Think you can prove yoga, meditation ward off Covid-19? Modi govt has an offer for you

Think you can prove yoga, meditation ward off Covid-19? Modi govt has an offer for you

The central govt is seeking research by experts on how yoga & meditation can boost immunity, improve the respiratory system and alleviate depression and anxiety. 

People residing in the makeshift camp at Yamuna sports complex in Delhi perform yoga earlier this week

People residing in the makeshift camp at Yamuna sports complex in Delhi perform yoga in April 2020 | Representational image | PTI

New Delhi: The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has invited researchers to study the benefits of yoga and meditation in fighting Covid-19 and similar viruses. 

In a notification issued 8 April, the DST has asked scientists, clinicians and yoga/meditation practitioners with a “proven track record in the field of yoga and meditation research” to submit proposals for projects that can benefit a larger section of society. The last date for submissions is 30 April and selected researchers will get up to Rs 15 lakh to pursue their proposals.

The DST, which falls under the Union Ministry of Science & Technology, is not looking for a “cure” to coronavirus through yoga and meditation. The projects, it says, should instead focus on boosting immunity, improving the respiratory system (since Covid-19 causes respiratory illness) and alleviating stress, depression and anxiety. 

The invitation is a “special call” under the DST’s ‘Science and Technology of Yoga and Meditation (SATYAM)’ programme, which funds three-year-long projects that aim to scientifically validate the benefits of yoga and meditation in dealing with different diseases. 

“The aim of this special call is to provide assistance to our society in today’s critical condition arises (sic) due to pandemic Covid-19,” the DST notification states. 

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Three kinds of proposals invited

While yoga and meditation are known to be beneficial for holistic health, there is no proof so far that they help gear up the human body to fight coronavirus, which has infected over 7,000 people in India so far.

Speaking to ThePrint about the special call, DST secretary Ashutosh Sharma said “projects in the SATYAM programme, as the name implies, investigate the effects of yoga and meditation holistically through teams of clinicians, scientists and practitioners by using the modern tools of science such as MRI etc”.

“In the context of Covid-19, shoring of immune system, respiratory function and also addressing stress, anxiety, etc are of relevance and importance,” he added. “The projects are to investigate these aspects through scientifically designed protocols and experiments to determine the outcomes and efficacy of yoga and meditation practices under different conditions.”

According to the notification, the proposed work should be completed within six to 12 months. 

Researchers have been invited to submit proposals under three categories. The first is to compile existing knowledge, protocols and best practices in boosting immunity, respiratory system and mental health and make a critical assessment of the same. 

The second category is for proposals to develop specific protocols and modules of yoga and meditation based strictly on scientific approach with proper documentation. Under this section, existing protocols can also be refined or reframed in view of Covid-19. 

The last category is for short-duration pilot studies based on experience in the abovementioned areas by a team of scientists, clinicians and yoga/meditation practitioners. The studies will need to be “scientifically designed, documented, open to scrutiny and employ scientific tools for validation or falsification”, the notification states.

This report has been revised to correct an error in the number of Covid-19 cases in India

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