WHAT IS A COVID LONG HAULER ANYWAY?
Since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, researchers estimate one in ten individuals who have tested positive for COVID will continue to experience symptoms for weeks, or even months after the virus is no longer detectable in the system. Women are estimated to comprise 60-80% of this number, with even higher incidences in those with autoimmune issues.
So what are Long Hauler COVID symptoms? Most people experiencing long hauler symptoms report having extreme fatigue, diminished breath capacity (especially with exertion), loss of senses, muscle aches, headaches and covid fog. Some have reported heart palpitations, hair loss, vision problems, skin rashes, and of course- the anxiety and depression that can accompany long term health issues, loss of work, productivity and family stress.
While we may not have found ‘the’ treatment for covid long haul, there is hope for sufferers from Long COVID, and many that we have worked with at Panchamaya in our COVID long haul study have reported a significant return to their pre-COVID quality of life.
The goal of this post is to provide you with 5 simple yoga therapy techniques on how to treat long covid to bring you closer to your Covid recovery.
Please note: Yoga Therapy is very effective when overseen by a certified Yoga Therapist. The techniques are selected for a specific outcome and organized in a particular way to give the best result. However, trying these simple techniques can give you a small taste of how possible it is to change the state of body, nervous system, and mind.
Recover Lost Sense Of Taste & Smell
One of the most perplexing symptoms of long haul COVID research studies is the loss of taste and smell. Experts understand that this is a result of the virus attacking the nerves that communicate between our nose and our brain. For a few weeks or a few months, or even longer, the flavors of our favorite meal, the scent of spring’s blossoms, or the sweet smell of our babies and puppies can be lost to us. Even as the more health-threatening symptoms subside, post-covid sufferers can be left without the simple pleasures that give us the impetus to keep going.
Neuroplasticity is the ability for our nerves to regenerate and adapt when given the right environment. When the olfactory nerves are damaged, causing lingering sinus issues after Covid infection, we can re-train them to interpret the information by exposing them to strong smells.
Smelling essential oils, like lemon, orange, Geranium, rose, peppermint, or cedar can help your brain “remember” how to interpret these scents. If you can access the actual fruit, flower, plant or tree, this can be an even more powerful connection. One of the most effective tools of yoga in the Viniyoga Tradition is using an object or, Bhāvanā, to meditate on. In the case of someone who is experiencing a loss of their taste and smell senses, incorporating the image of a rose (for example) into daily meditation would be very useful in rebuilding these pathways.
Breathing Exercises For Covid Recovery
Not being able to take a full breath is terrifying. Many of us rushed out and bought O2 pulse
oximeters to measure our oxygen levels if we should come down with COIVD. Long after your covid infection, maybe you were winded when walking up a flight of stairs, or just didn’t have the energy to complete daily tasks. Grasping for breath creates an anxiety response, so the best way to try to get back the volume of breath you were used to is to harness the breath where it is and slowly bring it back to capacity with repetitive, control led exercise.
- Imagine your lungs inflating on all sides, pressing forward and backward and out to your side ribs. Imagine 360 degrees of expansion, like a balloon. Caution against only lifting the chest-this increases anxiety.
- When you exhale, imagine the movement begins from just below the navel and gently presses the air out of the balloon from bottom to top.
- Start to measure the length of your inhale vs. your exhale and try to make the exhale slightly longer.
- Do 8-12 repetitions 3x per day
Alleviate Long Haul Covid Headaches
When I had COVID, I had headaches that were untouched by Advil and Tylenol, and so severe I was completely incapacitated. Lying still was uncomfortable and moving around was impossible, this simple technique effectively shifted my focus away from my pain.
Nyāsa, represents the mindful touching of a particular part of the body, here’s a simple Nyāsa for you to try:
1) Place the thumb of one hand on the base of the index finger. Inhale and slowly slide the thumb up the length of finger, and then exhale and slowly slide the thumb down to the base again.
2) Move the thumb, along the base of the finger joints to the middle finger and inhale as you slide the thumb up to the tip of the middle finger, then exhale as you slide the thumb down to the base.
3) Move the thumb over to the base of the ring finger and inhale sliding the thumb up to the top of the ring finger, and exhale sliding the thumb back down.
4) Do the same technique with the thumb and pinky finger.
5) Repeat the whole hand 2X as often as needed.
Clear Post Covid Brain Fog
We know that feeling of having a fog over your brain can be frustrating and distracting—especially when it comes to work-related tasks. And we don’t blame you for feeling like this! It’s not uncommon for people to feel dazed and confused from long covid brain fog. In fact, in studies done on the virus and its effects on the brain, it was found that exposure to Covid could reduce cognitive function in some cases by up to 90%.
The good news is there are ways to reduce or rid yourself of this post COVID brain fog. Through the combination of regulated breathing and movement of the spine helps to move blockages along the vertebral path. This can improve mental clarity and increase energy levels too. Try this gentle posture, Chakravakasana, (known in the west as Cat/Cow) on a daily basis to clear the foggy residue that often accompanies COVID Brain.
- Come to the floor on hands and knees-be sure to use a folded blanket under the knees if your knees are cranky.
- Bring the spine to a neutral position, as you inhale the breath lift the clavicle area and slightly tip the chin up and head back-not too much.
- When you exhale, start to round the spine and gently guide the hips back to rest near the heals.
- Let your inhale breath bring you forward and repeat Step 2.
- Let you exhale bring you back to step 3.
- Repeat 8x every morning, or anytime you start to feel the fog roll in.
Lift Depression After Covid
Dealing with long term health challenges, lost work and general pandemic-related despair can compound the other symptoms experienced by people who have had COVID. Connecting the breath with movements that open the chest for just a few minutes each day can serve to elevate the mood in a meaningful way. Try this pose seated, standing or lying.
- Slowly inhale the arms in front of you until you reach an overhead position. Be sure your arms are at a distance that is comfortable and does not create tension or pinching in the shoulders. This could look like a Y or even a T. T ry to match the length of the movement with the length of the inhale.
- Slowly exhale and lower the arms to the sides – again matching the length of the breath to the duration of the movement.
- Repeat 12x and do 2-3 times per day.
There is hope for sufferers from Long COVID
Here’s a word from Helen Ann, one of our Long Haul Covid clients reporting a significant return to their pre-COVID quality of life.
Panchamaya is committed to helping people Reclaim Energy and Live a Vibrant and Passion-Filled Life, if you or someone you know is struggling with Covid Long Haul, please contact us here to begin your road to recovery.