Deep Breathing Could Help You Recover From Covid-19

Two integrative medicine physicians explain the benefits of breathing practices and qigong

Victoria Maizes MD
Elemental
Published in
5 min readSep 9, 2020

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A chest x-ray shows a patient with pulmonary fibrosis. Photo: BSIP/Getty Images

Co-authored by Ann Marie Chiasson.

When examining a patient for Covid-19, we always ask about the breath. “Is it short?” “Does your chest feel tight?” “Let’s measure your oxygen saturation.” What if a secret to recovery from the virus was in the breath as well?

At the University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, we have been researching which evidence-based modalities may support recovery from Covid-19. As Covid-19 research is still in the early stages, we have also examined what modalities have demonstrated improvement in lung function in lung diseases with similar pathologies.

While long-term consequences of Covid-19 are still being elucidated, the concern about development of pulmonary fibrosis in patients recovering from Covid-19 is rising. This concern stems from the development of lung fibrosis seen in patients after the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003.

Pulmonary fibrosis is scar tissue that forms in a patient’s lungs, reducing flexibility and movement and the ability to oxygenate blood. A regular practice of breathing intentionally can reverse this tendency through increased lung expansion and strengthened respiratory muscles, both of which contribute to increased ventilation (the lung’s capacity to provide oxygen). Which patients will develop lung fibrosis after Covid-19 and which will recover without fibrosis is unknown at this point, so practices to aid lung recovery are a smart idea for everyone.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a good place to start. In this practice, also called belly breathing, you slow and deepen your breathing by fully expanding your abdomen. This breath is most easily learned laying down, but it can be done in any position. To give it a try, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Begin breathing deeply into the belly region so…

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Victoria Maizes MD
Elemental

Executive Director, Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona