Yoga may be a gentle and slow form of exercise, but it has many benefits for heart health as well as all over health. Heart disease has many risk factors including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, stress and wrong foods. Yoga helps reduce stress levels and also assists in cutting other risk factors as a recent study shows. The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, was based on 37 clinical trials and deduced that yoga had similar benefits as conventional exercise (including walking) for lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart rate, high blood sugar, abdominal fat and also reduced other cardiovascular risk factors.
The advantages of yoga
In normal and healthy people, yoga can help prevent heart disease. In people who already have high risk factors for heart disease, it can help cutting down the risk. And in people who have already had heart problems, yoga can still provide benefits. Among the many advantages of yoga are:
- Yoga comprises slow and deliberate movements, with mindful breathing. This does not stress the body.
- Yoga improves the stress hormone balance in the body and when you are less stressed, you reduce your heart attack risk.
- Inflammation is another factor in heart disease. And yoga, when done regularly, helps reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
- Plaque in the arteries that is a major cause of blockage, heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems are helped by yoga that reduces blood pressure.
- Yoga helps in weight loss. Excess weight is a factor in cardiovascular disease.
- Yoga improves the heart rate, research shows. Those who practice yoga have better vagal control that actually reflects in the ECG levels.
Yoga postures that promote heart health
While all yoga benefits heart health in different ways, there are specific postures that are more advantageous than others. These include
- Big toe pose – you stand with your feet somewhat apart and bend forward in an attempt to catch your big toes. You have to stretch as much as you can and if you can’t your toes with your knees straight, you can try with knees slightly bent. This pose is good for high blood pressure.
- Mountain pose – stand with legs somewhat apart and move your arms upwards, touching the palms together. Hold for several breath cycles.
- Tree pose – this is similar, but you stand on one leg and rest the other leg, bent against the opposite thigh. Reverse the pose after some time.
- Chair pose – stand and bend from the hips, at the same time moving your upper body forward, with your arms up, palms touching, in line with your body. You look somewhat like a chair doing this.
- Cobra pose – lie down on your stomach and lift your upper torso, resting on your hands which should be at shoulder level. Lift your head up and backwards and hold the pose for several breaths.
- Bow pose – lie down on your stomach and move your legs upwards, knees bent. Put your arms at the back and hold your ankles with your hands. Hold for several breaths.
It is best to check with a yoga teacher so that you can do the asanas properly and in the correct manner as doing them wrong can be harmful. Once you have mastered different poses that you need to do, you can do them on your own and improve heart health.