Yoga and Music for Healthcare workers Mental Health

October, 2021

By Arnab Bishnu Chowdhury

The rhythms within us

Our bodies are polyrhythmic, we have heart rhythms, brains waves, breathing rhythms, hormonal and circadian rhythms. We walk, talk and function in rhythm. Our bodies and minds respond to rhythm and music. We are literally an orchestra of rhythms!

Can stress, anxiety possibly illness be considered as a disequilibrium of rhythms, so can we proactively find, know and re-establish our rhythm so that equilibrium re-emerges and we enable optimal health in ourselves?  This is the vision of Know Your Rhythm. 

Know Your Rhythm is a training program of Music Therapy blended with Yoga Therapy. We function as a dedicated network of international therapists. Based out of Pondicherry, India, in the past decade, we have engaged about 20,000 caregivers including physicians, paramedics, nurses and therapists from various disciplines, special educators. We also have trained students of all ages, teachers, community leaders, government officers in the education and sustainability sectors. Our intention is to help our participants discover their own sense of Rhythm in life and work with various immersive exercises, creating conditions to experience ‘Aha! Moments’, raising well-being, wellness, empathy, teamwork, and leadership, in a relaxed atmosphere of joy!

Our uniqueness lies in investigating, composing and producing therapeutic music based on the ancient science of Ragas which are melodic modes as healing modality from the ancient Indian Classical music system. Our therapeutic music is often implemented in Western classical orchestral form which engages an international audience making our music culturally universal. 

Our work in the form of therapeutic music, workshops and studies has been presented at international conferences such as 14th World Congress for Music Therapy, Vienna, 2014, organised by World Federation for Music Therapy; 6th International Conference of International Association for usic & Medicine, Boston, 2020; SYTAR 2021 - Symposium on Yoga Therapy & Research organised by International Association for Yoga Therapists, USA. 

Healing our brave Covid warriors

The ongoing Covid pandemic has opened up new challenges for the healthcare system for the care receiver and caregiver. Often, we tend to forget the wellness and well-being of the caregiver since our focus is on the care receiver. Caregivers need therapy healing to raise their well-being and wellness so that they raise their caregiving capacity. 

When Know Your Rhythm team came to know about the high stress and anxiety levels of Covid healthcare workers serving at large Indian hospitals, we created Project Susthiti, an online therapy program that dips into our existing Know Your Rhythm training program experience. The Indian government honours and calls its Covid healthcare workers as Covid warriors. These include medical doctors, nurses and paramedics working in isolated Covid-19 wards as well as frontline healthcare workers. Susthiti denotes stable position and well-being in Sanskrit. 

Project Susthiti consists of an online 3-hour therapy program to help Covid warriors battle stress, anxiety, burnout and depression. Physical symptoms often include chronic back and neck pain, dehydration, indigestion and lack of rest and sleep. In essence, it is a disruption of one’s rhythm. 

We offer immersive exercises of Music Therapy and Yoga Therapy engaging the voice, body, mind and emotions. In addition, we composed and produced a therapeutic music composition for relaxation, rest, sleep that is suppose a sense of empathy and bravery based on a specific Raga in orchestral form. We apply this orchestral music as Receptive Music Therapy along with with visualisation techniques such as Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) and Yoga Nidra to induce deep relaxation. Typically during our final exercise, our Covid warriors are instructed to relax and lie in Shavasana (corpse pose in Yoga) while they experience a deep listening session which helps them engage their conscious and subconscious fear and anxiety.
According to our observation, one of the most complex mental health challenge is deep concern for the family members especially when they return home after their 10 to 12 hours shift from isolated Covid-19 wards. We often invite the Covid warriors’ family members to join our online therapy program because we believe that a healthy family environment is a key support for the caregiver to sustain his caregiving capacity.

Our first pilot study with 19 Covid healthcare workers was conducted across a week at Shree Krishna Hospital, Sri Pramukshwami Medical College, Gujarat, India in August 2020. Emotional well-being of participants was recorded in an investigator designed questionnaire wherein subjective experiences of 7 parameters viz., happiness, calmness, alertness, stability, clarity of thoughts, control over anger and self-observation were recorded on a Likert scale. On the third consecutive day of Know Your Rhythm session, 68% participants recorded significant change in alertness followed by calmness and control over anger. All participants registered improvement in one or more parameters of emotional well-being on several days of the week. Fifty two percent of the participants recorded consistent beneficial effects throughout the study period. Our pilot study as oral paper titled 'The Effect of Music on Healthcare Professionals Working in Covid-19 Isolation Wards – A Pilot Study' (Yajnik et al., 2020) was presented at the 5th Medicine Annual Conference Virtual 2020, Department of Medicine, Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, November 2020. Subsequently, 280 Covid warriors have received our 3-hour online program. In June 2021, Project Susthiti received Seva award 2021 from the International Association for Yoga Therapists (IAYT, USA).

You are welcome to listen or download an excerpt of the same original therapeutic orchestral music expressing empathy and bravery applied during our pilot study here.  

Presentiation at WONCA’s Music and Mental Health Project

On June 26th 2021, Know Your Rhythm’s founder Arnab Bishnu Chowdhury was invited by WONCA members, Alfredo de Oliveira Neto (Brazil) and Moisés Nunes (Brazil) to speak at ‘Music and Mental Health Project’, an effort of the WONCA Working Party for Mental Health that seeks to mitigate through music the psychosocial effects posed by the COVID19
The three of them composed and recorded "Tone of Mind" along with musicians from Brazil, India and Australia. A teaser for the event with Working Party for Mental Health members singing verses from The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun was also presented.

It was an honour to present our Project Susthiti at WONCA’s Working Party for Mental Health chaired by Christopher Dowrick.

We look forward to deeper collaboration with WONCA and its members to co-create a healthier and happier Covid-free world.


About the author

Arnab Bishnu Chowdhury is a composer, therapist, teacher and explorer of Consciousness with over 25 years of experience. He is founder of Know Your Rhythm ( which has reached 20,000 caregivers across the world. He is a certified Yoga Therapist from International Association for Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and member of International Association for Music & Medicine (IAMM) and has presented papers and workshops at various international seminars. Arnab’s therapeutic music compositions have been applied in healthcare settings, Yoga studios and clinics in India and USA. In the late 90s, he was associated with MIT Media Lab’s ‘Music, Mind and Machine Group’ exploring music composition & cognition with AI. 

Arnab is third generation from a family of Indian Classical musicians based out of Pondicherry, India and traces his musical lineage to Baba Allaudin Khan, the master-teacher of Ravi Shankar, the sitar maestro and Rabin Ghosh, the violin maestro who was Arnab’s grand uncle. Arnab grew up, studied at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education at Pondicherry, India and continues to serves as researcher at his alma mater. He is also senior faculty at Sustainable Livelihood Institute, a collaboration between Indian Govt. and Auroville, India.