Yoga For The Heart
According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, causing about 1.5 million heart attacks each year.
Now, research shows us that yoga and meditation both reduce blood pressure, lower the pulse rate, improve the elasticity of the arteries, regulate heart rhythm and increase the heart's stroke volume.
In today's society, stress plays a major role in heart disease. When stressed, your heart rate and blood pressure rise, which in turn, releases stress hormones. These stress hormones can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, especially during prolonged or repeated exposures.
Yoga is widely known for its ability to reduce stress and promote a calm, relaxed state. This state reduces the stress hormone levels, decreases the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure. All of these benefits control and prevent heart disease.
Breathing influences the rhythm of the heart through inner connections in the central nervous system. Slow, deep breaths are at the core of hatha yoga, and are called pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). It is this lengthening of the breath that slows the heart rate and regulates the heart rhythm. The blood becomes oxygenated and feelings of calm and well-being are induced in your body.
Because of these positive effects on the human body, specific types of yoga postures can be used to control and prevent heart disease:
- Upper back-bending poses open the chest to improve heart function and respiration.
- Side-bending poses open the energy channels of the liver, gallbladder and heart to help remove physical and energetic blockages in the heart and chest. Spine lengthening poses promote good posture to reduce compression on the heart and lungs and to facilitate proper functioning of the heart.
- Shavasana (corpse or resting pose) is deeply calming and has been shown to reduce high blood pressure in just a few weeks.
- Inversions help rest the heart muscle and improve blood circulation. Note: Inversions are contraindicated with un-medicated high blood pressure.
Findings now show that you can reduce blood pressure, pulse and overall risk of heart disease by simply practicing yoga at least three times a week.
As for meditation, it is well-known for its ability to calm the mind and reduce stress. It can also reduce heart-harmful emotions, such as anxiety, hostility and hopelessness. Studies show that a daily meditation practice can reduce the amount of fatty deposits in your arteries, as well as lower blood pressure.