NYMC Faculty Publications

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Case Report

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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


The COVID-19 pandemic is causing global stress, trauma and mental illness that has already outpaced current healthcare resources. Inequalities in the burden of illness, death, and economic loss are exacerbated by inequalities in the provision of mental health care. Minority populations and indigenous peoples bear the brunt of both inequities. Ancient healing systems, such as Yoga, Qigong, and tribal practices, are a rich source of group healing methods that can be studied and optimized for prevention and recovery during current and future disasters. Modern research is shedding light on a myriad of mechanisms that underly the healing properties of voluntarily regulated breathing practices. We selectively review the neurophysiological effects of evidence-based, breath-centered mind-body practices and use Breath-Body-Mind as an example of a program that can safely and efficiently ameliorate psychological and somatic symptoms in child and adult survivors of mass disasters. Online virtual programs can be used to train thousands of practitioners to deliver evidence-based mind-body programs to people who are unlikely to receive individual mental health treatment for coronavirus-related anxiety, depression, and PTSD. For those who have access to individual mental health care, adjunctive mind-body therapies can hasten recovery and may reduce the need for medication. Voluntarily regulated breathing practices shift psychophysiological states from defense mode to the feeling of safety wherein we are best able to feel connect and relate to others with empathy, compassion, and cooperation. Knowing how to regulate our physiology in this direction is essential for stress resilience, trauma recovery, and community wellness.