The effects of two pranayama yoga breathing exercises on airway reactivity, airway calibre, symptom scores, and medication use in patients with mild asthma were assessed in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. After baseline assessment over 1 week, 18 patients with mild asthma practised slow deep breathing for 15 min twice a day for two consecutive 2-week periods. During the active period, subjects were asked to breathe through a Pink City lung (PCL) exerciser--a device which imposes slowing of breathing and a 1:2 inspiration:expiration duration ratio equivalent to pranayama breathing methods; during the control period, subjects breathed through a matched placebo device. Mean forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), peak expiratory flow rate, symptom score, and inhaler use over the last 3 days of each treatment period were assessed in comparison with the baseline assessment period; all improved more with the PCL exerciser than with the placebo device, but the differences were not significant. There was a statistically significant increase in the dose of histamine needed to provoke a 20% reduction in FEV1 (PD20) during pranayama breathing but not with the placebo device. The usefulness of controlled ventilation exercises in the control of asthma should be further investigated.