Yoga for PH is a novel exercise program developed by Henry Ford Hospital to improve balance, strength, reduce stress and calm the nervous system of patients with pulmonary hypertension. The first-of-its-kind 40-minute program includes three levels of yoga exercises and a nutrition and lifestyle guide and is already available for free download on iTunes and Google Play.
The program was designed by Henry Ford pulmonologist Dr. Rana Awdish, M.D., who has practiced yoga for 20 years and has received many requests from patients who wanted to know more about appropriate exercise compatible with PH. “The interest was all organic,” she said, “and the patients wanted to know how to do yoga safely, despite their condition.”
The yoga exercises were modified specifically for the needs of PH patients and can be done “safely regardless of the patient’s level of physical fitness.” The pulmonologist has developed the program since she acknowledges the importance of exercise for everyone, especially for PH patients. “Routine activities like walking upstairs can be challenging, so convincing them they can have success exercising can be challenging,” Awdish explained.
Yoga for PH consists of a series of “gentle, low-impact exercises” that can be done in the patients’ homes, sitting in a chair or standing. “These are designed to improve balance, strength, reduce stress and calm the nervous system. Even patients who require oxygen can perform these exercises,” Awdish explained.
PH, a disease characterized by high blood pressure in the lungs what make them narrowed making it harder for the heart to pump the blood, has no cure. Yoga is presented as a way of relieving the symptoms, which include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and a racing heartbeat. “Any amount of exercise is beneficial for patients. We know that when patients are engaged in their treatment and their healing, they have better outcomes. These yoga exercises will help aid their healing process,” she says.
However, the pulmonologist reminded that yoga is not a treatment and that “with proper medication patients can live a long and healthy life.” The symptoms become worse with age, and the sooner it gets treated, the better, and may limit physical activity. In addition to medication, surgical procedures and lifestyle changes are treatment options to slow the progression of the disease.
Henry Ford Hospital is one of the most advanced centers of pulmonary hypertension research in the United States, which offers pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship programs. The hospital has an intensive care unit dedicated to the care of PH, a disease that affects women at least two times more than men and is typically developed between the ages of 20 and 60.
The Yoga for PH program was funded by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.