MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Cramer: There is a number of randomized trials available on yoga for asthma. Based on those trials, there is evidence that yoga can improve asthma symptoms, asthma control, and pulmonary function in patients with asthma. However, yoga does not seem to be superior to sham procedures or breathing exercises and generally the evidence was quite weak. Yoga seems to be relatively safe in this patient population.
MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Cramer: We did not expect that sham yoga interventions would be equally effective as yoga. This might mean that the positive effects of yoga might rely on nonspecific effects to a large proportion. We also expected to locate studies on yoga for asthmatic children, however this was not the case. Therefore, the suitability and effects of yoga in children with asthma could not be evaluated.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Cramer: The evidence is not yet strong enough to recommend yoga as a routine intervention to the majority of asthma patients. However, given its apparent safety, adult patients willing to try yoga as part of a multimodal treatment plan can be encouraged to do so. It is important to include breathing exercises in this yoga program and not only postures or meditation. Postures and meditation can be part of the program but breathing seems to be essential.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Cramer: More high quality research on yoga for asthma is needed to underpin the preliminarily positive findings of our meta-analysis. In order to definitely evaluate its usefulness for asthma, future studies should try to differentiate between specific and nonspecific effects of yoga interventions, i.e. to evaluate whether yoga is more than just a strong placebo for this condition.