Yoga as medicined for the mental distress amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: integrative and complementary practices

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(Zen Bear Yoga, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Emille Magalhães Neves Campos and Narottam Sócrates Garcia Chumpitaz, students of the fifth semester of Medicine of the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR). They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In times of coronavirus, the scientific community has been questioning the extent to which emotional health can affect human physical health, as discussed in the recent article “Coping with coronavirus anxiety” by John Sharp (2020), arguing that despite the need for expressive caution to avoid the spread of the virus, once the main precautionary measures have been adopted, one must seek to remain calm. It is not essential or useful to be on high alert at all times, as this will wear out the entire community emotionally and physically, which is why it is necessary to try to adjust the alert levels to the immediate environment.

According to JOHN SHARP (2020), the news about the virus probably tends to get worse, and then improve, making it more prudent to listen to public health experts who can advise on the best way forward and take sensible measures that can help everyone. Making healthy and reasonable choices, such as seeking therapeutic contributions from yoga, will make a huge difference in achieving the ability to remain as safe and possible during the pandemic

Regarding the specific effects of yoga for health, its use as an intervention in several treatments, such as anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, pain syndromes, cardiovascular, immunological, autoimmune problems, hypertension, diabetes and stress. Something that many sages of this ancient tradition already affirmed from their observations and experiences4.

The difference between yoga and other physical exercises is that the postures, called Asana, have psychophysiological effects, as they generate internal awareness and mental stability. While in other physical exercises, body movements can be done only with precision, in yoga, a deeper awareness is cultivated, bringing balance and alignment of the body and mind, considering that the principles of yoga are the culture of the body, mind and soul1,5.

Yoga’s contributions to mental health are many, as it is a physical activity that focuses on shaping the body’s energy and improving mental health. When practicing it, a state of concentration and self-knowledge is sought.

Practicing yoga relaxes the body and mind through meditation and deep breathing techniques. A common problem for human beings is to react according to their emotions, because they allow themselves to be dominated by them. The purpose of yoga practice is to avoid this reaction, teaching the individual to separate from his feelings so that they do not influence his physical health, since being stressed can change the levels of some hormones.

Relaxation releases a wellness session and helps to reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress, both physical and psychological, in the body having anti-inflammatory, metabolic and immunosuppressive functions, which is why it is important keep it at normal levels2.

Some life situations may be beyond the control of individuals and can generate anxiety. However, learning to control their minds through meditation exercises provided by yoga practice can help them achieve better physical and mental health.

REFERENCES

  1. BARROS, Nelson Filice de et al. Yoga e promoção da saúde. Ciência & saúde coletiva, Rio de Janeiro, v. 19, n. 4, p. 1305-1314, Apr. 2014 . Disponivel em: <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1413-81232014000401305&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. Acesso em: 15 Nov.
  2. JOHNSON, Elizabeth O. et al.. Mechanisms of stress: a dynamic overview of hormonal and behavioral homeostasis.: A dynamic overview of hormonal and behavioral homeostasis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, [s.l.], v. 16, n. 2, p. 115-130, jun. 1992. Disponivel em: < http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0149-7634(05)80175-7> Acesso em: 16 abr. 2020.
  3. SHARP, John. Coping with coronavirus anxiety. Disponível em: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/coping-with-coronavirus-anxiety-2020031219183>. Acesso: 16 abr. 2020.
  4. KHALSA, S. B. S.; ELSON, L. E. An Introduction to Yoga: improve your strength, balance, flexibility, and well-being. Boston: Harvard Health Publications, 2016.
  5. IYENGAR, Geeta; KELLER. Rita; KHATTAB, Kerstin. Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood: Safe Practice for Expectant &; New Mothers. [s.1]: Sterling/Penn, 2010.

About the author

Emille Magalhães Neves Campos and Narottam Sócrates Garcia Chumpitaz are students of the fifth semester of Medicine of the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR). They are both members of IFMSA Brazil and local coordinators who have worked in many voluntary activities envolving human rights and vulnerable populations, as well as educational, welcoming programs for risk populations. As constant Yoga practicers, they believe in the therapeutic power of Yoga to strengthen mind-body connections, through finding an internal source of peace and reaching a better balanced life, as much as possible. This is the key-point to prevent some of the outcomes caused by COVID-19 scenery, such as excessive concernment, anxiety and fear, from generating disturbances in individual psychological health.

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