Yoga helps to relax the body and mind, to give well-being and to stimulate the body's purification processes. All of this certainly contributes to strengthening our defenses. But an extra help seems to come from a pranayama, which is a yoga breathing technique, called bhramari pranayama or the breath of the bee due to the sound similar to the hum of a bee that is emitted during this exercise. Well, it seems that the bee's breath stimulates the production of a substance, nitric oxide, able to strengthen the immune system and, it is believed, to inhibit, thanks to its antiviral properties, the replication of the new coronavirus. This is what emerges from a recent research published by an Indian team (Taneja et al, Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, Sep 2020).
Nitric oxide is a substance that plays an essential role in various biological processes, such as vasodilation, it is anti-inflammatory and helps support the body's defenses against viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. Nitric oxide has been shown to be able to inhibit the SARS virus in vitro and in vivo, therefore, given the similarity of the SARS virus to the new coronavirus, it is rightly hypothesized that nitric oxide has the same protective effect even in case of COVID-19. In fact, a previous scientific study has shown how nitric oxide is able to inhibit the replication of the novel coronavirus (Akaberi et al, Redox Biology, Oct 2020). Nitric oxide improves oxygenation in the blood in case of hypoxia by redistributing the blood flow in the lungs in the best ventilated areas and counteracts the formation of blood clots. The latter aspect is of considerable importance as one of the major risks of new coronavirus infection is, in some cases, an excessive immune response that causes the so-called cytokine storm and the formation of blood clots.
It has been shown that emitting a particular noise, similar to the hum of a bee, increases the endogenous production, in the paranasal sinuses, of nitric oxide by as much as 15 times. Thus, as pointed out by the authors of the study, practicing bhramari pranayama can be considered, together with all the hygiene measures, distancing and an appropriate diet, another weapon against coronavirus and to strengthen the immune system. Let's see how to practice pranayama in a simplified version. Sit down, open your chest and lift your shoulders. Inhale with your nose, at the moment of exhalation, which should be as long as possible, emit a hum by placing the tongue against the palate. Then stop, don't inspire for a moment. Then repeat the cycle.