One of the best things that can be done for a better heart health is doing a regular yoga practice. There is a latest research that suggests that yoga improves the cardiovascular health in several ways. In this current article, we will know more about yoga for heart health and talk about some of the best yoga poses or asanas for heart health.
Yoga for Heart Health: An Overview
A recent research explains that yoga boosts the cardiovascular health by calming our nervous system and also by reducing the inflammation that causes several diseases, by taming hypertension as well as by enhancing beneficial HDL or good cholesterol. Moreover, yoga even improves blood circulation and the function of lungs, and might even reduce the risk of certain heart diseases, as effectively as cycling and brisk walking does.
Performing yoga for a few hours every week helps you feel calmer and well balanced, physically and mentally. This is a true known fact. Now, recent research has suggested that doing regular yoga can also help your heart health. A review of Yoga and Cardiovascular disease that was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, indicated that yoga might help in lowering the risk of heart disease, as effectively as conventional exercise, like the brisk walking does.(1)
Practicing yoga has been the focus of a lot of clinical studies, and there are evidences that show that all those Sun salutations as well as the Downward Dog poses might contribute to a healthier and happy heart. For instance, individuals having atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular rhythm of heartbeats, had lower blood pressure and heart rates in a significant manner after performing yoga for 30 minutes weekly for 12 weeks. This was a study that was published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing in the March, 2016.(2)
It is known that physical inactivity is one of the most significant factors of developing the risk of heart disease; which is the top most cause of death in women and men in the US. Research has shown that those who perform yoga are more likely to stay active and adopt healthy eating habits, which can somehow protect their heart. According to a study that was published in May 2018 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity; it was found that there is a link between a regular practice of yoga and healthier eating habits, and more hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.(3)
Best Yoga Poses/Asanas for Heart Health:
Below are some of the best yoga poses or yoga asanas for heart health.
Deep Breathing for Better Heart:
Deep breathing is very essential for good heart health. You need to deeply breathe while performing the yoga poses or asanas. It was found from a new study that deep yogic 2:1 breathing with the exhalation two times as long as your inhalation is a great tool for helping manage hypertension. By breathing in this manner, our nervous system gets calmer and even lowers the heart rate as well as respiratory rate, so as to help in reducing blood pressure.
You need to try this deep breathing as you hold each yoga pose or asana. Inhale via the nose for a count of 2 and then exhale via nose for a count of 4. By doing this you would focus on the breath and this helps in relaxing into each of your yoga pose and also deepens its effectiveness or benefits.
Easy pose or Sukhasana is a simple seated yoga pose that can be easily performed at the beginning as well as at the end of your yoga practice.
You simply need to sit in a comfortable position with cross-legged posture, and keeping your right shin right in the front of the left one. You can sit on one folded blanket in case your hips are tight; this in fact makes it easier for keeping the back straight and also keeping your shoulders relaxed and down. You need to rest the hands with palms facing upwards on the knees, keep your eyes closed and focus on your inhalation to a count of 2 and then exhalation to a count of 4. It is okay if your mind wanders, but you just need to re-focus on the breath.
Mountain Pose/Tadasana for a Healthy Heart:
This is the basic yoga pose or asana that calms your mind, helps in sharpening focus and even improve blood circulation. For doing this, you need to stand straight keeping your feet absolutely parallel and at a hip-width distance from each other. Now, lighten your kneecaps by firming your thighs. Lift the toes for activating your inner ankles and arches. Release all your toes again down by keeping feet active. Now lengthen the tailbone down and try to engage the abdomen for protecting the lower back. You have to keep your shoulders back and down, and make sure you widen the collarbones and lift the sternum. You need to imagine one straight line that is running right from the center of both your ankles all along through your crown. Make sure you keep the knees soft and take deep breaths. You need to take 3-5 breaths.
Standing Forward Bend/or Uttanasana for Better Cardiovascular Function:
One more yoga pose or asana that would be good for heart health is the Standing forward bend or Uttanasana. This yoga pose can be done by supporting the head on a chair or on blocks, which boosts the calming benefits of the yoga pose.
First stand in the Mountain Pose by keeping both the hands on the hips and inhale/breathe in, and then exhale/ breathe out as you bend your hips and fold them forward, by keeping the front torso quite long. Rest your crown on the chair or the blocks and grasp the ankles tightly. In case your hamstrings are tight, keep both the knees bent slightly. In case you are prone to any kind of back problems, make sure you are moving your feet farther apart, while keeping them quite parallel. You need to hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
Healthy Heart with Downward Dog Pose/Adho Mukha Svanasana:
Downward dog pose is one more yoga pose or asana for heart health. While doing this you can rest the head on a block or a folded blanket which would enhance the calming benefits of this yoga asana.
To perform this, start on your hands and the knees; while keeping the hands at a shoulder-width distance, just in front of the shoulders, and both knees right below the hips. Keeping both the index fingers parallel, spread the palms. Exhale, tuck the toes and then straighten the legs, as you lift the hips for making a modified inverted “V.” In order to keep your head aligned with the arms, rest the head on the block or a folded blanket. Straighten both the legs and press the heels tightly towards the floor. Now, tilt the pelvis and create length in the lower back. In case your hamstrings feel tight, keep your knees bent slightly. Hold the position for 5 breaths.
