The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest since the Swine Flu of 2009-2010 and Ebola of 2014-2016. While the death toll doesn’t even compare (estimated 12,000 deaths till date) to the Swine Flu pandemic (200,000 deaths), the disease is deadly, highly contagious, and has global presence unlike the others. Since most deaths from coronavirus are in very young and old folks with poor immune systems, your best bet is to boost your immune system, and fast, until cures and vaccines are available. Clean hands and isolation help avoid coming in contact with the virus, but boosting your immune system will help you fend off the virus even if you do come in contact with it.
Two essential systems in our bodies form the human nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Together, they comprise the autonomic nervous system, which interacts closely with the immune system. In fact, immune health is highly reliant on a healthy autonomic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the well-known fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic for the lesser known rest-and-digest response. The former springs into action during times of stress and primes our body for instant response to the stress source, while the latter is dominant during relaxation periods. The contradictory nature of these two systems also means that they complement each other, and their balance is what keeps the entire nervous system in homeostasis (and the immune system fit and fighting.)
But, what happens when these two are out of balance, and what factors result in such a state? Modern man lives in a near constant state of stress: earning sufficient income, managing career, managing the family, all contribute to this. And, in times like now during the coronavirus pandemic, stress levels are magnified further.The result is that the sympathetic system is always in overdrive, which causes a severe imbalance and lowers immunity by magnitudes.
Fortunately, there is a simple cure. Yogic breathing practices have been scientifically proven to boost the immune system and help bring the body back into a state of homeostasis in as little as 10 minutes. You read that right, it doesn’t take living in the Himalayas with a great yogi or years of practice to perfect a pose to gain these benefits. Certain yogic breathing exercises penetrate deep into the human body-mind. By way of instantaneously balancing different layers of our existence like the energetic and related breathing layer, have been shown in clinical studies to, for instance, boost blood platelet count significantly after a 30 minute session.
When we inhale, it is the sympathetic nervous system that is stimulated, and when we exhale it is the parasympathetic. When our inhalation is longer and deeper than our exhalation, which is the norm in modern, stressed individuals, the sympathetic nervous system is pushed further into overdrive and our immune system suffers. Thus, one way to return the autonomic nervous system to homeostasis is to balance our exhalation with inhalation. Practices like ‘nadi-shuddhi’ (purification of energy pathways) and ‘anulom-vilom’ (alternating breath) are best for such a result as they focus on balancing inhalation with exhalation. This causes the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems to balance (in addition to the general stress reduction that yogic practices offer).
So, while in quarantine or isolation, start practicing some breathing yoga for 5-10 minutes 3 times a day every day. Your immune system will love you for it, and it could, literally, mean the difference between life and death!