Viruses are not new to mankind; the world has seen several virus attacks in the past and they’ll be there in the future too. SAARS, NIPAH, EBOLA, Swine flu to name a few. It is certainly recognized that there is an increase in the development of already existing viruses or mutated ones which could result in many new such pandemics.
At present, we are engulfed in a pandemicity of COVID-19. It will be a year soon of this coronavirus to be in action in the world (9 months in India). Abundant studies have been conducted and are still in progress to understand and analyze this Virus. Nevertheless, most of these studies point out that boosting the immune system is the only way to tackle CoronaVirus.
Yoga, Ayurveda & Immunity to Resist COVID-19
Yoga and its counterpart Ayurveda have recognized these facts about immunity centuries back. They function as a preventive technique by enhancing our immunity to tackle any such pandemics. This blog speaks not just about handling COVID; it tells about developing our immune system holistically so that we can overcome any & every strain of such viruses.
Yogic practices like Asana, Pranayama, Shuddhi Kriya and various other concepts of yoga bring about physiological changes to enhance immunity.
We very well know that the main organ that is affected by COVID-19 is our lungs. Thus keeping the lungs healthy is the key.
Why are Asanas Important?
In our general day to day activities, there is little movement or minimum extension of the thoracic spine compared to the lumbar and cervical region; which over a period of time gets tightened as compared to cervical and lumbar. Practicing specific asanas like bhujangasana, chakrasana, or any back bending asanas, improves the efficiency of lungs expanding the thoracic spine.
What does Asanas Give?
- Backward bending asanas expand the anterior part of the chest.
- Forward bending asanas stretch the posterior part of lungs.
- Backbend is assisted with inhalation, diaphragm is pulled down.
- External intercostal raises the ribs and expands the chest cavity.
- Lung volume increases.
In practices where Intra-abdominal pressure is reduced, there is increased oxygenated blood supply to various abdominal organs which ensures optimal functioning of the same. Nauli, Uddiyana Bandha is to name a few that produce these effects.
The alternating pressure in Agnisar and the massaging of the abdomen not only tones the abdominal organs but also regulates the adrenals which in turn controls the stress hormones.
By stimulating the Lymphatic & Endocrine System, the increased Intra-abdominal pressure in some asanas apart from strengthening the lumbar spine, also massages and purifies organs like spleen, which has an important role in the lymphatic system.
Practice of Pranayama
Pranayama is a slow and complete type of breathing with or without a voluntary pause wherein there is-
- Usage of maximal respiratory muscles
- Maximum lung expansion
- Increased Decreased Anatomical Dead Space
- Increased Tidal Volume, Minute Ventilation, Alveolar Ventilation and diffusion of gases
3 Prime Pranayama
1. Anulom Vilom- Improves the erectile tendency of the nasal tissue, which helps in opening and clearing the nostrils.
2. Ujjayi Pranayama-
- The contraction of abdomen throughout the Ujjayi Pranayama, aids in Venous return thereby the lymphatic system.
- The partial closure of glottis decreases the dead space and further increases the airway resistance, which in turn allows maximum alveolar opening.
- Also, in Ujjayi unused parts of lungs (say, apex) are used.
- The humming sound in Ujjayi generates relaxation.
3. Bhramari- It relaxes the skeletal muscles as well as the smooth muscles of the blood vessels improving circulation and thereby oxygenation and also cleanse the paranasal sinuses.
In deep inhalation during any pranayama, the Intrathoracic Pressure decreases, which helps in lymphatic drainage from head and arm. As Lymphatic drainage increases, so does the increase in WBC, which is the most essential part of the immune system (WBCs’ help in attacking the pathogens that enter the body).
All these factors aid in conditioning our respiratory system which is the maximum affected system by coronavirus.
Studies demonstrate that yogic practices reduce stress hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol. It is a known fact that stress has a negative effect on our immune system. So by reducing stress through yogic practices, we will be able to enhance our immunity.
NOTE- Absorption of Micronutrients
Micronutrients are required for the development and maintenance of the immune system. Studies prove that practicing yoga improves micronutrient absorption, which is of utmost importance to develop immunity.
Role of Shuddhi Kriyas
Loss of taste and smell are additional symptoms associated with COVID. This is mainly because the entrance point of coronavirus is the nose and mouth. Shuddhi Kriya practices like Jalaneti, Kapalbhati, Dhauti clears the respiratory tract of any possible pathogens entering through nose and mouth, as it increases the ciliary action and clears the mucus.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras explicitly explains the concepts of Niyama (rules/codes) to follow in order to achieve the best results out of the yogic practices. Niyamas are moral codes of Self Discipline that one has to follow, irrespective of age and sex.
The Concept of Sauca (Cleanliness) being the first of five Niyamas, is being reiterated again and again during this pandemic period, as “social distancing”, to avoid the spread of infection.
The Concept of Janasanga is yet another principle. The classical text book Hatha Pradipika(1:16,17) explains Sadhak-Badhak Tattva (Abidance and avoidance factor) one of which is to avoid crowds (janasanga), which ultimately aids in avoiding the spread of infection.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of health like never before. It is high time that we start embracing our long forgotten yogic lifestyle; not for anybody else but for self. To stay safe and healthy in advance to overcome such virulence, practicing the above mentioned yogic techniques will prove a boon for all.