New yoga DVD for those with lung fibrosis

People can do exercises at own pace
  • Deborah Condon

A yoga exercise video aimed at people with lung fibrosis has been launched.

Lung or pulmonary fibrosis refers to different conditions that cause scar tissue to build up in the lungs. This build-up of scar tissue makes the lungs stiff and symptoms can include breathlessness, a cough that will not go away and excessive tiredness.

The most common type is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. IPF causes irreversible scarring of the lungs and unfortunately, there is no cure. Approximately 400 patients in Ireland are diagnosed with IPF each year and 1,000 are currently living with the condition.

Yoga has been shown to be beneficial for those affected in a number of ways, including improved breathing, improved mobility and anxiety relief.

This new video was produced by the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association (ILFA) and features Dublin GAA footballer and yoga instructor, Michael Darragh Macauley. He shows three patient volunteers a series of breathing and meditation techniques, followed by physical exercises.

There are two levels of exercise featured - beginners and advanced. However, before doing the exercises, viewers are asked to adhere to the Borg scale, which will help them assess how breathless they should be when exercising and gauge what is the right level of activity for them.

Mr Macauley, who is patron of the ILFA, sadly lost his father to the disease in 2012.

"It was a very tough time for all the family as you can imagine. Consequently, I was very happy to become involved in this DVD, which I hope will make a real difference to the lives of people with lung fibrosis.

"I have a deep appreciation of yoga and the holistic benefits it offers across a whole range of areas. Even though it becomes increasingly difficult to exercise with this condition, it's important that patients do try, and yoga is perfect because they can push themselves as hard as they see fit," he explained.

He pointed out that the exercises in the video can be done seated or standing and can be adapted to suit each individual's abilities.

"People can go at their own pace and no one gets left behind," Mr Macauley noted.

Matt Cullen from Swords in Dublin was one of the participants in the DVD.

"I had never tried yoga before and had the false notion that it would involve somewhat contortionist body movements! However, doing the yoga class with Michael Darragh was a very relaxing experience and there was no pressure whatsoever.

"The yoga exercises were safe, easy to follow and very do-able, and I found them good for both mind and body. Not only did they help with my breathing and flexibility, but they were also really helpful in reducing the stress and anxiety that comes with living with lung fibrosis," Mr Cullen said.

According to consultant respiratory physician and ILFA spokesperson, Dr Kate O'Reilly, exercise is key to managing this condition.

"One of the great things about yoga is that it is suitable for people with varying levels of lung fibrosis, including those who may have had a transplant or are oxygen dependent," she noted.

She advised those on oxygen to speak to their medical team about turning up their oxygen levels to agreed levels, so that they can cope with the activity comfortably.

"Everyone gets breathless when they exercise, but what is important is that lung fibrosis patients know how to manage their level of breathlessness. Positive lifestyle changes and in particular, physical exercise, is hugely important for people with lung fibrosis. This DVD now means that they can exercise in the comfort of their own sitting room," Dr O'Reilly added.

The DVD can be ordered or viewed online at www.ilfa.ie.

Meanwhile, the ILFA offers the following tips for living with lung fibrosis:

-Quit smoking and ask people not to smoke around you
-Eat a healthy diet as this will help you maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can make it harder to breathe and can contribute to tiredness
-Exercise as this will help you keep fit and strong and improve your mood
-Attend pulmonary rehabilitation classes, which are supervised exercise programmes that take place in hospitals or the community. Ask your doctor for details
-Continue to socialise, keep up your hobbies and join a lung fibrosis support group.

*Pictured is ILFA patron and Dublin GAA footballer, Michael Darragh Macauley


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