Heart disease is one of the more interesting conditions of our generation simply because there are many actions we can take proactively to help prevent heart disease from developing, or if we have heart disease, to improve our outcome.
One of the ways to improve heart health is by lowering stress levels, controlling high blood pressure, and improving blood cholesterol levels. If you’re looking for a fun, relaxing activity to spice up your day and keep your heart healthy, why not consider yoga?
More than 4000 years old, the practice of yoga originated in India. Using breathing, meditation, stretching, and poses and postures, yoga focuses on the mind-body connection promoting both physical and emotional well-being.
The founder of Cardiac Yoga, and president of Positive Health Solutions, M. Mala Cunningham, PhD, believes that the practice of yoga will prevent and even reverse heart disease.
“Hand in hand with leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease. It may not completely reverse it, but you will definitely see benefits,” said Cunningham. (AHA 1)
Yoga practitioners exhibit an increase in flexibility, strength, and muscle tone. Practitioners report lower stress levels and improvement in blood pressure levels.
Yoga has also been demonstrated to improve lung capacity, heart rate, circulation, and respiratory function.
It’s proven particularly effective for dealing with the stress associated with a cardiac event such as a heart attack and post-heart attack depression which is frequently experienced by some cardiac patients.
A 2009 study conducted at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, in Uttrakhand, India, found that yoga practitioners had higher rates of heart rate variability, or HRV, than non-yoga practitioners.
HRV is an indicator of how healthy the heart is. People with cardiac problems generally have lower HRV rates than those with healthy hearts. In the Institute’s study, HRV rates were higher in yoga practitioners even when no cardiac condition was present and had healthier hearts than non-yoga practitioners.
There are many different types so if you’re new to yoga, it’s important to select the class that’s right for you. For those concerned with heart health, Cunningham recommended selecting a trained cardiac medical yoga instructor to maximize the benefits to your heart.
Despite the fact that some types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, can be quite vigorous, the American Heart Association does not consider yoga to meet the requirements for weekly physical activity so yoga should be treated as an addition to your lifestyle and not a substitution for your regular workout.
Yoga and Heart Health. American Heart Association. 02 Feb 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/Yoga-and-Heart-Health_UCM_434966_Article.jsp#.Ty9IHPnYEos
Inderscience Publishers (2009, November 9). Yoga boosts heart health, new research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091109121216.htm
Deepak Chopra, M.D. Weekly Health Tip: Yoga’s Health Benefits. The Huffington Post. 18 Jul 2011.
Reviewed February 6, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith