Yoga is an ancient way of ‘right living’ that is to live in harmony with oneself (body, emotion and intellect) and nature. According to yoga philosophy, the word ‘hatha’ comes from roots ‘ha’ which means the sun and ‘tha’ meaning the moon. Basically, all yogic practices aim at aligning an individuals’ bio-rhythm with that of nature, thereby improving overall health. Yoga advocates a lifestyle based on the principles of ‘yamas’ and ‘niyamas’ which are fundamental ethical precepts. There are five yamas: truth, non-violence, moderation in activities, non-stealing & non-hoarding; and five niyamas: cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-introspection and surrender to a higher principle in life, respectively. Apart from these behavioural components, yoga lifestyle also involves practice of physical postures (asanas), breath regulation (pranayama), control of senses (pratyahara) and meditative techniques (dharana, dhyana and samadhi).
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant psychological distress worldwide. An analysis of 300 studies by Segerstrom & Miller, reported an inverse relationship between psychological stress and parameters of the immune system in human participant. Yoga based lifestyle appears to be a suitable strategy for enhancing wellness in these unusual times where there is reduced physical activity and increased emotional distress. In addition, a number of studies have demonstrated usefulness of yoga-based lifestyle modification in improving disease-related outcomes in common non-communicable disorders such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which also contribute towards mortality related to COVID-19 infection. Yoga-derived breathing and postures have also been reported to improve gas exchange in patients with cardiac disorders and in participants exposed to high-altitude hypoxia. Yoga practices have also been used for increasing oxygenation in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. These techniques may also be useful for COVID-19 patients as the primary organ system affected is the respiratory system.
A literature search (of both ancient yogic texts and modern scientific research) and opinion of experts in the field of yoga therapy was combined to design a 40-minute yoga module which primarily aims to reduce psychological stress, enhance lung functions and strengthen immunity. The yoga module starts with warm-up practices which involve coordination of body and breath. This is followed by breath regulation: ‘sectional breathing’ practice which involves holding the breath after complete inhalation (which may help gas exchange by stretching the alveoli of the lungs). This is followed by a sequence of fast breathing followed by slower breathing practices to ensure balance in autonomic activity. The module ends with the practice of Nadanusandhana (sound resonance) that involves chanting sounds of A, U and M and feeling their resonance in different parts of the body.
Yogic practices aim at aligning an individuals’ bio-rhythm with that of nature, thereby improving overall health. Yoga based lifestyle appears to be a suitable strategy for enhancing wellness in these unusual times where there is reduced physical activity and increased emotional distress. Further, regular practice of yoga has been shown to boost immunity, improve lung capacity and ensure stabilisation of diabetic and hypertension status.