Yoga aims to bring harmony between the mind and the body and is often referred to as the art and science of healthy living.
Various studies have shown that practising yoga on a regular basis can help in managing several conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, diabetes and obesity, all of which are also considered to be risk factors for severe COVID-19.
Recently, the AYUSH Ministry of the Government of India shared guidelines for yoga practitioners with an aim to improve the psycho-social impact of the pandemic and also to rehabilitate COVID-19 patients in quarantine or isolation.
Yoga to improve the immune response
A team of leading Yoga experts have curated a yoga protocol to improve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the general population.
They recommend that people practice the provided protocol on an empty stomach to improve the immune response against infectious diseases. The yoga protocols are of three different time durations: 10 minutes, 20 minutes and 45 minutes.
The ten and twenty modules were recommended to be done twice a day (morning and evening), whereas the 45-minute protocol has to be done only once in the morning.
Apart from the yoga practices, cleansing practices such as jala neti and sutra neti and breathing exercises such as bhastrika kriyas are recommended to be practised once or twice a week.
Yoga practices for rehabilitation and to increase the body's immunity
The following practices have been recommended to help improve the body's immunity, thus allowing it to heal better and faster.
1. Cleansing practices such as jala neti and sutra neti can help in cleaning the sinuses, thus improving allergies, especially in the upper airway.
2. Practice neck movements, shoulder rotation, trunk movement, knee movement and ankle rotation to increase blood circulation and reduce stiffness of the joints.
3. Asanas such as ushtrasana, uttan mandukasana, tadasana, trikonasana, vakrasana, bhujangasana and sarala matsyasana help in expansion of the chest and improve the cardiopulmonary system.
4. Kapalabhati, a breathing technique, can help in improving pulmonary functions and in cleansing the frontal sinuses.
5. Breathing techniques like nadishodhana and ujjayi along with pranayamas like nadishodhan and bhramari help in reducing sympathetic activity, thus maintaining heart rate, breathing rate and sweat. They also stimulate the activity of the vagus nerve thus reducing stress and anxiety. Studies have reportedly shown that ujjayi helps in increasing the oxygen saturation in the body, while bhramari pranayama helps in improving the blood flow and has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
6. Yoga nidra is a technique which reduces emotional distress and improves the quality of sleep, rejuvenating the body and mind. It should be practised for 20 to 30 minutes twice or thrice a week.
7. Meditative practices, such as dharana and dhyana, reduce the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body, thereby reducing anxiety and stress.
Diet to be followed along with yoga asanas
Along with the asanas, people are asked to have fresh home-cooked traditional food along with fresh vegetables and fruits. People must follow the medical advice of doctors on diet for any particular condition they may be dealing with.
It is best to refrain from consuming tobacco, alcohol and other harmful substances.
For more information, read our article on Yoga for stress management during COVID-19 pandemic.
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