smoker, alcoholic, COPD etc). He was already on Sleep Apnea Device when we started yoga therapy sessions. Yoga application and a holistic orientation towards life showed great improvement in his case as well, to the extent that he was able to sleep in the afternoons without using the device (it is difficult to get off the device once you get used to that).
As I had been contacted to work on this from Yoga and Wellness perspective, I chose to focus on two areas based on my understanding of the problem – :
- Bringing in a holistic approach by lifestyle changes where yoga, with its multiple aspects, can be applied to all the facets of life
- Focus on the targeted area to work directly on the problem by strengthening the muscle tone & soft tissues around the airways
Managing a Normal Life Style – A Must
One has to be able to orient and manage one’s own life style in a healthy direction. The main focus should be on regimented sleeping hours, eating the right food – fruits, vegetables, homemade food, local food, seasonal food, eating at regular intervals, chewing each and every morsel with full awareness, eating with the intention of nourishing one’s body and soul, being active in day to day life, doing yoga regularly, yogic breathing and the most important – a positive outlook in life. If one was to follow this regime, majority of the psycho somatic problems can be prevented. This is especially applicable in cases of Sleep Apnea as well. In the case 2, lifestyle changes played a pivotal role in helping the patient.
Strengthening the muscle tone & soft tissues around the airways
As advised by Doctor, in both the cases, I needed to work on strengthening the jaw muscles and the areas surrounding the airways: the main purpose being keeping the nasal passage as clean, free and strong as possible. I had to make the patients do the postures which would allow opening of the chest area. All these helped smooth unobstructed upward breathing. I approached this using multiple facets of Yoga:
Some of the kriyas like jalneti etc. helped keep the nasal passage clean
All the asanas, focused on chest opening, was a great support
Some of the specific breathing like Ujjayi etc. worked directly on strengthening the air passage surroundings
- Tongue Exercises
This was the most critical and played an integral role in bringing the problem under control
No matter at what stage you are at with this condition, lifestyle changes and regular yogic practices are a sure proof method to notice positive changes in no time. Check out my following blog, which will list the practices, which when practiced regularly can have astounding positive results. You can visit my page www.shammisyogalaya.com for more details.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.