long covid

Yoga Therapy and Long Covid

Before COVID-19, more than 2 million Britons were living with four or more chronic illnesses, and as it turns out, COVID-19, can trigger long-term, chronic health issues, suggesting that this figure is exponentially set to rise. 

About 22% of individuals were still reporting at least one symptom at 5 weeks following a COVID-19 infection, while 10% had symptoms at 12 weeks. Surprisingly, many are women. Long-Haulers experience symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, breath shortness, muscle, joint, and chest pain, brain fog, headaches, fever, heart palpitations, hair loss, rashes, taste, smell, mood, and memory issues.

Whether mild or moderate symptoms, the long-term impact on Long-Haulers is that they often experience difficulties in getting treatment, especially as they are suffering from “dysautonomia.” This is when the nervous system creates a fight-or-flight response dysregulating heart and breathing rates.

The medical community has looked at treating Long-Covid by tackling the issue of breathing first. 

Yoga professionals have a lot to offer in supporting Long-Haulers. Part of any Yoga practice involves pranayama (breathing techniques) which works not just on improving the lungs, but on the nervous system as being anxious can increase feelings of breathlessness. It is often advisable to work with a specialist who can guide you through the following breathing techniques: 

Abdominal Breathing

In a relaxed comfortable position, with one hand on your chest, the other on your stomach, slowly breathe in through your nose allowing your stomach to gently expand against your hand. Breathe out slowly through your nose as your belly relaxes down gently. Gradually try to breathe more slowly and notice the natural pause at the end of your out breath.

When you have comfortably mastered belly breathing, you are perhaps ready to move on to lengthening your exhales:

4:6 Ratio Breathing

Watch the easy natural rhythm of the breath – breathing in through the nose to the count of 4 and breathing out through the nose gradually without pushing or forcing the breath until you reach the count of 6. 

Using shapes to work with breathing – As triangle and box breathing below involve holding the breath, only practice if you feel comfortable with this, or opt for 3 counts instead of 4 instead:

Triangle Breathing

Visualise a triangle. Start at the bottom left of the triangle. Breathe in for 4 counts as you trace the side of the triangle. Exhale your breath for 4 as you trace the second side. Then pause for 4 as you trace the final side of the triangle. 

Square Breathing

Visualise a square. Starting at the bottom right of the square, breathe in for 4 counts as you trace the first side. Pause for 4 as you trace the second, then breath out for 4 as you trace the third side. Finally, pause for 4 as you trace the final side of the square. 

With any of the above practices, you can start with 10 rounds, and gradually build up to 5- or 10-minutes practice. Set a timer on your phone to help. 

Tristessa Moore is a registered Yoga Therapist qualified in Trauma-sensitive practices. To find out how Yoga Therapy can help you: www.yogatherapyhull.co.uk. For staff and pupil well-being in education: www.yoyogasoul.co.uk

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