Today June 21 is International Yoga Day and Prime Minister Modi has announced the launch of the M-Yoga application, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO). And not without reason.
Yoga is a discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living. Yoga leads to a perfect harmony between mind and body, man and nature, individual consciousness and universal consciousness. That is why Yoga can be a great tool to help improve respiratory health and immunity, both of which are involved in the prevention and healing from COVID-19.
According to the Ministry of Ayush, Yoga helps to build up psycho-physiological health, emotional harmony; and manage daily stress and its consequences. Yoga is also useful in conditions where stress is believed to play a role. Various yogic practices such as Yogasanas, Pranayama, Dhyana (meditation), cleansing and relaxation practices etc. are known help modulate the physiological response to stressors. Several randomised controlled studies have shown the efficacy of Yogic practices in management of non-communicable diseases like hypertension, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchial asthma, diabetes, sleep disorders, depression, obesity, etc. that can be comorbid conditions in patients with COVID-19. Yoga has also been shown to be useful in vulnerable population such as the elderly and children.
Yoga may even play significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation. It can be particularly useful in allaying their fears and anxiety.
According to Saibal Chakraborty, a Yoga consultant and expert based in Mumbai, “Yoga is very beneficial to enhance breathing capacity and increase your energy level, especially during these pandemic times. Most of the breathing exercises in Yoga help to boost your lungs without any contraindication. Different types of breathing exercises are recommended like standing, sitting, prone and supine postures. There are a number of Kriya cleansing techniques to throw out the toxins from your system. These practices are very beneficial to enhance your internal healing.”
The guided relaxation techniques, meditation and Yogic counselling also help to boost the morales of people and add the meaning of the life during these depressing times. Saibal adds that proper Yoga techniques need to be practised under the guidance of a qualified and skilled teacher who can contribute to your real progress.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is one of the most important and easy to routine Yoga exercises. It is a series of 10 or 12 poses in a continuous flow, synchronising breathing with body movement. It benefits most muscles and joints. One of the best energisation techniques, it must be practised early in the morning. It also improves spinal flexibility and results in improved immunity.
Ministry of Ayush’s guidelines recommend practice of deep relaxation of the body, slowing down of the breathing rate and calming down of the mind for twenty minutes repeated once every 3-4 hours during the day time using audio instructions. Some examples include: mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, yoga nidra, progressive relaxation, quick relaxation, deep relaxation etc.
Saibal adds, “For practising Yoga, choose a place that is well ventilated and quite. The best time for Yoga practice is early morning or evening. Preferably on empty stomach or with a gap of three hours after lunch.”
Some important Yoga exercises to build immunity:
Shodhana Kriya (Yogic cleansing practices): Jalaneti, Sutra Neti
Neti helps in cleansing sinuses, beneficial in allergic conditions and reduces upper airway reactivity
Breathing & Pranayama (Sectional breathing): Nadishodhana, Ujjayi and Bhramari
Nadishodhan pranayama reduces the sympathetic activity and stimulate vagal (parasympathetic) activity and decreases stress and anxiety. Ujjayi increase the oxygen saturation in body. Bhramari pranayama similar to humming may increase Nasal Nitric Oxide (NO), which may improve blood flow to the ciliary epithelium and has anti-inflammatory action.
Yoga Nidra: Pratyaahara
Reduces emotional distress and improves quality of sleep. Rejuvenates the body and helps to keep the mind calm.
Meditative practices (Breath awareness): Dharana & Dhyana
Meditation helps to reduces anxiety and stress by reducing the cortisol level and enhancing the alpha brain wave. Makes the body stable and calms the mind. Balances the functions of the neuroendocrine system and thereby enhances the immune system.
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