Doctor develops yoga program for lung patients

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DETROIT - It's an idea that started with a request from Dr. Rana Awdish's patients.

"The interest was all organic," Awdish said.  "The patients wanted to know how to do yoga, safely, despite their condition."

Awdish is a pulmonologist at Henry Ford Hospital who treats patients suffering from pulmonary hypertension.  She's also been practicing yoga for 20 years.

Pulmonary hypertension, or PH, is high blood pressure in the lungs.  The blood vessels in the lungs become narrowed and the heart has to work harder to pump blood through them. Patients may suffer from shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain or a racing heartbeat.  Experts said the chronic lung disease typically develops between the ages of 20 and 60, and is two or three times more common in women than men.

To meet the special needs of her patients, Awdish created "Yoga for PH"  --  a 40-minute program that includes three yoga exercise levels and nutrition and lifestyle advice.

"We all recognize the importance of exercise. But for these patients, routine activities like walking up stairs can be challenging, so convincing them they can have success exercising can be challenging.

"What we've created are a series of gentle, low-impact exercises that can be in the comfort of their own home, 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," said Awdish.  "What we've taken care to do is avoid any posture that would cause an influx of blood flow to the heart and lungs, that can be dangerous."

There's no cure for pulmonary hypertension, but there are treatments to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

"With proper medication," Awdish said, "patients can live a long and healthy life."

And now that life can include yoga.

"Any amount of exercise is beneficial to patients," Awdish said. "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."

"Yoga for PH" is available on YouTube and a free app can be downloaded from iTunes and Google Play.

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