The combination of yoga and meditation has many wonderful benefits, but can they be used as adjunctive treatments for COVID-19?

The anti-inflammatory and other beneficial effects of meditation and yoga practices make them potential supporting treatments for the infectious disease, according a recent study published in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, a transdisciplinary team of researchers aims to study and advocate for the practice of meditation and yoga as a potential supporting treatment for the infectious disease, because of the significant anti-stress, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing properties of these modalities.

The transdisciplinary team includes:


  • Dr. Deepak Chopra
  • William Bushell, Ph.D. of MIT (noted biophysical anthropologist)
  • Paul J. Mills, Ph.D. (long-time CHI collaborator & professor of family medicine and public health and chief of behavioral medicine at the University of California, San Diego)
  • Ryan Castle (executive director of the Chopra Library)
  • Michelle Williams, S.D. (dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health)
  • Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., (Harvard professor of neurology)

Proven Anti-Inflammatory, Immunity Boosting and Anti-Stress Benefits

The team says these safe and proven practices offer significant anti-inflammatory, immunity-boosting and anti-stress benefits, even for beginners.

And, these complementary traditions can be added to our self-care and medical regimens and are safe, effective and easily done at home by the more than one billion people sheltering in place around the globe.

The “brief overview of key subjects” found “there is evidence of stress and inflammation modulation, and also preliminary evidence for possible forms of immune system enhancement, accompanying the practice of certain forms of meditation, yoga, and pranayama, along with potential implications for counteracting some forms of infectious challenges.”

Yoga and Meditation to Treat Coronavirus

Yoga and meditation as adjunctive therapy are meant to reduce the severity of coronavirus such as helping the immune system and improving lung health. There are also potential benefits for a patient’s neuroimmune system as meditation helps target inflammatory functions, namely the fight or flight response being replaced with a “relaxation response.”

The authors also noted how 20-minute meditation or yoga for six weeks “resulted in a significant downregulation of proinflammatory genes and a significant reduction of activity of the proinflammatory transcription factor.” With coronavirus, anti-inflammatory activity increased cell receptors’ ability to interfere with viral activity.

mediation for COVID-19

The authors also “readily acknowledge that in the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the ideas put forth in this article must be put to further rigorous scientific investigation.”

Executive Director of the Chopra Library Ryan Castle explains that while meditation is widely considered to be a healthy activity, “its role in combating systemic inflammation is unique and powerful.”

He adds:

  • Meditation lowers levels of inflammatory markers, interrupting the vicious cycle of inflammation and allowing the body to down-regulate to stability.
  • Meditation has clinical efficacy at lowering the duration and/or severity of diseases.
  • Though any meditation is beneficial, active meditation that involves visualizations or guided imagery has a significantly greater impact than simple mindfulness practice.
  • Meditation has beneficial effects on multiple immune functions and inflammatory processes, suggesting a truly systemic effect.
  • Meditation, especially when incorporating visualization and compassion components, has clinically significant effects on reducing the physiological and psychological damage of isolation and loneliness.
  • Visualization meditation has also been shown to improve the production of the powerful immune modulator melatonin.

Dr. Bushell says that inflammation is the primary way COVID-19 kills. “Spread of the virus through the body leads to widespread and intensive activation of the inflammatory defenses throughout the body, though originally intended to combat the pathogen, but at this point instead resulting in widespread tissue damage, and fatally, to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), in which the lungs become flooded and respiratory failure ensues; the viral toxins themselves play a much lesser role in the tissue damage that ultimately can produce extreme critical disease states (pulmonary aspiration, septic shock), and potentially death (egs, Fu et al, 2020; Qin et al, 2020).”

JACM Editor-in-Chief John Weeks,, states: “The paper is another in a series in JACM and in other integrative medicine journals suggesting that research agencies in the United States and Europe would serve their citizens by upping their exploration of the potential contributions of natural health practices, especially amidst the present dearth of conventional treatments.”

Additional Resources

Please be sure and join us for our FREE WEBINAR with William Bushell, PhD discussing this important and encouraging study. 

FRIDAY, August 7th, 2020; 11AM – 12PM PT (2PM – 3PM ET) REGISTER HERE!

Also, check out these free how-tos, articles and guided videos from The Chopra Foundation


Also Watch: The Science Of Yoga 

Learn More About the Author

William Bushell, PhD

Biophysical Anthropologist MIT

William C Bushell, PhD is a biophysical/medical anthropologist for many years affiliated with MIT, as well as Harvard and Columbia. He is now Co-Director of the Chopra Research Library, Whole Health Institute, and has spent many years scientifically investigating meditational and yogic practices, including around the world.

The developer of the model of the use of special forms of meditation and yoga for COVID-19, Dr Bushell has been developing this scientific model for over 10 years, and also while previously affiliated with Columbia and Harvard Universities, and as a Fulbright Scholar.

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