Yoga for heart health7 years ago | Physical exercise
By pH health care professionals
Developed in India 3,000 years ago, yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Yoga helps create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body. While there are more than 100 different types of yoga, typically sessions are comprised of breathing exercises, meditation and holding various postures (sometimes called asanas or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups. While holding a yoga pose, you focus inward. You try to become more mindful of your body, as well as to focus and quiet the mind.
Yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response, research shows. Some of the main goals of yoga are to achieve tranquility of the mind and create a sense of well-being, feelings of relaxation, improved self-confidence, improved efficiency, increased attentiveness, lowered irritability and an optimistic outlook on life.
So how can yoga improve heart health?
Researchers have discovered that the regular practice of yoga may produce many health benefits, including increased fitness and normalization of blood pressure. Over time, yoga practitioners report lower levels of stress and increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing. This is because concentrating on the postures and the breath acts as a form of meditation.
Specifically for the cardiovascular system, yoga increases blood flow and levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which allows for more oxygen to reach the cells, enhancing their function. Yoga also thins the blood, which can decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, as they are often caused by blood clots.
Yoga sitting positions are isometric, which means they rely on holding muscle tension for a short period of time. This improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation. Yogic practices are also shown to significantly reduce blood pressure. The fact is, cardiovascular health generally declines as one ages, but these age-related deteriorations are slower in people who practice yoga regularly, research shows.
So should you roll out your mat and practice?
Many people can benefit from yoga. Whether you’re young or old, happy or stressed, healthy or sick, the mind-body approach yoga offers has helped people around the world, and may very well help you. Note that if you have any kind of health condition or restriction, it’s always advisable to speak with a qualified health care professional before beginning a new exercise regimen to make sure it’s safe for you.
Namaste! Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
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