February is American Heart Month, and there’s no better time to focus on getting your ticker in tip-top shape. Significant health benefits come with practicing yoga, including flexibility, weight loss, and improvements in muscle tone and energy level. However, perhaps some of the most life-changing health benefits are the ones that can’t be seen, and evidence from clinical studies show that yoga can contribute to a healthier heart. Here are five ways yoga can keep things pumping!
Yoga is great for people with existing heart conditions. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Inactivity as a risk factor is also completely reversible. Just 30 minutes of yoga a day can systematically soothe an irregular heartbeat. Types of yoga that can benefit individuals with irregular heartbeat, blockages or hardened arteries are slower styles such as hatha and yin yoga. Don’t let a slow flow fool you; these styles can still be physically challenging!
Yoga promotes physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, as well as diet. The heart is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised like any other. Research shows that those who practice yoga are more likely to continue to be active and place fitness high on their priority list. Yoga has also been proven to improve other factors that may keep you from becoming more active, such as joint stiffness, back pain, lung capacity and lots more. Once you establish a routine of physical activity, watch your energy level soar! Remember – a thing in motion tends to stay in motion, so hop off the couch and onto the mat!
Yoga lowers stress and anxiety. Stress can exacerbate heart disease symptoms and lead to behaviors that elevate the risk of heart attacks. These include things like high blood pressure, smoking, overeating or stress eating, and inactivity. Yoga is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and through some simple breathing techniques you can quickly transform from surly to serene. Almost all styles of yoga include an essential focus on awareness of the breath. Through this intentional and mindful practice, the parasympathetic nervous system can begin to do its work to alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, including elevated heart rate. Other conditions such as depression, insomnia, addiction, and post traumatic stress are also great reasons to practice yoga and find relief.
Yoga can lower your blood pressure. Believe it or not, yoga can play an important role in managing your hypertension, which can greatly reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack. High blood pressure is more likely to occur if you are overweight due to the taxing work it takes for the heart to pump blood through the body, but luckily, yoga’s got that covered, too. Weight loss is a common result of regular practice. The combination of physical fitness and stress reduction naturally lead to better circulation and blood flow, and conditions your heart to beat more efficiently.
Yoga increases aerobic capacity. Practicing yoga regularly is associated with improved cardiovascular endurance. Yoga may look easy if you’ve never tried it, but most yogis can attest to the cardiovascular workout it can be, depending on the style. With regular practice, yoga can strengthen the heart and improve quality of life. What once might tire you out within a few minutes, such as climbing a flight of stairs, becomes a task you can accomplish easily without getting winded.
In addition to your existing medical treatment plan, yoga can be a wonderful complement to improve your heart health. It is important that if you have any medical conditions to speak with your doctor about which exercise routine and type of yoga is appropriate for you. If you are a beginner or have health conditions, always speak with your instructor prior to class so that they can offer tips and modifications to ensure you have a great practice.