“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees” said yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar famously.
The threat and fear of COVID-19, has contributed to worry and stress among people. As we embrace un-locking in a post-COVID world, we are once again faced with uncertainty and the unknown. This is a significant issue in India, which ranked 2nd only to China, in a WHO study in 2016, of the world’s most depressed countries.
COVID-19 has also brought in its wake social change; social isolation is causing autophobia, triggered by the idea and experience of spending time alone. This is likely to continue as social distancing will become a way of life- there will be a large percentage of people working from home, some facing temporary unemployment or lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues.
“As self-isolation and social distancing escalates, people are likely to feel more lonely and anxious. Yoga and meditation are sustainable stress-reduction techniques that we have to incorporate now into our daily lives,” shares Dr Tilak Suvarna, senior cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.
Experts worldwide have conducted functional MRI studies and established that yoga practitioners have the higher pain tolerance and lower pain-related brain activity, that can help a person regulate their stress and, therefore, pain responses.
Asanas like Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist), Balasana and Pranayam are some of the yoga asanas that can combat stress and anxiety.
A May 2020 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine analysed 19 studies with 1,080 participants across six countries -- US, India, Japan, China, Germany and Sweden- and established that movement based yoga can significantly improve mental health.
A study by Boston University, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, also suggests that yoga can be a helpful complementary treatment for clinical depression or major depressive disorder as well.
Stress leads to many other issues as well- including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Overall, Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.