Coronavirus, Immunity, Yoga and Ayurveda

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of pathogenic viruses. The viruses of this family cause various diseases including common flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Novel coronavirus (nCoV) – a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans, has recently been identified.

The recent outbreak of coronavirus disease (CoVID- 19) was first reported on 31 December, Wuhan, China. The number of coronavirus patients increased rapidly. It not only spread to other cities of China but also became a global emergency as it has hit more than 80 countries/territories/areas globally and is feared to spread even further.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic. The term describes that the virus can transmit between animals and to humans as well. Detailed investigations till now have revealed that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans. Moreover, MERS-CoV transmitted from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not thus far infected humans. [1]

Signs And Symptoms

Common signs of (CoV-19) infection include pneumonia-like symptoms: 

  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • Kidney failure and even death

Coronavirus infection is more problematic for people with the weak immune system such as children and elderly or those who are immune-compromised.

Trails and lab experiments are underway at a global scale to find antidote or cure for this noxious disease. Till then, the world health organization and medical experts recommend taking preventive measures for this viral infection. Standard precautions are:

  • Washing hand regularly
  • Covering mouth and nose with a surgical mask
  • Proper cooking of meat and eggs
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing [1]

Recent Statistics

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the latest statistics are:

  • Total and new cases of (CoV-19 ) globally:  98 192 confirmed (2873 new)
  • In China 80 711 confirmed (146 new)
  • Death toll: 3045 deaths (30 new)
  • Outside of China 17 481 confirmed (2727 new) 335 deaths (69 new)
  • Affected Countries/territories/ areas: 88 total (4 new)
  • WHO global risk assessment: Very High [2]

Given that no peculiar treatment has been discovered till now, it is best to take preventive measures. The statistics suggest that people, with the weak immune system, are at more risk. A large number of affected people have recovered completely. Thus, having a strong immunity means you can fight this noxious infection.

Here is why we suggest that yoga intervention is effective!

Yoga Technique For Boosting Immunity

The holistic approach of yoga and Ayurveda is a mind-body approach which is meant to invigorate, strengthen and rejuvenate the body, boosting immunity and overall health. Yoga and Ayurveda are effective techniques to boost immunity and health. A few vital yoga techniques in this regard are:  

Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)

In Sanskrit, ‘bhastrika’ refers to ‘bellow or holler’. During this Pranayama practise, air is inhaled and exhaled forcefully which sounds like bellows. It increases the flow of air into the fire, resulting in more heat or fire.

Similarly, the forceful breathe in bhastrika Pranayama is increase breathe flow into lungs. Thus, this Pranayama generates inner heat equally at physical and subtle levels, and strengthen the inner fire of mind and body. It strengthens the lung capacity especially for those who frequently experience cough, flu, respiratory issues, allergies etc

  • Sit in a relaxed position. Inhale deeply and exhale forcefully through the nose.
  • Inhale again with the same force, expanding abdominal muscles to full extent.
  • Contraction of the abdominal muscles firmly during forceful exhalation.
  • During exhalation, diaphragm shifts upward and the abdomen move inward. Enhance both these movements.
  • Practice up to 5 round, with equal force of inhalation and exhalation.

Contradiction: Nausea and excessive perspiration indicate incorrect practice. Not suitable for elderly people, pregnant women in first trimester of pregnancy and patients of tuberculosis and asthma etc.

Kapalbhati Pranayama (Frontal Brain Cleansing Breath))

In Sanskrit, kapalbhati Pranayama describes the one which brings light and consciousness in the frontal part of the brain. It is also known as ‘kapalshodhana’, where the word shodhana means ‘to cleanse and to purify’. This Pranayama has a purification effect on the lungs and is ideal to relieve respiratory system problems

  • Sit in a relaxed position and inhale deeply.
  • Exhale through both nostrils with a forceful contraction of abdominal muscles.
  • Again inhale in normal passive way keeping the abdominal muscles relaxed.
  • After 10 rapid breathing rounds, breathe deeply in normal and passive manner.
  • This makes one complete round of Kapal Bhati Pranayama. Practice up to 5 times.

Contradiction: Not suitable when wept stomach, and for the patients of heart disease and hypertension, gastric ulcer, hernia and stroke and pregnant women in first trimester.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Psychic Network Purification)

In Sanskrit, ‘Nadi’ refers to ‘channel or energy flow’, while ‘Shodhna’ describes ‘purification.’ Thus, this is the practice to purify the Nadis. It boosts responsiveness and sensitivity to the breath in the nostrils and is ideal to remove obstructions in the flow of breath in nostrils. Breathing through left nostril stimulates the right brain hemisphere and through the right nostril, it is stimulates left hemisphere of the brain.

