By Dr. M. Balasubramanyam
“Covid 19 pandemic; Everything is closed; Everything is under lockdown; Let’s open our Minds; Attain Mindfulness through Yoga”
As June 21 is the International Day of Yoga, the whole world is geared up for celebrating the day – this time with the crucial Covid-19 crisis and focused theme “Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family”. “In the post Covid-19 era, the focus on preventive healthcare will get stronger and that is why I am confident that yoga will become even more popular,” this is what the statement recently made by none other than Prime Minister of India, the honorable Narendra Modi.
Yoga Relieves All Forms of Stress and Depression
Stress and depression are known to increase the risk of acute respiratory infections. No doubt, alarmingly increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths worldwide are linked to increased stress and anxiety among the general public, while loneliness and depressive feelings are likely to build up several folds due to repeatedly imposed lockdowns and mandatory social distancing measures. Among other health benefits of yoga, pranayama is also known to improve functioning of lung. Yoga appears to be a great tool to help improve respiratory health and immunity, both of which are involved in the prevention and optimal management of Covid-19. In fact, mind-body therapies like meditation and yoga are demonstrated to reduce inflammatory markers and beneficially influence markers of virus-specific immune response. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis suggests yoga may be a potential and viable transdiagnostic intervention for the management of depressive symptoms in people with a range of mental disorders. These authors now comment that yoga may be the answer to your mental health worries during Covid-19.
Yoga is a Metabolic Regulator!
Recent studies endorse yoga as a metabolic regulator as it brings about a balance in autonomous nervous system and regulates metabolic parameters (blood pressure, glucose, lipids) by stabilizing sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. It’s no doubt that non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, neurodegenerative disorders and other chronic respiratory diseases), which are otherwise called as ‘lifestyle disorders’ are the big health burden worldwide and especially in developing countries like India” – says Balasubramanyam. More importantly, these are the co-morbidities most often linked to the severity as well as mortality among the COVID19 patients. Therefore, yoga including meditation could be a simple and useful home-based practice for the prevention and post-recovery management of Covid-19.
Practice Yoga to Reassure Post-Covid 9 Renaissance
Covid-19 presents an unparalleled set of challenges for the world and its most vulnerable people, requiring collective action on a global scale. Even if you are virus-free, Covid is certain to affect your health. While the mental health fallout is likely to exceed the direct harms of Covid-19, worsening health and well-being also makes us more susceptible to the novel coronavirus and its complications. But the good news endorsed by science is that Mind-body relaxation by yoga is effective to combat all forms of lifestyle stress. ‘Therefore, practicing yoga is one way or perhaps the only way to reassure post-Covid-19 renaissance’ – says Balasubramanyam. Scientists need to collaborate with professional yoga institutions such as S-VYASA (Bangaluru) so as to study how Yoga could reassure post Covid-19 renaissance, adds Balasubramanyam.
Dr. M. Balasubramanyam is Disease-Biologist and Dean of Research at Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (ICMR- Centre for Advanced Research on Diabetes), Chennai.
- Maxwell L, Barrett B, Chase J, et al. Self-reported mental health predicts acute respiratory infection. WMJ 2015;114: 100.
- Abel AN, Lloyd LK, Williams JS. The effects of regular yoga practice on pulmonary function in healthy individuals: a literature review. J Altern Complement Med 2013;19:185–190.
- Morgan N, Irwin MR, Chung M, Wang C. The effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system: meta-analysis. PLoS One 2014;9:e100903.
- Brinsley J, Schuch F, Lederman O et al. Effects of Yoga on Depressive Symptoms in People With Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Br J Sport Med 2020; DOI:10.1136/bjsports-2019-101242