We are well aware of the myriad of benefits associated with yoga. Yoga promotes the harmonious balance between body and mind, and also helps in improving strength and flexibility. The growing popularity of different yoga forms in the West is also drawing increased attention to the link between this ancient practice and improved overall health and wellbeing. So how is this 5000-year-old Indian practice linked to heart health?
Mounting evidence has demonstrated the impacts of yoga on reducing risk of developing a heart disease. Yoga interventions have also been used in cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients who experienced acute heart events – research studies have shown that they help manage symptoms in patients who experienced heart failure. Yoga has also been shown to benefit atrial fibrillation patients. Studies found a link between practicing yoga and reduced episodes of irregular heartbeats in these patients.
You may be wondering how this low-impact, ancient practice promotes heart health. Yoga indirectly benefits your heart by helping you manage some heart disease risk factors:
Lack of physical activity and yoga
You may think that vigorous, heart-pounding exercise is needed to maintain good heart health. But yoga is also an effective form of physical activity. Individuals who practiced yoga showed improvements in markers for heart disease like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and BMI compared to those who did not exercise at all. Thus, something as low-impact as yoga is better than no exercise at all.
Stress and yoga
Yoga is commonly considered as being a stress reliever. The breathing and relaxation techniques activate your parasympathetic nervous system, also called the ‘rest-and-digest’ system. As its nickname suggests, this system overrides your body’s stress response and relaxes you by decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Stress is a major risk factor for hypertension, which in turn increases your vulnerability to heart disease. So, yoga can help mitigate the adverse effects of stress on the heart.
Unhealthy behaviours and yoga
Yoga is a holistic approach to achieving physical fitness and mindfulness. This mindfulness and inner sense of wellbeing helps you adopt positive behaviors like healthy heating and engaging in higher levels of physical activity. Yoga also improves your quality of sleep, benefits your mental health, and may also be a useful tool in helping you quit smoking. All these contribute to better cardiovascular health.
Practicing yoga can be a powerful tool to maintain good heart health – whether in people looking to reduce their risk of heart disease or in heart disease patients wanting to manage their symptoms. Given the various yoga styles that are out there now – like hatha yoga, bikram yoga, and power yoga – there is definitely something that will suit your fitness level and goals. If you’re looking for a low-effort, high-health-impact alternative to aerobic exercise, yoga might be a good option for you.