  • Sit comfortably and breathe deeply. Then block the right nostril with the thumb and take 5 breathes from the left nostril.
  • Release the right nostril and press the left nostril with the ring finger, stopping the air flow. Inhale and exhale for 5 times.
  • Now, breathe 5 times through both nostrils together.
  • This completes one round. Perform 5 rounds or for 3 to 5 minutes.

Contradiction: Nadi shodhana Pranayama should be avoided when you are suffering from asthma and cardiovascular disease.

(Reference book: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati)

Ayurvedic Herbs For Boosting Immunity

Ayurvedic herbs are well-known for their health benefits and for the fact that these herbs have no side effects. Top ayurvedic herbs for boosting immunity are:

Giloy (Guduchi / Tinospora Cordifolia)    

A promising alternative to classical antibiotics is the use of immunomodulators for boosting host defence response. Traditional practices, such as Ayurveda in India, widely use plant-derived immunomodulatory for various medical problems. The investigation of these sources has increased exponentially in recent years. In Ayurveda, ‘Rasayana’ are those which nourish body and boost immunity. They are also immune system modulators and activate macrophage. The macrophage is usually is in a quiescent state in a healthy individual, but get activated in cases of infection and pathogenic attack.  

The alcoholic and aqueous extracts of giloy (T. cordifolia) are found to be effective for its immunomodulatory properties. [3]

Black Pepper (Kali Mirch)

Several studies have demonstrated that black pepper extracts and its major constituents have diverse physiological effects on vital organs. It contains several antioxidants for curtailing oxidative stress.

The principle phytochemical- piperine inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines of tumour cells. Black pepper exhibits immunomodulatory properties by boosting the number of white blood cells (WBCs), thus supporting the body to generate a powerful defense mechanism against invading microbes. [4]


A study published in the Journal Of Immunology Research has shown that garlic compounds have immunomodulatory, antiapoptotic, antiparasitic, anti cancerogenic on different cells of the immune system. Garlic compounds act as immune-modulatory agents on the macrophages response. Additionally, the protein fraction of fresh garlic extract stimulates the peripheral blood T-lymphocyte proliferation and increases CD8+ subpopulation in treated animals, causing an increase in delayed-type hypersensitivity responses, promoting an efficient cellular response.

Garlic or its compounds stimulate a variety of immune-modulatory activities in leukocyte cytokine production. In Th1 cells, the production of inflammatory cytokine is significantly reduced in the presence of garlic extract and/or its compounds, revealing a potential therapeutic use in inflammatory conditions. [5]

TULSI (Oscimum Sanctum)

A study published in Journal Of Ayurveda And Integrative Medicine suggests that tulsi has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and it also includes activity against many pathogens responsible for human infections. Tulsi has also been shown to be active against many animal pathogens, as well as it is active against many waterborne and foodborne pathogens. Thus, it is equally effective as herbal sanitizer and purifier. It boosts defence mechanism against infective threats by enhancing immune responses in non-stressed and stressed animals as well as in healthy humans. [6]


The holistic approach of yoga and Ayurveda are effective for boosting immunity and marinating overall health. When we say that Ayurveda or yoga is effective against coronavirus, it does not imply or claims that yoga can ‘cure or treat’ coronavirus infection. The fact is that yoga intervention can prove effective in terms of boosting immunity so that the immune system itself can better fight and eliminate disease-causing agent.      


  3. More, P., & Pai, K. (2011). Immunomodulatory effects of Tinospora cordifolia (Guduchi) on macrophage activation. Biology and Medicine3(2), 134-140.
  4. Vaidya, A., & Rathod, M. (2014). An in vitro study of the immunomodulatory effects of Piper nigrum (black pepper) and Elettaria cardamomum (cardamom) extracts using a murine macrophage cell line. AIJRFANS8(1), 18-27.
  5. Arreola, R., Quintero-Fabián, S., López-Roa, R. I., Flores-Gutiérrez, E. O., Reyes-Grajeda, J. P., Carrera-Quintanar, L., & Ortuño-Sahagún, D. (2015). Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. Journal of immunology research2015.
  6. Cohen M. M. (2014). Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 5(4), 251–259.

Courtesy: Chanchal D, Sherish A, Katha M and Google Image

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