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How to Increase Lung Capacity After Lobectomy

Updated February 21, 2017

A common side effect of a lung lobectomy procedure is the incapacity to fill the remaining lungs with air. One of the gentlest and consistently effective ways to increase lung capacity following a lobectomy is to practice yoga breathing techniques.

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  1. Contact your physician (preferably the doctor who performed your lobectomy) about your current lung fitness. Request clear information as to your readiness to begin lung exercises to improve lung capacity. Do not proceed unless given the go-ahead from your physician.

  2. Begin breathing exercises by sitting on a yoga pillow or other comfortable sitting surface. Ensure that all extraneous noises are minimised and turn off any possible causes of distraction.

  3. Breathe in to your current lung capacity and time your inhale through your nose with a stopwatch. Hold your breath for at least five seconds before slowly exhaling from the mouth. Time your exhale in order to match or exceed your inhale time and breathe out until your lungs are empty.

  4. Perform nine more of these deep-breathing exercises, increasing the amount of time you are able to "puraka", or inhale, as well as the amount of your "rechaka" or exhale. Time each session of inhale, retention, and exhale until you are comfortable holding your breath for a longer period of time, eventually reaching a ratio of 1:4:2 with the timing of your breath.

  5. Repeat this step three times a day every day, each session occupying no more than 15 minutes. Immediately discontinue breathing practice if you feel any discomfort of the lungs.

  6. Practice the Hatha Pranayama yoga technique of strong breathing. Begin standing with your feet side-by-side and your fingers interlacing. Raise your hands so that your knuckles touch the bottom of your chin and press your elbows tightly together.

  7. Inhale slowly through the mouth while expanding your elbows out to the side, raising the tips as high as you can comfortably manage while keeping your fingers locked. Tighten your stomach in order to squeeze air throughout the body. Hold your breath.

  8. Exhale powerfully while tilting your head back and pressing your elbows together in the space in front of you in a "squeezing" motion. Keep your back straight and press your head as far back as you feel comfortable until your exhale is complete.

  9. Repeat the exercise for five minutes. Discontinue if you experience any dizziness or feelings of nausea or pain. Perform these exercises consistently and your lung capacity will dramatically improve.

  10. Tip

    Once you gain confidence in the restoration of your lung capacity, consider purchasing a wind instrument such as a flute or harmonica and learning a small number of basic songs. Increase lung capacity by taking a deep breath and playing, marking each day which note of the song you lose your breath at. Also, swimming is an excellent fitness solution to regaining lung strength, but should only be pursued once you've confidently regained a significant portion of your lung capacity.


    Immediately following a lobectomy both lungs will be in an extremely fragile state. Resist the urge to practice until you have spoken with your health physician, either in your two-to-three week follow-up or through a private appointment. Though these exercises are designed to gently increase lung capacity, you should immediately stop if any pain occurs and contact your health physician if you encounter any chronic pain as a result of lung exercise.

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Things You'll Need

  • Quiet room or studio area
  • Yoga or other plush meditating pillow
  • Stopwatch
  • Relaxing CD or music (optional)

About the Author

Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Brian Connolly is a certified nutritionist and has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a licensed yoga and martial arts instructor whose work regularly appears in “Metabolism,” “Verve” and publications throughout the East Coast. Connolly holds advanced degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and the University of Virginia.

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