This yoga pose is quite simple and is an easy pose that helps in relieving stress and keeping you relaxed. As you stand in the Mountain Pose, breathe in or inhale and then exhale while bending from your hips and then grasp the big toes using your thumb, middle finger and forefinger of both your hands. As you straighten the back, inhale; while as you fold forward, exhale. Do keep both the knees bent slightly in case your hamstrings feel tight. Hold the pose for at least 5 breaths.
Bridge Poseor Setu Bandha Sarvangasana:
Bridge pose is another yoga pose or asana that is known to be good for heart health. For doing this pose, lie on the back keeping your arms at sides and your palms placed down. Now, gently bend your knees and get the heels as close to the sitting bones as you can. Place both feet at a hip-width distance and parallel. Breathe out or exhale by pressing down via your feet and your hands while lifting the hips until both your thighs remains absolutely parallel to the ground. Firm the buttocks and also tilt up the tailbone, so as to lengthen the lower back. You can deepen this yoga pose or asana by rolling the shoulder under and clasping your hands while you press the sternum towards the chin and then broaden the shoulder blades. You can extend both your arms, with your palms placed down alongside the body, in case your shoulders become tight. You need to hold at least 3-5 breaths and come out of the yoga pose on one exhalation.
Head to Knee Forward Bend/or Janu Sirsasana:
This yoga pose or asana is a pose that stretches the hamstrings and your groin in gentle manner. You need to sit on the ground keeping both your legs extended right in front of you and then breathe in as you bend the left knee for bringing left sole alongside the right inner thigh.
Breathe out by keeping the back absolutely flat and long, bending from the hips and fold forward until a soft and gentle stretch is felt in the right hamstring. You need to rest the hands on both sides of the extended leg. Repeat the same on the alternate side. It is essential for you to hold for at least 3-5 breaths on each of the side.
Reclining Hand-To-Big Toe Pose/Supta Padangusthasana:
This reclining hand-to-big toe pose or sputa Padangusthasana, is a pose that stretches the tight hips and your hamstrings gently. It is a good yoga pose for better heart health.
For doing this; lie flat on the back, by keeping straight the knees, your feet together and extended legs. Breathe in or Inhale, bend your left knee and then loop a belt around the left foot, breathe out or exhale and then straighten the left leg. Make sure you are keeping the head, neck as well as your shoulders quite relaxed on the floor. Flex the feet and try to extend through each heel while you take deep breaths. Make sure you do not lock the knees. Repeat the same on the alternate side. You need to hold for at least 3-5 breaths on each of the side.
The warrior pose, also known as Virabhadrasana is the yoga asana that improves your body balance and also increases the stamina. It even improves the blood flow and releases stress and keeps your heart rate in proper check.
For doing this; you need to stand erect with legs wide apart. Now turn the right foot out by 90 degrees and your left food inside by 15 degrees.
Then, lift your arms sideways to shoulder height by keeping your palms facing upwards. Here, your arms must remain parallel to the floor. Bend the right knee, while exhaling. Then turn the head to look to the right. Stretch the arms further. Make an effort and push the pelvis down. Keep deep breathing as you are going down. Then, inhale and come up. Now, while exhaling, get both the hands down. Repeat the same yoga pose on the other side.
Chair pose or Utkatasana is a yoga asana where you can feel the increase in your heart and the respiration rate. This yoga posture stretches your chest and stimulates your heart to function better than before.
For doing this, you first need to stand straight and keep both your feet slightly apart. Now, stretch both the hands right in front of you with your palms facing downwards. Make sure not to bend the elbows. Gently bend your knees and push the pelvis down just like you are sitting on an imaginary chair. With much awareness, you need to sit straight and lengthen the spine and relax. Take deep breaths and slowly and gradually sink deeper into your imaginary chair by going down; however, make sure that while doing this the knees do not go beyond the toes. Keeping doing this, keep going down slowly and then gently sit down in the Sukhasana. You may even lie down and relax.
Corpse pose or shavasana is the pose of deep rest. In fact it is the counter yoga pose for all the yoga asanas. This offers your body and the breath to completely relax. This yoga pose is an excellent stress buster and it improves your overall health of your heart and the body.
To do this, lie completely flat on your back and close both your eyes. Keep both your arms alongside the body and leave the palms facing upward and open. Make sure your legs are kept at comfortable position and are apart from each other and allow your feet and your knees to completely relax. Slowly relax the entire body by taking your attention to various parts of the body one by one. While doing this, keep breathing slowly and gently, but deeply. Make sure that while doing this you do not fall asleep. After about 10-15 minutes when you are totally relaxed, slowly roll onto your right side while keeping both eyes closed and lie on this position for at least 60 seconds. Then gently sit up to a seated pose of sukhasana. By keeping eyes closed, take a few breaths deeply and then gradually become aware of the environment and the body and slowly open your eyes.
Yoga Poses/Asanas to Avoid and That Are Not Good For Heart:
It is true that yoga poses or asanas are good for heart health. However, there are some poses or asanas, which can create heart problems and must not be done if you have any heart conditions. Some of these yoga poses or asanas include the boat pose, hero pose, extended triangle pose, low lunge, high lunge, supported headstand, hand stand, and wheel pose.
One of the things that is clear is that yoga is really good for the heart health. However, if you are new to yoga or if you are above 60 years of age or have a heart condition, you must talk to your doctor before doing yoga and know about which level of yoga would be right for your condition. It is also important for you to hire an expert yoga instructor and do yoga asanas under the expert’s supervision.
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