Usually, in treating a disease, medical experts will pair medication with an adjunctive treatment such as diet and exercise to complement primary treatment. For coronavirus, a few experts believe that yoga and meditation have the potential of being adjunctive treatment.
A recent study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which was a collaborative effort between Deepak Chopra, Harvard University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of California, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together, they described the link between the anti-inflammatory effects of yoga and meditation.
Deepak Chopra is an Indian-American author, part of the New Age movement, and advocates alternative medicine. In April, he shared how stress, especially during the pandemic, leads to inflammation through increased levels of adrenaline as well as decreased levels of cortisol which impairs the immune system.
"The first is the epidemic of the coronavirus which is causing physical and mental anguish; the second is the financial crisis which is also causing physical and mental anguish, and the third is the anxiety and panic that's causing all of the stress," he shared, explaining that that are three simultaneous pandemics happening. "For whatever situation you're in right now ask yourself what am I grateful for and as soon as you ask yourself you'll get ideas, pauses, sensations, images, feelings, thoughts that will alleviate your stress."
Yoga and Meditation to Treat Coronavirus
Medical experts have urgently searched for ways to prevent and treat coronavirus infections ranging from drug trials to therapeutic approaches and medicine systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine from India. Yoga and meditation are two of the therapies that the team explored.
Several symptoms of coronavirus include inflammation in various ways such as blood clotting, swelling organs, and joint aches. In the study, the authors wrote, "there is evidence of stress and inflammation modulation, and also preliminary evidence for possible forms of immune system enhancement, accompanying the practice of certain forms of meditation, yoga, and pranayama, along with potential implications for counteracting some forms of infectious challenges."
Yoga and meditation as adjunctive therapy are meant to reduce the severity of coronavirus such as helping the immune system and improving lung health. There are also potential benefits for a patient's neuroimmune system as medication helps target inflammatory functions, namely the fight or flight response being replaced with a "relaxation response."
The authors also noted how 20-minute meditation or yoga for six weeks "resulted in a significant downregulation of . . . proinflammatory genes and a significant reduction of activity of the proinflammatory transcription factor." With coronavirus, anti-inflammatory activity increased cell receptors' ability to interfere with viral activity.
In June, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that yoga is a means of building a protective shield of immunity against COVID-19. His encouragement for people to practice yoga and meditation comes a few days before International Yoga Day on June 21.
"We all know that until now nowhere in the world have they been able to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 or coronavirus," said Modi. "Which is why right now, only a strong immunity can act as a protective shield or a bodyguard for us and our family members . . . yoga is our trusted friend in building this protective shield."
Earlier this year, India's Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) gave guidelines on several ancient practices that people can do at home during the lockdown. "Yoga has the potential to cater to the mental, physical and psychological challenges. It puts to test how one can live in challenging times," Modi said.